LIFE IN HOLMAN

MUSIC AND DANCE

Coppermine river inhabitant beats a drum

An inhabitant of the Coppermine River area beats a drum. ca. 1916. © Canadian Museum of Civilization: V. Stefansson, CMC 50918-CD96-653-026.

Copper Inuit dance in a snowhouse

Copper Inuit dance in a snowhouse, Coronation Gulf, NWT, 1931. Richard S. Finnie, National Archives of Canada (PA-101172).

Music and dance are an important part of community life in Holman. Drums are made from caribou skin pulled taut over a circular wooden ring. Songs are performed while beating the drums with heavy sticks. Dance groups start with warm-up dances before proceeding with other freestyle or motion dances. One type of song is the Aya-ya, a chanting song. Other songs tell a narrative story that is acted out in the movements of the dancers. William Kagyut’s song, for example, tells the story of his recovery from tuberculosis. One night, during his ten-year stay at a hospital in Edmonton, an elder came to him in a dream and told him that if he sang his song he would be cured. When Kagyut woke, he sang the song: "I’m so happy! I am finally getting better from my sickness. I’ve been sick for many years. I will finally be able to go home." Not long after he did get better. Many songs tell stories of hunting, dancing and travelling. The songs, their meaning, and dances are passed from generation to generation

There are two main styles of dancing in Holman. In Western style drum dancing, the dancers and drummers comprise two separate groups of people. Central style dancing involves the dancers themselves playing the music on drums. Dancing continues to be a vital part of life in Holman. The multipurpose community hall is regularly used for dances and other events and drum dancing is a popular activity for youth and elders of the community alike.

 

Central Dance Group and Western Dance Group

Central Dance Group and Western Dance Group

 

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