For most people, song and dance is simply entertainment. But for the members of the Sts’ailes Band in Agassiz, it’s a little more than that.
On Saturday, June 25, dancers from the Sts’ailes Band performed during the two-day Sasquatch Days event in Harrison Hot Springs.
The first Sasquatch Days event took place in May of 1938, and Boyd Peters, Sts’ailes councillor and aboriginal rights and title manager, explained that the band wanted to bring the event back.
“We wanted to really introduce it, resurrect it,” he said. “We wanted to reignite Sasquatch Days and bring out the old songs and the dances especially.”
Children from the Sts’ailes band performed three dances at the event: one that welcomed visitors to the sacred land, one that told the story of an eagle bringing everyone’s prayers to the creator, and one, of course, about the Sasquatch.
While the dances are simple, Peters noted that performing them is a privilege.
“You have to know the songs and the dances and you have to belong to it,” he said. “You have to have permission and that’s part of our teachings that are passed down from generation to generation. You can’t just go out and dance or sing any song – you have to know the meaning behind it.”
Sherylynn Crispin, Sasquatch Days coordinator and member of the Sts’ailed band, explained that historically, the band wasn’t allowed to perform their traditional dances.
“We weren’t allowed to express ourselves culturally and spiritually,” she explained. “It’s important to show our young people that it’s ok to do this and that it’s something to celebrate.”
Aside from sharing and preserving culture, the traditional dancing is also an inherited method of teaching for the Sts’ailes people.
“There’s a little bit of underlying teaching there and I don’t even know if the kids realize it,” Crispin said. “There’s a certain way that they’re supposed to conduct themselves when they have their regalia on and a certain way that they’re supposed to think and speak. The more we get them in that uniform, the more they’re practising that and it’s raising the self-esteem of our people.”
The event also featured canoe races, drum making workshops, a salmon barbecue, various artisans and vendors, but for many, the young dancers were the weekend highlight.
“They’re so young and so little but they’re so seasoned already,” Crispin said. “The dance group we had today, they’ve been doing it for year and they have it down pat.”