For the second year in a row, students at the Muskoday First Nation Community School celebrated 100 days of class with a round dance.
This year though, they extended invitations to the dance to schools around the Prince Albert region, and beyond. It was standing room only in the community school’s gymnasium once students gathered.
According to Awacey Lavallee, a Cree cultural advisor for the school, roughly 10 schools participated in the round dance on Feb. 9. The interest in the round dance brought joy to his heart.
“It’s something that every Cree culture guy wants to see, our kids doing more with our culture, learning about our culture… it just brings so much joy to me,” Lavallee said.
Lavallee said he had seven hand drums made for the school so more youth can learn the art of drumming and singing. He said their interest is great, but the biggest challenge is being able to provide resources and knowledge to keep the culture alive.
He agreed hosting events like the round dance at the community school helps bring an end to the damaging effects of the residential school era, and provisions in the Indian Act which outlawed dancing and gatherings. Until a 1951 update, the Indian Act said Indigenous people were not allowed to gather for any reason including powwow and round dances.
“They were trying to knock us down, but look at us now. Our kids are learning the language, our kids are learning the song, the drum,” Lavallee said. “Our kids, they’re our future. We don’t have to hide it no more; we can practice our way of life. We’re loud and proud of it.”
In the three years Lavallee has worked with the Muskoday First Nation Community School he’s seen interest in the Cree culture grow. He said in the year since the first round dance, youth have shown an increased interest in learning about the drum and learning how to sing.
Lavallee described himself as a helper who’s willing to share knowledge he’s learned through his life. A lot of the knowledge he holds came from his dad Howard Walker, who was the Master of Ceremonies for the second annual round dance.
“I love getting to work with my dad, we barely get to see each other anymore because we’re both living two different lives,” Lavallee said, adding he and his dad used to travel to schools across the province sharing their knowledge. “Now, we find every reason to try and work with each other. I owe a lot to my dad for teaching me what I know now.”
On Twitter: @BryanEneas
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