The Great Falls Public Schools Indigenous Education Department combines culture and dance as it prepares students for the school district’s upcoming powwow on May 14and.
Angela Heavygun, Youth Development Specialist, described the importance of exposing students to traditional Aboriginal dancing and drumming. “As a culture, I feel like we’re very accepting and inviting people with open arms. Whether you’re a tribesman or not, there’s something for everyone and it’s really special.
As an after-school program, the Native Education Department offers the Dance and Drum Club to Native and non-Native students of all ages. In addition to teaching dance and drum songs, students also had the opportunity to create their own dance badges. “I am very excited for them. We will prepare them in the next few weeks for their outfits and adjust them. As long as they feel confident, feel good in their outfit, then that’s all that matters,” said Helen Carlson, another youth development specialist.
Students will learn traditional Aboriginal dances such as jingle dance, fancy shaw dance, traditional women’s dance, traditional men’s dance and grass dance. “Like most indigenous cultures, our people are one and that’s what we try to teach our children. It allows students to express their culture. For example, I tell children all the time that when they dance, they are telling their own story. They just have to be on the beat. Angela explained.
Lily Kennerly, a second-grader, shared how much she loves to dance. “It’s really fun because you learn to dance with shawls and jingles. It’s really fun!”
The entire community is invited to the pow-wow to be held at RMC Fieldhouse. Angela went on to describe the special feeling powwows can bring to attendees, Native and non-Native alike. “It’s a whole different feeling when you’re there. You know, I think everyone has that feeling because it’s so meaningful to see all the dancers. It’s so special, I get goosebumps just thinking about it. Especially to see the reactions of each, it would be enough to see it to believe it.