|February 28, 2013
Memorial round dance honors Craft, Howard
By Lailani Upham
The family of Tasheena Christina Craft and Nelson Matthew Howard BigSam make the first round while singers render an honor song in respect of their memory. (Lailani Upham photo)
ARLEE — Spotlight round dancing and singing created an ambiance of serenity and kindliness at the fifth annual Memorial Round Dance in Arlee on Saturday.
The community round dance was hosted by the families of Tasheena Christina Craft, (Jan. 31, 1989 – May 29, 2007); and Nelson Matthew Howard aka Matthew BigSam, (Sept. 4, 1969 – May 18, 2011) to honor their memory.
A beautifully displayed table of photos and items are set out in memory of Tasheena Christina Craft and Nelson Matthew BigSam. (Lailani Upham photo)
A handful of visitors said they felt a round dance was a wonderful way to honor someone you love and many wonderful comments and uplifting feelings left the building.
Some singers said they felt different after leaving – even after singing into the wee morning hours, singers left with a step of energy, joy and unity.
The lighting was an ideal style to set the people at ease to experience the heartbeat of the drum and be lifted away by the smooth and deep felt singing.
(L to R) Mike LaFromboise, Antoine Paul, Ryan Upham and Louie Paul carry smooth tunes to the crowd of dancers. (Lailani Upham photo)
Joel A. Fish, Menominee of Wisconsin, said he was very honored to be asked by the family to serve as the stickman this year.
Shonto Pete, MC and Tasheena’s brother explained that the round dance was led by Fish in his “way.”
“We want to honor their (Menominee) way. We have shared our stick game ways with others so we welcome them showing us their way,” Pete said.
“Every year there is a different stickman,” Pete added.
Special guest singer Harvey Dreaver of Canada leads the round dance singing with suave and stout leads. Dreaver is lead singer with world-class singing champions Whitefish Jrs. (Lailani Upham photo)
“It’s an honor to be recognized and for someone to ask you to be a stickman at an event,” Fish explained.
“A round dance is a healing dance for the people and community.”
It is the responsibility of the stickman to greet the invited singers at the door and take care of the hand drums that are brought into the circle, he explained.
Over 40 singers and 15 lead singers showed up.
The longest traveller was Harvey Dreaver from Big River, Saskatchewan.
Dreaver is lead singer with world-class singing champions Whitefish Jrs.
Singer Joe Upham is recognized and honored for his recent decision to join the U.S. Air Force. Stickman Joel Fish surprises the family in asking singers to send him off with an honor song. Both Joe’s mother and father are Army veterans. (L to R: Arlene Adams, “auntie”; Ryan, brother; Lailani, mom; Joe; and Joel Fish. (Courtesy photo)
Other invited singers were Nakoa HeavyRunner, Mike LaFromboise, and Dana Goulet.
LaFromboise said singing definitely carries harmony among the singers and dancers. “The good vibes it generates of coming together with singers you don’t know, but are able to sing the same song and that the song makes people want to get up and dance. Those are awesome feelings.”
Dancers from young to old, from wide to narrow jumped up to dance even if they felt out of place or out of step – a hand drum and great singers always get a crowd flowing in a circle.
Tables of silent auction items are exhibited. Items were donated through individual and businesses to help raise money for honorariums to go toward singers that travelled a large distance to come honor the family in song. (Lailani Upham photo)
“I thought the round dance was a success. They had the gym filled with people from all over who travelled many miles. Harvey Dreaver was an awesome singer who brought his four songs 800 miles to share for one night,” said Missoula resident Amanda Walking Child.
A round dance song inspired by Gabby Corral, Sr. Singers: Shonto Pete, Leo Charlie and Venessa Pete called, “Amazing Grace (remix) Round Dance Powwow” on Youtube was uploaded on January 31, 2008 by Tasheena’s big brother Shonto in honor of her birthday. The song includes a recording of “Sheena” beautifully singing one of her last “49” songs before she passed on. “Sheena’s” mother Diana Cote taught her the song. The song from their album “It’s Been Days” can be heard at http://youtube/v1QXaLjzymM.