Get ready to cut a rug in Haines Junction
You don’t have to be part of a dance group to be a dancer. According to Rose Kushniruk, acting chief of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, everyone has it in them and the Dákų̀ nän tsʼèddhyèt Dance Festival (Our House is Waking Up the Land) will draw it out this summer. The four day festival, taking place from June 13 to 16 at the Da Kų Cultural Centre in Haines Junction, will feature dozens of dancers and performers this year. It’s the third gathering of the biannual festival which began in 2015.
Kushniruk said she’s excited to see performances from new invitees including Laura Grizzlypaws, a singer, dancer, performer and educator from Saskatchewan, and the New Dawn Drum Group. Comprised of four women, together representing the medicine wheel, the Saskatchewan-based group was founded in 2007.
“The group was created to help young girls heal from their past in the foster care system. Eventually they became used to help others heal as well by listening to the strength of the drum in the healing songs,” said Kushniruk .
The festival will also feature Tall Paul, an Ojibwe rapper from the U.S. Kushniruk said there’s a mix of contemporary and traditional programming in this year’s festival, partly because organizers want to get the youth involved and partly because they already are. She said four youth have been responsible, under the guidance of senior advisors, for a lot of the programming and planning this year.
“That mix of traditional and contemporary is very important because it bridges our generations together,” said Kushniruk. “And if we have to combine our traditional teachings with modern day activities and what the youth like, then that’s a real good way to ensure that the messages are getting to them in a different way, but are still the same.”
“We’re still finding our own flavour as a festival … dance plays a vital role in keeping culture alive. There are three festivals in the Yukon now, the Moosehide Gathering and the Ha Kus Teyea Celebration in Teslin and this one. And it just keeps growing and growing; and it’s just so interesting, all the stories you learn in the songs.”
In addition to dancing and singing from groups including throat singers Lois Suluk and Patricia Kablutsiak, Dakwäkäda Dancers, Dakhká Khwáan, Pavva Iñupiaq and Tagish Nation Dancers, there will be workshops and activities all weekend.
There will be a pow wow book camp for kids and workshops in making headbands and armbands, as well as Tutchone art painting, medicine plants and a youth rap workshop. There will also be a memorial dance to pay respects to Kenny Baker, a member of the Carcross/Tagish First Nation who died in an accident not long after the 2017 festival.
Kushniruk said she expects thousands will attend the festival over the course of the weekend. Yukoners and Alaskans make the trip. People passing by on the highway stop in. And this year the Kluane Chilkat International Bike Relay is taking place the same weekend.
Attendance is free at both the festival and the workshops. Visit the Dákų̀ nän tsʼèddhyèt Dance Festival Facebook page for more information.