Buffalo Pound Round Dance helps to highlight Métis culture

By: Felechia Brodie June, 2014
Ashley Norton has a passion for Métis culture and dance, and how ideas about Métis culture can be encouraged and shared in Regina. Co-founder of the Wiichihiwayshinawn Foundation (“We are Helpers” in Michif), she brought together a group of dancers from all over Saskatchewan to perform a contemporary jig dance at the Ice and Fire Festival, held in Regina, February 13 – 17, 2014. The dance group trained for months leading up to the event and performed in front of thousands of people throughout the festival. The public joined the dancers in jig-alongs after the performances.
Under the direction of Yvonne Chartrand, artistic director, Compaigni V’ni Dansi, in Vancouver, Robin Poitras, artistic director, New Dance Horizons, and Edward Poitras, senior artist, the dancers performed Buffalo Pound Round Dance. Edward Poitras describes this contemporary dance as: “A celebration of the memory of a time when the Buffalo roamed the prairies in such large numbers that you could feel the ground shake and their numbers looked like vast cloud shadows on the earth. It was truly a gift from the creator, and their loss marked an end to a way of life that we can only dream of as a possibility.”
“An unlimited resource that supplied almost everything that one needed to survive, and then it was over with the bang of a gun and a few beads. In our evolution as human beings we are at times victims of our own desire for new and novel items that change our lives.
In this dance, we dance on snow but in our minds it is water, flour, and sugar that fuels our next step in a direction that we hope will be the correct step for future generations.”
With the help of Edward Poitras and Robin Poitras, the dancers - Ashley Norton, Justin Toto, Krista Solheim, Marcus Merasty, Modeste Mackenzie, Ethel Struthers and Alison Kimbley – designed their warm costumes to dance outdoors, including mitts (“hooves”) and moccasins outfitted with spikes for dancing on ice. Artist Margaret Harrison taught the dancers Métis style embroidery and textiles. The project received supportof a $9,000 grant from SaskCulture’s Métis Cultural Development Fund.
Many of the attendees and other performers had not experienced Métis culture and embraced the opportunity to see the performance and then try jigging for themselves. The overwhelmingly positive response inspired the dancers to seriously consider dance as a profession, and to continue to find ways to strengthen and share Métis culture. Norton says she is currently writing grant applications with plans to reunite the group in Regina to train for performances this summer, as they have their hopes set on performing at the North American Indigenous Games and Back to Batoche Festival this summer.
You can see if video of the Buffalo Pound Round Dance here!