When Dr. Brass School started a Powwow dance group four years ago Amy Esquash and Kimberley Sangwais were among the first to sign up.
Last week the two girls, now in Grade 8, danced their final dance with the group as they will move on to high school in the fall.
Esquash said powwow dancing is a connection for First Nations people, with the drum “connecting the beat to your heart,” which translates to the steps of the dance.
Sangwais said her four years with the group was a great experience, adding “it would be wonderful” if more students became involved in the future.
The powwow group itself was a natural for Dr. Brass, which has a First Nation population of about 65 per cent.
Both girls said it was natural to join the school group since dance was already an interest.
“I was already dancing before there was even a powwow group at school,” said Esquash.
Esquash explained she was given her Indian name; Little Bear Heart Girl, when six months old, and was jingle dancing almost as soon as she could walk.
“I started fancy shawl the year powwow started up in the school,” she said.
It was much the same for Sangwais, who said she was “dancing with other family members,” long before the school group launched.
But once powwow was offered in school, it was seen as a great way to get more experiences.
Sangwais, who has two Indian names; Walking Woman and Leaping Wolf, also started out as a jingle dancer, but in school moved to fancy shawl.
The girls explained jingle dancing is seen as an easier dance to learn for young girls, and the basics of matching footwork to the drum beat is learned. That skill is something which is carried forward to fancy shawl dancing.
Being involved in powwow at the school is a chance to step into the spotlight and share their culture with others.
“I just felt I was showing off what I can do,” offered Esquash. “All the eyes were on you.”
Sangwais said it was a feeling of sharing which she liked.
“I felt proud,” she said, adding as she gained years with the group she liked working with younger dancers to learn more about powwow. “I felt a need to watch over them.”
The girls will attend Yorkton Regional High School in the fall. While aware there is a cultural group at the high school, they said they do not think a powwow dance group is in place, both adding they do not see why a group would not work at the higher grades.