After their initial inception, the Selkirk Spirit Dancers had a hiatus, and some wondered if they would ever dance again.

Started by Carmen Baker, the dance group is based in Pelly Crossing and is now comprised of 45 dancers.

The large number in itself is enough to set the group apart, however what makes the Selkirk Spirit Dancers unique is that the group is mainly youth.

The group is founded on the belief that although sports and trips are good for the youth, the kids in Pelly Crossing need something more — a spiritual connection to their heritage and community — to keep them away from drugs and alcohol.

Because the group is so large, Carmen enlisted the help of her friend Terri Lee Isaac.

Isaac has noticed a difference in the youth since the dance group started.

“The shyest kids will get up on stage and dance and sing with confidence,” says Isaac. “Even those who stutter can sing and feel good about it.”

But it hasn’t always been easy. For two years, the group did not dance. All the youth outgrew their regalia, and there were no funds to make more.

But Baker and Isaac did not give up. They wrote a proposal to their First Nation and were granted $25,000 to make new regalia.

The Selkirk Spirit Dancers are the only Northern Tutchone dance group in the Yukon, and they have grown from a modest start.

“In the beginning there were only five dancers, and as we kept holding more practices it began to grow,” says Isaac.

Though Baker and Isaac are not the parents of dancers, they are their cheerleaders, motivators and role models.

“The kids know they can come talk to us” says Isaac. “(We have bonded) like a family.”

Although, like all families, they do have their moments.

“The kids don’t talk back to Carmen, but they talk back to me,” says Isaac, laughing.

The Selkirk Spirit Dancers are dancing at the Adäka Cultural Festival, which takes place from June 21 to June 27 at the Kwanlin Dunn Cultural Centre in Whitehorse.

They will be dancing alongside other groups such as the Dahku Kwann Dancers and the Kwanlin Dunn Dancers.

There have been many dance groups forming all over the territory, a true testament of the thirst for the preservation of First Nation culture in the Yukon.

For more information go to www.AdakaFestival.ca.