Traditional Dances: An Interview

The Squamish Pow-wow is coming up this weekend and we asked a couple of our staff members to explain a bit about traditional dances. Below are the comments from Justine Wallace and Rilla Sampson.

Hope to see you at the Pow-wow!

RillaJustineHave you ever used dance to speak a language? Dance happens in all forms and styles. It has different origins and meanings. Pow wow style of dancing has many category’s within its own element.

There are about 8 different styles of Pow wow dances: Men’s traditional, women’s traditional, men’s fancy, women’s fancy shawl, women’s Jingle, Men’s chicken, Men’s grass and finally the hoop dance which is unisex.

Each one of these dances has their own history; each one of these dances can be seen at a Pow wow which are always held during the summer months.

Justine response to dancing:

I dance 3 styles: Fancy shawl, jingle, and hoop. Being able to dance these styles has given me opportunities that I never dreamed were possible. I have travelled because of dancing, I have met people who quickly turned into friends because of dancing and I will always have fun if I can dance. Whenever I dance I make sure I dance not only for myself but also for those who might not be able to. Our bodies are a gift that we can use for many purposes; however being able to express my true spirit through dancing is truly a blessing.

My ancestral name is Saquta given to me by my grandmother Flora Wallace of the Xa’lip nation. Saquta means traditional dance and my grandma always knew I loved to dance so she graciously gave me that name.

Rilla’s response:


SWF2012_DancersThroughout my years of dancing I have learned not only the limits my body can take me but the amount of energy that it gives my spirit. Like Justine said when a dancer dances they dance for the people, for those who can’t get up and dance the ones who no longer have the energy to dance.

I dance my Traditional Lil’wat way as well as a woman’s jingle and southern style traditional during a powwow. Through dancing I have had to pick up beading and sewing so that I could take care of my outfit (regalia). These teachings I look forward to passing down to all of my children.

The gift of Dancing has kept me away from following a darker path and keeps me on the red road.
I have been blessed with a singing voice and a husband who also sings at a drum at powwows. Traditionally women were not to sit at a drum to drum; however, they support the singers by standing behind them and sing along.

If you would like to participate in a pow wow, Squamish nation will be hosting their own 27th annual Pow wow on August 29th-31st, 2014 I strongly encourage everyone to try and attend. You will get a chance to see the dances, taste some indigenous cuisine, and feel the sound of the drums throughout your body. Feed your spirit at the Squamish Nation Pow wow.

-Justine & Rilla

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