Edmonton

Powwow dancer's spirit inspires visitors to raise money for regalia

At the Sturgeon Lake Traditional Pow Wow last weekend, one dancer stood out.

'He had it in him to dance so that's what inspired me to do what I did for him'

William Soto, 19, dressed in regalia donated at the Sturgeon Lake Traditional Pow Wow. (Tammy Chowace)

At the Sturgeon Lake Traditional Pow Wow last weekend, one dancer stood out.

William Soto whirled among his fellow performers, him in a black T-shirt and camo pants, the others in their finest traditional regalia.

Soto's sister, Marissa Soto, says when the 19-year-old started dancing three years ago, his family couldn't afford to buy traditional regalia.

Regalia can cost from $500 to $2,500, said Paul Partridge, a dancer visiting the powwow at Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation, 360 kilometres northwest of Edmonton.

This was the second year Partridge, from Loon Lake, Sask., noticed the young dancer without traditional regalia.

Soto dances in T-shirt and camo pants at the powwow Sunday. (Tammy Chowace)

"Every inter-tribal dance he did, he just give 'er," he said. "He had it in him to dance, so that's what inspired me to do what I did."

Partridge approached the announcer booth, donated $10 and challenged others to match it. 

More than $700 was raised. And, more importantly, two sets of grass-dance regalia were donated. 

"I didn't expect it. After all that, I started tearing up. It was just amazing," Soto's sister said.

    Partridge said he understands the importance of regalia for performing.

    "To put on an outfit, it makes a person feel good about themselves because they're dressing up for the person themselves and for the people watching them dance," he said. 

    After seeing her brother dance, an elder gave Soto a buffalo headdress, Marissa Soto said. 

    He was also given an eagle feather and moccasins, completing his regalia.

    "I feel honoured, grateful and happy," Soto said.  "It means a lot."

    With files from Madeleine Cummings

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