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‘New Blood’ Dance Movement brings Stettler community a glimpse of Blackfoot history

New Blood- A Story of Reconciliation was told through singing and dance. (Erika Gilbuena photo)

By Erika Gilbeuena

For the Stettler Independent

Grade 10-12 students of Coronation School and Castor’s Gus Wetter School, along with the Grade 10 students of Wm E.Hay Stettler Secondary Campus attended a play titled Blood– A Story of Reconciliation, which captures the story of surviving through residential schools and moments in history that changed the traditional way of life for the Blackfoot people.

The Indigenous musical/dance production graced the stage of Stettler Performing Arts Center to reveal the traditions and stories that were taken away from the Blackfoot people when they were placed in reservations back in the late 1800s. Deanne Bertsch, the director of the play, began the evening by recounting the events that encouraged her to stage it.

Accompanied by a fusion of Blackfoot and contemporary music by Peter Gabriel, the show unfolded with Eulalia, a Blackfoot elder and an educator at Strathmore High School, reading the poem by Chief Dan George Words to a Grandchild while she watched the scenes that played out based on the events she witnessed herself. Along with Eulalia was Eddie Wolf Child, Chris Eagle Rib, who played the drums and the flute, and Sho Blunderfield, who provided the vocals.

“She (Eulalia) wanted hope and healing to be the big focus of the show. So we started creating the show around those moments,” said Bertsch.

Among the audience was Warren Aspenes, Clearview Division Principal, who explained that Clearview Public Schools sponsored “New Blood” to let the community see history and to be able to partake in it.

”The play is relevant since the Red Dress Day (National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and Two-Spirit People) is approaching,” commented Nancy Aspenes, who attended the event with her husband.

After receiving a standing ovation, Bertsch invited the crowd to stay for a talk-back session where the cast and crews answered questions from the spectators.

They discussed the origin and significance of the costumes, notably their regalias. The actresses revealed that the majority of the symbols that were embedded in their dresses were their family’s emblems that were passed down from generation to generation.

They also discussed the symbolism shown in the performance.

One of the messages that the show conveyed was that the failure of the past should not impede the progress we are making toward national unity and understanding.

“We can make reconciliation happen at the little corner of our homes,” Bertch added.

“New Blood” is scheduled to perform next at Living Sky Casino in Saskatchewan on May 14, 2024.

New Blood- A Story of Reconciliation tells the story of survival in Canada’s residential school system.