Round Dance offers opportunity to come together in spirit of reconciliation

What you need to know about the inclusive Indigenous tradition.


An Indigenous tradition that welcomes people from all cultures to come together to share in a cultural, spiritual and healing experience is happening on the University of Alberta campus this Saturday.

The University of Alberta Round Dance, organized by the Aboriginal Student Services Centre (ASSC), is an opportunity for everyone to come together in a spirit of reconciliation and share stories, break bannock, drink some tea and, of course, dance.

“Having this ceremony on campus is huge. The intention is really to call on the community to gather together. We can all come together in unity and respect for each other at a Round Dance, where there’s nothing that separates us, no racial lines, there’s nothing to say that we aren’t the same people,” said Shana Dion, assistant dean of Indigenous students at the U of A and a former director of the ASSC.

This year’s celebration will mark the 20th anniversary of the annual U of A Round Dance.

The first one took place in 1998 and was called Ohpahowipisim, or Flying Moon, Round Dance. “Ohpahowipisim” is the Cree word that refers to the month of August, when the inaugural Round Dance was held. And though the timing of the celebration has changed over the years, its meaning remains constant.

“It’s that coming together in one night, one moment. The drum calls out to our community members to come together in circle and dance together and laugh together and tell stories and meet new people, because you never know who you may end up dancing beside,” Dion explained.

Adrian LaChance, from the James Smith Cree Nation, will be the master of ceremonies for the ninth year in a row.

“My favourite thing is getting to see all kinds of new people of all faiths and religions uniting for a more beautiful community.” he said.

The most important thing for Dion, LaChance and the other organizers is that everyone feel welcome.

“We just want people to come out and join the circle, that’s the biggest message,” Dion said.

And her advice for those who may never have been to a round dance before?

“Just come. Even if you just watch for awhile and see what’s happening and get the vibe of it. You can be from any background, you can know how to dance and not know how to dance, the people that you join in the circle will teach you. And if you’re stumbling over your own two feet, that’s OK too!”

The U of A Round Dance takes place Saturday from 7–11 p.m. in the Education Gym (8700 114 Street).