Opening the All Native tournament for the diamond anniversary is an honour saved for the Ts’msyen, and Lax Kw’alaams has multiple dance troupes preparing for the big event.
Garry Wells was the leader of the dance group on Lax Kw’alaams for approximately 15 years, but when he moved to Prince Rupert, Wells’ cousin, and band councillor, Braden Dudoward took over.
“He’s doing an excellent job,” he said.
Wells couldn’t remain idle for long. He saw an interest to start a dance group on Kaien Island, so he formed Amago’ot Gyetm Maaxii, meaning One Heart, People of the Rainbow.
Dudoward continued the dance group on Lax Kw’alaams, and noticed a recent shift.
“It’s brought a lot of people out that haven’t sang or danced with us in a while and bringing a lot of interest back in our dance group,” he said.
At last year’s opening ceremony, the tournament committee announced that the 60th All Native Basketball opening ceremonies would belong to Lax Kw’alaams.
“We’ve been practicing basically since after we heard back that we are going to be doing this year’s grand opening,” Wells said after a Sunday practice.
Dance practices are happening across northwest B.C., wherever there are enough members to put together a troupe. There are even members in Vancouver preparing for the ceremonies on Feb. 10.
Every Sunday, members get together in Prince Rupert or Lax Kw’alaams for a couple hours of drumming, singing and dancing. The experience is soul shaking, even with just 60 members in one room — Wells said he’s expecting more than 100 people, with 50 drums, to take the court for the opening ceremonies.
“We’ve agreed to a final song list that we wanted to do because we didn’t want to have it too lengthy,” Dudoward said.
In two weeks, as the teams walk onto the court at the Jim Ciccone Civic Centre, Lax Kw’alaams will drum and sing with an opening song.
“We have a new entrance song composed by my auntie, Cheryl Sampson with the help of our elders, Rita Hayward, and Don McKay helped,” he said.
There will also be a song dedicated to dance the elders in, written by Christine Martin. Another special song titled “Our children’s, children’s song” will be to showcase the youths.
“They’ll be going out to dance in the gym, just to get them going out to dance on their own when it comes to performing,” Dudoward said.
“I just love it when kids come, I know they want to learn, they want to participate,” Wells said.
On Sunday, Jan. 20, Prince Rupert dancers took the ferry over to Lax Kw’alaams to have a practice as a whole. “Just so we’re all on the same page,” Dudoward said. They will also give members who can’t make it over to the tournament a sneak peak at the opening ceremony performance.
Lax Kw’alaams dancers have applied for grant money to assist with the travel, as well as material to make regalia for those who don’t have traditional clothing to wear on the big day.
Another special moment this year will be having the dancers witness the inductees into the Hall of Fame — Russel Mather and Wild William Wesley — both Lax Kw’alaams members.
The dancing won’t stop with the opening ceremonies.
“We’re using this to open up our groups to continue on after this because there are more events to do,” Wells said.
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Shannon Lough | Editor
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