By Brittney Pastion
Kaleigh Starblanket was encouraged at an earlier age by her parents to dance. Her parents, Kelsey Starblanket Sr. and Margaret Benjoe-Starblanket, waited to see if their daughter demonstrated a desire to dance first though. They had been taught that children make that decision for themselves.
It didn’t take long for their daughter to discover her own love for the drum beat even before she had taken her first steps.
“I always danced along with my dad who would sing for me at powwows,” said Starblanket.
The 19-year-old traditional dancer has been a part of the powwow circle since she was two years old. Now, you can find Starblanket dancing her stationary style and raising her fan to honor the men in her family.
“When I dance I tell a story,” said Starblanket, who represents her women ancestors that protected the home fire and welcomed warriors home.
Every piece of an outfit not only holds a specific purpose but also a meaning to the individual. The pouches that are found on Starblanket’s belt are meant to hold medicines. Typically found on the traditional style of dance that represents the strength of the women in each tribe.
“The story of traditional is supposed to be like a replica of how the women represented themselves back then.”
A short prayer is said each time before Starblanket dances while keeping those in mind that are sick, unable to dance, homeless and family members that have left to journey to the spirt world.
“When I dance I feel like an ambassador for my family and my tribe,” representing Star Blanket First Nation in Saskatchewan. “I want to always represent my tribe proudly.”
Recognized for the rose that is found on her beadwork, Starblanket designed her outfit back in 2012.
She was given the design in a dream before entering the teen category, which ranges in age from 13 to 17 years old.
“The first thing I did when I woke up was sketch everything down,” paying attention to the detail of her headwear, breast plate and fringe.
The beading process began for Starblanket and her mother in 2014 and was finished in 2017.
“It’s really cool because each design has a meaning behind it,” with both of her tribes Plains Cree and Dakota represented.
Typically, geometrics are more found in Dakota beadwork and Cree’s are known for florals.
While culturally active, Starblanket was also taught that in order to have a successful life you need to create balance in both worlds—the traditional and settler lifestyles.
“You need to take care of your spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical health,” said Starblanket, who attends ceremonies and powwows while being dedicated to her education.
After completing her first year in Bachelor of Science at the First Nations University of Canada, Starblanket promotes education to the youth.
Being a part of the powwow circle has been uplifting for Starblanket, seeing the representation of all tribes.
“Embrace where you come from, embrace your tribe because every tribe is culturally distinct and every tribe is unique.”