Skip to content

Pow wow workshop in Greenwood goes beyond dance, regalia

Father and daughter duo teach discipline, mindset key to healthy lifestyle
Leonard Supernault danced to show off his moves and technique.

There’s more to traditional dancing than just moves and costumes as students in an Indigenous regalia and dancing workshop series learned about the discipline, respect, health and spirituality that goes along with it.

Families taking part in Red Earth Medicine Reclaiming our Rites to Ceremony gathered at the MacArthur Centre on Saturday and Sunday to learn about fancy dances for men and women.

However, there was a lot more to the weekend than just dance moves, with dancer Leonald Supernault and daughter Moonlite Supernault teaching life lessons and other activities that go along with dancing and pow wow traditions.

Participants spent Saturday taking a hike in the mountains for health and to connect with themselves and nature before returning to the centre to learn about dance moves. On Sunday, the group took a plunge in Boundary Creek as part of a water ceremony, then went back to the Centre to put on regalia.

Before the dancing took place, Leonard and Moonlite shared stories and lessons learned from dancing in pow wows. Moonlite said she considered herself lucky to be learning how to dance because there was a time when it was banned under federal law, along with any gathering involving more than three Indigenous people in a room together deemed illegal.

She also stresses regalia isn’t a costume.

“Costumes are something we wear on Hallowe’en and pretend to be something else,” she said. “Regalia is who you are, your people, your connection to everything.”

She also stressed discipline and mindset, saying she considers herself on the dance floor the moment she puts her moccasins on, packs her bags and gets in her car to go to the pow wow.

Leonard explained he met fellow dancer Damien Marcoux, who asked him to come to the weekend workshop. He said his early life was a tough one, suffering abuse and turning to alcohol and becoming a violent, disrespectful man. Several events happened in his life, including nearly dying from COVID-19, that made him rethink his life and the lessons he was avoiding.

This led him back to his traditional way of his people, sobered up and along the way learned some lessons about a balanced life.

“We have a medicine wheel and it’s balanced with physical, mental, spiritual and emotional,” he said. “If one of those spokes is short, it can’t turn smoothly and you will have a bumpy ride in life like I did.”

A critical lesson he learned was about discipline and respect, which is why he had participants do several activities like hiking and a water ceremony before learning about dance steps. Dancing is the easy part, he said, it’s everything else that goes into it – the four spokes – that is harder to maintain. He wanted them to understand the physical demands of dancing on their bodies and minds, the mental focus they needed in their lives, the spiritual connection and emotional maturity.

All of this, he said, is needed not just in dancing, but life, which is why pow wow dancing is a reflection of life itself.

He concluded his talk by assuring participants, especially the children in attendance, they weren’t going to remember everything he’s said or had them do, but with practice, they will come to understand.

After the talk, both Leonard and Moonlite demonstrated dancing, With Damien and his wife, Diana Marcoux also dancing. After, there was an intertribal dance, with everyone in attendance invited to dance in a circle however they wanted.

The workshop concluded with children giving “reciprocity” gifts, tokens of appreciation, to Leonard and Moonlite as a gesture of thanks and a tradition in pow wow. A closing prayer and drumming closed the workshop.

After the workshop concluded, children were tasked with giving Leonard and Moonlite Supernault “reciprocity,” a form of gift-giving traditional at pow wows to show respect.
After dancing was finished, all participants gathered for a group photo.
Carter Straume, 8, left, Violet Marcoux, 11 and Olivia Marcoux, 8, happily danced during the intertribal dance.
Damien Marcoux gave a demonstration of his men’s fancy dance.
Diana Marcoux joined Moonlite Supernault for a demonstration of women’s fancy dancing.

About the Author: Karen McKinley

Read more