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Inuvialuit-style dancing returns to Kugluktuk

Kassina Ryder
Northern News Services
Published Monday, February 8, 2010

KUGLUKTUK/COPPERMINE - Elders and youth converged in Kugluktuk the week of Jan. 16 to participate in a cultural revitalization workshop that helped bridge a gap between Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, according to organizer Stacey Aglok MacDonald.

NNSL photo/graphic

From left, Sarah Jencke and Stacey Aglok MacDonald perform throatsinging during the Inuvialuit Drum Dance Collaboration in Kugluktuk. - photo courtesy of Stacy Aglok MacDonald

The project, Inuvialuit Drum Dance Collaboration, focused on Inuvialuit-style drum dancing, but also included Kitikmeot-style drum dancing, sewing, drum making and other activities, MacDonald said. The workshops included participants from Cambridge Bay, Kugluktuk, Inuvik and Ulukhaktok, NWT.

MacDonald said she acquired her interest in Inuvialuk-style dancing from her mother and other family members, many of whom were from Ulukhaktok, formerly known as Holman.

Up until the time MacDonald went to junior high school, youth from Uluhaktok attended school in Kugluktuk. MacDonald began learning Inuvialuit dancing from friends and family during that time. But after Nunavut was established as its own territory, children from Ulukhaktok began going to school in Inuvik, NWT.

"I had started learning the dances from my friends and family when I was a kid, but when the Ulu youth began completing their high school in Inuvik instead, the Inuvialuk dancing stopped and I stopped learning," she said.

While working with the Nunavut Sivuniksavut program, MacDonald became friends with Julia Ogina, a drum dancer from Cambridge Bay. MacDonald said working with Ogina re-kindled her interest in dancing.

"When I started working with Julia and learning some of the dances, it brought back a lot of memories," MacDonald said. "I really wanted to be able to learn these dances again."

MacDonald secured funding from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Brighter Futures program to begin a drum dancing collaboration project.

The project was six days long and ran from Jan. 16 to 22. There were 18 core participants, including two elders from Cambridge Bay and two from Kugluktuk, MacDonald said. Many community members also dropped in and took part after school and working hours, especially elders.

"If it's a drum dance, you cannot keep elders away. It's their soul food," she said.

"We had elders every day, so many of them were helping us with our sewing projects."

In addition to drum dancing, elders demonstrated how to make traditional clothing and costumes used for dancing, including headbands and gloves.

MacDonald said the workshops illustrated the importance of keeping tradition alive.

"I didn't realize it, but I guess drum dancing in my community, the skill and the knowledge was starting to die," she said.

Greg Drescher, a resident of Inuvik and a workshop participant, taught a workshop on hoop-making, MacDonald said.

"Greg Drescher from Inuvik, he came to Kugluktuk and taught elders how to make drums from scratch," she said. "Inuit in Kugluktuk often ordered drum hoops pre-made. People in Kugluktuk now have the tools."

MacDonald said the most rewarding part of the whole experience was the elders' response.

"It made my heart skip a beat," she said. "You know it's good when you hear an elder say they learned something."

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