We are learning about the troupe with Marrisa Moccasin, Wellness Facilitator and Patrick Mitsuing, Board member.
The Red Deer Aboriginal Dance Troupe is an all inclusive drum and dance group that helps to serve the needs of the Aboriginal Community, providing an atmosphere of first nation cultural learning through sharing, dancing, singing and drumming.
The troupe was started by a group of volunteers in 2004, often gathering in homes and garages to practice. As time went on, word spread, and others joined and brought their regalia and include dance. As the troupe grew and more came out to participate, organizers realized these activities were fulfilling a need in the community. And with more than 150 participants often attending their after school meetings, the Board has seen the troupe brings a strong connection to Indigenous culture, bringing people together for song and dance.
It grew so fast that Red Deer Child and Family Services took notice and has helped to fund the group. And as awareness grew, others have been reaching out to offer assistance, increasing their group of Knowledge Keepers, Elders, and workshop and craft providers.
Last year’s pandemic restrictions did not slow momentum, membership and participation steadily increased. They are adapting to the online world, growing their social media reach and hosting Facebook live videos. For instance, a mini Pow Wow at the Red Deer Museum brought close to 300,000 views!
This year, they will be increasing community practices to four every month, and are working on strategies to create workshops for specific age groups to provide the best experience possible. Practices include family activities, teachings in song, dance, and crafting.
And to give people the opportunity to participate in practices like crafting from their homes, after they register, they will receive a kit they can use to follow along with the live video, and post their finished pieces to share with others. A Knowledge Keeper or Elder attends to teach the meaning behind the craft, the deeper teachings and protocols, giving participants an alignment to culture.
Patrick is often asked if programs are available to everyone. His reply, “There are a lot of non-Indigenous people that are interested in connecting to culture. Reconciliation and battling racism are huge for us, and the more allies we have that are non-Indigenous is awesome, and we love having people from all walks of life come and enjoy the dancing and learn. There is space for everybody!”
Marrisa and Patrick are also pursuing other projects including creating an exhibit at the Red Deer Museum, and offering virtual tours, and are starting the Fire Within Mentorship Program, providing youth the opportunity to connect back to the land, and learn more about their culture with activities outside of song and dance. “We are so excited for this program to roll out! We will be taking 10 youth and focus on them for the year, pour into them, and spend time with them and local Elders.”
The troupe’s Board of Directors give their time, knowledge and experience as volunteers, and are committed to giving back to the community.