Indigenous artists gather in Haines Junction for the Dákù Nän Ts’éddhyèt Dance Festival

Crystal Schick/Yukon News Nyla Capentier during her fancy shawl powwow dance at Dákų̀ Nän Tsʼéddhyèt Dance Festival in Haines Junction on June 15, 2019.
Throat singers from Nunavut Patricia Kablutsiak, left, and Louis Suluk, perform at Dákų̀ Nän Tsʼéddhyèt Dance Festival in Haines Junction on June 15, 2019. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
A little boy is invited to check out Laura Grizzlypaws’ bear skin during her performance at Dákų̀ Nän Tsʼéddhyèt Dance Festival in Haines Junction on June 14, 2019. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Women carve traditional soapberry spoons during a Dákų̀ Nän Tsʼéddhyèt Dance Festival workshop in Haines Junction on June 15, 2019. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Pavva Iñupiaq dancers from Fairbanks, Alaska, Matia Wartes, 13, left, and Clara Zayon, 13, carve traditional soapberry spoons during a Dákų̀ Nän Tsʼéddhyèt Dance Festival workshop in Haines Junction on June 15, 2019. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Members of the New Dawn Drum Group from Saskatchewan perform on the main stage at the Da Kų Cultural Centre in Haines Junction on June 15, 2019. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Laura Grizzlypaws perfroms a bear dance at Dákų̀ Nän Tsʼéddhyèt Dance Festival in Haines Junction on Jun. 14, 2019. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Laura Grizzlypaws performs her bear dance at Dákų̀ Nän Tsʼéddhyèt Dance Festival in Haines Junction on Jun. 14, 2019. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
All performers join together to march around the Da Kų Cultural Centre during the Da Kų Nän Ts’étthyèt Dance Festival grande parade in Whitehorse on June 15, 2019. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Haines Junction was alive with the sounds of music over the weekend, thanks to the Dákù Nän Ts’éddhyèt (Our house is waking up the land) Dance Festival.

The third biennial gathering at the Da Ku Culture Centre featured perfomers from across North America and was a mix of traditional and contemporary Indigenous artists

The line up included Tall Paul, a Minnesota based Anishinaabe and Oneida hip-hop artist; the New Dawn Drum Group, a fivesome of young women dummers from Saskatchewan; Laura Grizzlypaws, a singer and dancer in the St’át’imc tradition from British Columbia; Louis Suluk and Patricia Kabultsiak, throat singers from Nunavut; and many others.

Nyla Carpentier, a veteran fancy shawl powwow dancer from Vancouver, B.C., performed at the festival for the second time.

“For me, coming to these events is another way to keep on revitalizing dances, language, and land,” said Carpentier, “and also the way that we come together and share cultural roots too.”

Gathering and sharing is something that Indigenous people have been doing for thousands of years, she said, and this is a modern day form of that.

In the past it was hunting and fishing, said Champagne and Aishihik First Nation (CAFN) Chief Steve Smith, and today it’s to have fun, eat good food and watch performances.

“Whenever you experience something that is great and powerful, the people you share it with, you always have attachments with,” said Smith. “We’re creating partnership and attachments for people.”

CAFN has always been about connecting and creating friendships, he said, and this festival really embraces that fact. It’s a festival about learning, growing and healing, which promotes a sense of community for those involved.

“It’s like a tool for us to build up the pride in our people and get our people motivated to do some cultural stuff and rebuild their spirits,” Smith said, “getting them proud of who they are as Champagne Aishihik First Nations as well as Indigenous people.”

Carpentier, for one, said she is very thankful to CAFN for organizing the festival every two years because it is important for all Indigenous people. The blend of traditional and contemporary dances is a reminder to everyone that Indigenous people are always continuing to grow and evolve, she said.

“We are hearing new songs and seeing new takes on regalia and it is evolving because Indigenous people are not stagnant.”

Contact Crystal Schick at


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