Celebrating culture and community

First Nations performers share their history in Sidney’s Beacon Park

Three-time world hoop dancing champion Alex Wells of the Lilwat First Nation

“Bringing nations together is so important, to share culture with all walks of life.”

George Taylor spoke those words on Friday, June 21 — National Aboriginal Day — while emceeing a full day of performances in the pavilion at Sidney’s Beacon Park. He said being able to bring First Nations dance and music to Sidney speaks to the spirit of sharing between communities, which can only broaden people’s understanding of the different cultures.

Taylor is a director of Aboriginal Tourism B.C. and the leader of the Le-La-La Dancers out of Saanich. It was during lunch at a local restaurant that he said he saw how perfect Sidney would be to host the National Aboriginal Day event.

“I saw a beautiful place and decided to bring the celebration here.”

Taylor said the Town of Sidney was enthusiastically on board, so he set about coordinating the various First Nation performers for a trip to the Saanich Peninsula. On stage were dancers and singers from the Esquimalt First Nation, the B.C. Metis Federation, the Kwakwaka’wakw Nation and the Lilwat First Nation from the mainland.

A highlight of the afternoon’s performances was three-time world hoop dancing champion Alex Wells from Mount Currie, B.C. (Lilwat). He brought his daughters, Amber and Char, to Sidney as well.

Wells said he has been dancing for 24 years and it has brought him many opportunities — being able to make a living and seeing many parts of the world. He has performed at the Calgary Stampede and at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

Hoop dancing, he said, goes back to First Nations cultural dances and even storytelling traditions. Each nation, he explained, has its own specific stories and traditions and many of them are about the creation of life, plants and animals.

Wells and his daughter Amber performed a Fancy Dance together and Amber did her own hoop dance as she continues to learn the skill. Wells said it keeps him in shape and is happy he can pass on the family tradition to his own children.

National Aboriginal Day events in Sidney included a carving demonstration and art show at the Mary Winspear Centre, capped off by an unveiling of an aboriginal sculpture at the Centre, donated by the Winspear family.