Preparations for the opening ceremonies go beyond practicing the songs and dances. With more than forty Lax Kw’alaams members needing regalia for the performance, Coast Ts’msyan artist, John Haldane designed the crests for the regalia, while members met in the evenings to measure, cut and stitch.
Even those dancers who already have regalia for the Feb. 10 performance at the All Native Basketball Tournament will take the time to add to their traditional dress, tunic or cape.
“A lot of them are new dancers,” said Haldane. “So this gives them the opportunity to get some”
“A person’s regalia is never finished. Every major event in their lives, and in their tribe and house, they add a little bit more to their regalia.”
Standard colours on the northwest coast are red and black, button blankets, tunics, dresses, aprons, leggings are all the types of regalia to be worn.
Haldane was about 13 years old when he first got into drumming and dancing on Lax Kw’alaams.
“As soon as I joined, my folks got me a drum and my Gran put my regalia together and she made my apron, she made my tunic, and I had store bought moccasins, which is pretty much the norm now,” he said with a laugh.
Back then, he remembers the dance group having approximately 200 people. They travelled in the area, up to Greenville, to Kincolith for Hobiyee, the Nisga’a New Year.
He started by tracing designs, then he would copy by freehand. Around the time he quit playing basketball, he got into making his own designs.
“The dancers back home were starting to get a little more involved in the community … we started having more regular practices and more and more people showed up. We got to about 200 strong,” he said.
The designs for the 60th anniversary of the tournament are basic for easy transfer onto the regalia.
When it comes to putting the crest onto the material, they use iron-on material to cut around the design and then place it on a tunic or dress. For added strength it can be stitched on as well.
“I’ve had to do designs for our tribe’s feasts and I’ve designed my own regalia as well,” Haldane said.
Within all four crests — eagle, raven, wolf and killer whale — he’s also inserted a human face to represent the dancer, the drummer.
In the weeks leading up to the All Native Tournament’s opening ceremonies, dance group members met at the Lax Kw’alaams office on First Avenue in Prince Rupert to make their regalia.
Self-taught seamstress, Jeanette Buchanan, was there to assist with the flurry of red and black polyester and cotton material laid out on the tables.
“Everybody in the dance group is a friend, so it’s a great time to get together,” she said, all smiles.
After the patterns are cut, and stitched, and the fringes are added for decoration, they appliquéd the crests for the finishing touches.
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Shannon Lough | Editor
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