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Winter Round Dance: Honouring the Traditional Teachings

Published on November 21, 2014

A traditional Round Dance in motion. (Photo: Evergreen)

By: Claire Bodkin, Project Manager, Community Development, Evergreen

Celebrating with friends, family, and community is one of the best parts of the Holiday season. Around Evergreen, we’re always ready to celebrate, and lucky for us our community partner Native Child and Family Services are no strangers to celebration.

When the doors opened at Evergreen Brick Works in 2010, we had a desire to build bridges across different communities, and a responsibility to support the work that Aboriginal-led organizations were doing. As Evergreen works to inspire and enable action to green cities, it is important to recognize that Aboriginal peoples have been stewarding the land since long before European contact. It’s no secret that the effects of colonization have been and continue to be devastating for Aboriginal peoples. And yet, culture and community and friendships persist. Traditional Aboriginal knowledge and culture are essential to facing mounting environmental challenges. As such, we have sought to build meaningful and lasting relationships with Aboriginal groups so we can share our strengths and collaborate in creating sustainable cities.

We were and still are today, privileged to have Native Child and Family Services of Toronto join us as a partner. Together we have celebrated First Nations culture and welcomed Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people alike to the Winter Round Dance for the past 3 years. This year is the fourth and final year of the Round Dance cycle.  

A traditional Round Dance in motion at Evergreen Brick Works. (Photo: Evergreen)

A Round dance is a traditional First Nation’s community celebration and as such, can be intimidating for any newcomers. You may have some questions.

Here are the basics -

We had the privilege of speaking with Gabe Gaudet, the appointed Stickman of the upcoming dance and he filled us in on the need to know for a Round Dance. As stated above, a Round Dance is a traditional First Nations’ community celebration involving a social dance with some elements of ceremony. Each round dance has a ceremonial Stickman. The Stickman is akin to the emcee of the event and he guides the flow of the evening through the dances and the songs. The Stickman is “knowledgeable of the proper songs to be sung and begins the first four songs of the Round Dance.” Gabe told us. As the stickman, Gabe is also widely knowledgeable of all the singers who attend and their singing and or drumming abilities. Gabe will pick the singers to share their music in an order that will keep the dance flowing smoothly. “There isn’t anything special that we sing about; could be to welcome, about love or heart break or simple and fun humour.” said Gabe. The songs can also have verses in Cree, Ojibwe, Sioux, or even now in English.

Gabe went on to tell us the Round Dance was traditionally used by the Cree First Nation as a social dance. Its original purpose was to honor someone who had passed on so that the family could grieve in the proper way. Today, however, the Round Dance is used for all kinds of different reasons, from honouring someone for their accomplishments, or celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, graduations, etc.

There is so much to honour and celebrate as we look back on this year and forward to 2015. Evergreen and Native Child and Family Services of Toronto invite people from both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities to come celebrate with us and make it an occasion to remember. Join us this Saturday, November 29, 2014 at the Evergreen Brick Works on the traditional land of the Mississaugas of the New Credit for our Winter Round Dance: Honouring the Traditional Teachings.