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Celebrating aboriginal dance

Fifth Annual Lil’wat Celebrations Powwow showcases dance, drumming and singing



By Nicole Fitzgerald

What: Lil’wat Celebrations Powwow

When: June 8-10

Where: Lillooet Lake Rodeo Grounds

Admission: $5

First Nations dancers will travel from all corners of North America to compete in dancing and singing at the fifth annual Lil’wat Celebrations Powwow June 8 to 10 at the Lillooet Lake Rodeo Grounds, located off Highway 99 on Lillooet Lake Road.

“It’s a competition,” said Mary Elaine James who has spent all year fundraising with her son Oscar James and daughter Elizabeth Andrew to host the event. “The weekend will show off the talents of our dancers and singers.”

Through dancing, singing and drumming, aboriginal traditions are celebrated, friendships built and talents recognized at the annual celebration, where aboriginal and non-aboriginal audiences are welcome.

Dancers will compete in Jingle, Fancy, Women’s Traditional, Men’s Traditional and Men’s Grass dancing.

The Jingle dance is named after the metal cone fastened to the dancer’s dress that jingles to the drumbeat.

Fancy dancing shows off beautiful soaring shawls as well as intricate footwork and elaborate spinning.

Women’s Traditional dance showcases long dresses usually adorned with beadwork, ribbons or shells. The dancer often carries a shawl, an eagle fan or a single feather while bending their knees in time with the beat.

Men’s Traditional dance is a storytelling one: often recalling the tales of battle or hunting. Dancers can carry objects such as staffs, weapons, shields or medicine wheels. The regalia often includes an eagle-feather bustle.

Men’s Grass dance is a freestyle dance. Heads are moved up and down to keep feathers spinning or colourful fringes bouncing to the drum beat.

Dancers can win up to $1,000 in their category.

In addition to dancing, singers will also compete for $3,500 in prizes in three categories.

Lil’wat Junior Princess Ruby Joe, Senior Princess Linnea Jones and Miss Lil’wat Jacinta Sampson will pass on their crowns to new role models for the Lil’wat Nation. Each princess contestant will dance.

The Grand Entry begins Friday, June 8 at 7 p.m. with all dancers, drummers, singers and flags entering the competition grounds. The singing competition will also begin on the Friday night.

Dancers will perform throughout the weekend starting at 1 p.m. each day. The Men’s Traditional dance begins Saturday at 5 p.m., with floodlights allowing dancers and drummers to perform well into the night.

The hosts for the weekend include announcer Nelson Leon, arena director Ray Thunderchild and drum judge Ted Napoleon.

First Nations arts and crafts as well as food will be sold throughout the weekend.

Admission is $5.

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