For years, Steven Doolan wrote letters to the All Native tournament committee on behalf of the Gingolx Cultural Dancers, asking to perform the opening ceremonies.
“It’s exciting,” Doolan said. “We finally got it this year. I believe this is the first time our Gingolx dancers will be doing the opening ceremonies ever.”
Doolan, who is the chairman of the dance group and a drum leader, has been drumming with the group for 22 years. He played basketball in the All Native tournament in his intermediate years and has been an executive member of the basketball club for 25 years – three years longer than he’s been drumming. This time he’ll return to the court, not to play, but to perform.
“I just wanted us as a nation our Nisga’a nation and our village to take part in the opening ceremonies and to display our language and our songs to the rest of the nation,” Doolan said.
Preparations began months ago, when the group started practising once a week in September before kicking it up to twice, then three times a week. Their fundraising has been just as dedicated an effort. Traditional foods like fresh crabs, herring eggs and clams drew a full crowd to the community centre in Gingolx, where visitors were treated to a dress rehearsal.
“There’s lots of excitement. It’s getting more and more exciting as the days go by,” Doolan said.
As the basketball players come in, more than 85 dancers will perform in traditional regalia. The chiefs and matriarchs will enter to the Kinon Simogoot welcoming song. The dance group has been given permission from the songs’ composers to perform them, each telling a different story.
Once the basketball players have been danced in and exit, the Gingolx Cultural Dancers will perform another six to eight more songs with a total floor time of up to four hours.
“We’re going to open the door for the rest of Gingolx members to come join us, because there probably are 400 to 500 Gingolx members living in Prince Rupert,” Doolan said. “I imagine there’s quite a bit of them who’ll want to join us in Prince Rupert.”
WATCH: A soul shaking All Native Basketball Tournament opening ceremony
The performance incorporates most of the senses, between the movement, the drums, the singing.
“It’s important to us as Nisga’a to carry on our language and our culture. It is probably one of the easiest ways to teach our young people and our children how to speak and sing in our language,” he said.
Every time they perform, Doolan said a flood of Facebook posts follows, showing young children – some learning to walk – imitate what they’ve seen.
“They’re totally into it. You see little video clips of them at home running up and down the hallway with their drum and even the broom, because our dance instructor has his talking stick to lead the dancers. That’s what the little kids see and that’s what they use at home.”