The steady beat of the drums, the roaring songs, the contagious energy.

Justin Memogana, centre, has been drum dancing since he was a young child. Samantha McKay/NNSL photo

That’s what Justin Memogana loves about drum dancing.

“Singing and drumming and dancing always takes away my stress,” Memogana said. “It’s a lot of yelling, which is relieving.”

Memogana was born and raised in Ulukhaktok.

“My grandfather was the leader of our drum dance group back in Ulu,” Memogana said. “I grew up singing and drumming my whole life, and after he passed on, I became the leader of the drum dance group.”

He said drum dancing has always been an important part of his life.

“Drumming and dancing means a lot to me because my dad brought it up with our family, and it’s our tradition and it’s our culture,” Memogana said.

He was in Inuvik for the IRC Cup tournament because he is also a hockey player for the Ulukhaktok team. They played in this year’s IRC Cup.

“We finally brought a team from Ulu to play some IRC hockey,” Memogana said. “It’s been about four years since we played IRC hockey.”

It may have been a while since Memogana last played in the IRC Cup, but he practices dancing every week with the Ulukhaktok drum dance group that he leads.

Justin Memogana, centre right, danced at the IRC Cup cultural day drum dancing event Saturday, Feb. 17. Samantha McKay/NNSL photo

“The drum dance group back home, we practice every weekend, pretty much every Saturday at the gym back home,” Memogana said. “Usually there’s between 30 to 40 people every week, and everyone is always welcome to come, no matter who you are or where you come from.”

Memogana said one of the most important parts about drum dancing are the stories that the dances tell.

“The culture, the tradition, the songs and the stories they tell through the songs are important,” Memogana said. “There are so many songs! There are songs about polar bears, songs about seal hunting and songs about feeding dogs. It’s about showing the kids the stories, showing them the dances, teaching them the motions.”

Drum dancing is also, importantly, relaxing.

“I’ve been brought up with it my whole life. Singing, dancing, drumming,” Memogana said. “When I dance, I get to relax and take my stress out.”

Memogana said he is raising his daughters to be drum dancers as well.

“I feel great when I’m dancing,” Memogana said. “It always puts a smile on my face every time I dance.”

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