Each year, The Alex staff, partners, and community members gather to celebrate First Nations cultures in Calgary, Alberta.
10th Annual Walk for Reconciliation
It was a wet and rainy morning at 8am, as about a dozen Alex staff participated in the Walk for Reconciliation. About 35 people in total walked in solidarity to not only remember Canada’s painful history of colonization and Indian Residential Schools, but acknowledge the progress that still needs to be made toward healing, truth, and reconciliation. 2019 was the 10th year of the Walk for Reconciliation, and it was organized by several agencies including The Alex, Aspen Family and Community Network Society, Sunrise Community Link, Aboriginal Friendship Centre of Calgary, Fort Calgary, and Metis Nation of Alberta, Region 3.
8th Annual People’s Gathering
The People’s Gathering was originally set to take place at Olympic Plaza downtown, but was relocated to The Alex due to rainfall. The change of venue was a relief for those looking to dry off after the Walk. Just a short train ride to Franklin LRT station landed Alex staff and community members at our Community Health Centre. The space had been set up beautifully with medicine wheel coloured decor, orange table cloths, and community-style seating for up to 70 people. There was an Indigenous Arts Market which featured the creative work of Teri Ingersoll and Flora Johnson, and staff from Boys and Girls Clubs of Calgary. With a food truck parked outside and hot chocolate at the ready, the event began.
The performances began at 11:45am, with traditional dancers and drummers. Scroll to the bottom for more on each dance!
The audience was engaged from the very beginning, and was excited to participate in the Round Dance.
“My favourite part was the Friendship Dance, because it was fun. We got to dance around.” – Event attendee
Next up to perform was Damase Elis, a local Cree Metis musician. The room was mesmerized by their sound, and powerful narrative on Indigenous relations in Canada. Damase played originals as well as covers, and finished up with a song they wrote about growing up in Comox, BC.
It means a lot that there is the traditional side, and that there is a more contemporary approach to music. It shows how diverse Indigenous people can be.”
The 8th Annual People’s Gathering saw about 250 attendees this year. We were honoured, humbled, and grateful to organize such an event, as our own agency works to answer the calls to action of truth and reconciliation in Canada.
Thank you to Calgary Foundation for not only sponsoring the event, but also stopping by! None of it would have been possible without supporters who invest in the power of community events that are accessible and barrier-free. Thank you to all the performers, including Damase Elis and traditional dancers and drummers. Thank you to CTV News Calgary for the story. And lastly, thank you to the community, who continually reinforce how important it is to have events like this that build connections, promote inclusiveness, and celebrate the diversity in Calgary, Alberta. We can’t wait for next year’s event!
Men's Traditional Dance
The Northern Traditional Dancer is a modern evolution of tribal outfits from the tribes of the Northern Plains such as Sioux, Blackfoot, Crow, Omaha and others. The movement in this style is one that is sometimes characterized as similar to a prairie chicken. The dancer is also said to be re-enacting the movement of a warrior searching for the enemy.
Men's Grass Dance
Originally done as a Warrior Society Dance, it has evolved over the years. It has further evolved into a highly-competitive form of northern dancing. The grass-dance is said to have been derived from the dance the men would do in order to flatten an area of grass where they were to set up their camp.
The Oklahoma Feather Dance or “Fancy Dance” is one of the most popular styles of dance and outfits seen at modern pow wows. The “Fancy Dance” originated as Fancy War Dance by the Hethuska Society in Oklahoma.
One of the oldest form of Women’s Dance is Buckskin. This is a dance of elegance and grace. The movement is smooth and flowing. Much like the Men’s Traditional dance, there are many differences in the ouftitting of this women’s style among the various nations.
Jingle Dress is also called a Prayer Dress. The dress was seen in a dream, as an object to bring healing to afflicted people. A Medicine Man’s Granddaughter became very ill one day. In a dream, his spirit guides told him to make a Jingle dress for her and have her dance in it. This, he was told would heal her. When the outfit was finished, the tribe assembled for a dance. On her first time around, the illness would not permit her to dance and she was carried. As time went on she was soon dancing in the circle.
Women's Fancy Shawl
Ladies Fancy Shawl is the newest form of Women’s Dance, and is quite athletic! Fancy Shawl is often called Northern Shawl, as it does come form the Northern Tribes along the U.S. and Canadian Border. This is very similar in dancing and the bright colors to the Men’s Fancy Dance. The ladies wear their shawls over their shoulders, and dance by jumping and spinning around, keeping time with the music. They mimic butterflies in flight, and the dance style is quite graceful and light.
The origin story of the Round Dance as told by Cree Elder John Cuthand: The story goes there was a woman who loved her mother very much. The daughter never married and refused to leave her mother’s side. Many years later, the mother passed away. The daughter’s grief was unending. One day as daughter was walking alone on the prairie, her thoughts filled with pain. As she walked, she saw a figure standing alone upon a hill. She came closer and saw that it was her mother. As she ran toward her, she could see her mother’s feet did not touch the ground. Her mother spoke. “I cannot find peace in the other world so long as you grieve,” she said, “I bring something from the other world to help the people grieve in a good way.” She taught her daughter ceremony and the songs that went with it. “Tell the people that when this circle is made, we the ancestors will be dancing with you and we will be as one.” The daughter returned and taught the people the Round Dance ceremony. Today the Round Dance is about Friendship and community building.