Our Dreamers’ Dance is a world renewal ceremony. We dance to songs brought down from Heaven by our Nááchįį, or Dreamers. These songs are remembered and performed by our Doig River Drummers. Listen to the songs of our Dreamers and hear their stories here.
“Dahwawetsats” is our Beaver word for Dreamers’ Dance and it simply means, “they dance.” We also call it a “Tea Dance,” because we always drink tea when we gather together like this.
Traditionally, our people came together to dance and to hear the Dreamer’s words and songs near the winter and summer solstices.
Today, our people from the different Dane-zaa bands come together to dance at various points throughout the year. At Doig River, we always hold a Tea Dance around the summer solstice to kick off our Doig River Rodeo weekend.
We also continue to hold Memorial Tea Dances when there has been a death in the community. At these ceremonies, we dance to help the person’s spirit begin its journey along yaak’eh atane, the trail to heaven. Like the Dane-zaa people who came before us, we dance in a circle following the sun’s direction from east to west.
Our most recent Dreamer, Charlie Yahey, said that if our people did not come together to sing and dance around the time of winter solstice, the sun would continue to move to the south and winter would continue. By dancing together, we help the sun turn toward the north and bring on the long days of summer, renewing the earth’s cycle for another year.
Dreamers and The Land
In the beginning, there was only water. The Creator drew a cross on the water. He invited the animals to dive down and bring back dirt from the bottom. Muskrat finally succeeded and floated to the surface with a speck of dirt under his fingernail. The Creator placed that dirt at the center of the cross and told it to grow. It grew until it was large enough to support people and animals.
– Summary of Charlie Yahey’s Creation Story, 1968.
Just like the creation story in the Bible, we Dane-zaa people have our own story about how the world was created. This story has been passed along through our oral tradition. It is sacred to us, and provides a base for all our other stories about the land, people, and animals.
Our children today still enjoy listening to these stories. As they hear our “wise stories,” and personal experiences from their parents and grandparents, our children come to understand the history and culture of our people. In this way, we keep our oral traditions alive.
Charlie Yahey told us about Tsááyaa, our culture hero, who overcame giant animals that used to hunt people by placing them beneath the earth. Yahey also explained that oil and gas extraction releases the grease of the giant animals from below our land; and through this industrial oil and gas extraction, our people and our way of life are under threat.
Watch a video of Grandfather Charlie Yahey’s Creation Story here.
This is a translation of what Charlie Yahey said in 1968:
That guy – Tsááyaa – started to work on the world so everything would be straight for today. Some of the giant animals he didn’t kill. He just chased them under that place. That’s why the ground goes high. He also sent giant fish underneath and that is why even today white men drill a hole to them to get their fat. The oil that they get is the fat of the giant animals.
Tsááyaa made everything straight for this world of ours. He knew it before. That is why they get gas from down under the ground. They look all over for it and then find it underneath. God made that for the white people. That is what the person and I know. I tell the story – true story.
Excerpt from R. Ridington, Trail to Heaven 1988:121-122
The banner photo for this page is displayed in its entirety below. It is a piece of art from DRFN member, Councilor and former chief, Garry Oker.