Thunder Bay·Video

Indigenous educator shares love of powwow dance through online tutorials

An Indigenous educator, who grew up in Thunder Bay, Ont., has been connecting with a growing number of people through her 'How to Powwow Dance' videos on YouTube. 

Deanne Hupfield is growing an online community around her 'How to Powwow Dance' videos on YouTube

Deanne smiles at the camera in raindow beaded pow wow regalia.
Deanne Hupfield is an Indigenous educator and powwow dance teacher who grew up in Thunder Bay, Ont. (Alyssa Wabanosse)

For Deanne Hupfield, dance is healing. It's also something she's passionate about sharing with others. 

The Indigenous educator, who grew up in Thunder Bay, Ont., has been teaching powwow dance since she was a teenager. Now she's connecting with a growing number of people through her online videos. 

"I think I started in July, and I think I [now] have fifteen hundred subscribers, which is amazing," she said, of the online tutorials she posts on YouTube.

After running successful dance classes in Toronto for the past 12 years, Hupfield said she was looking for a way to reach out, and share the cultural knowledge she's gained with a broader audience. 

"I know how so [many] Indigenous people don't have access to our own culture. So I was like, I'm going to put it on YouTube, so people can just access it and they can hear the stories and they can learn the dances. And it took off."

Powwow dance has played an important part in her own life from an early age, Hupfield said, recounting the memory of going with her mother to her first powwow, at Fort William Gardens in Thunder Bay. 

"I remember seeing people dancing and singing," she said. "I must have been like four or five years old." Her mother didn't have the knowledge to teach her, but encouraged her to join in, and follow other women as they danced.

"So that's what I did," she said. "I just followed them around and I loved it."

She carried that love of dance into adulthood, she said, and the cultural connection was an important part of healing from the intergenerational trauma that is the legacy of residential schools and the 60s scoop. 

Powwow dance 'helped me heal myself'

"It helped me connect to my community. It helped me connect to the land, and it helped me heal myself. So I want that for my community," she said.

"That's why I started [the videos]."

Although she produces the videos from southern Ontario, during a visit to northwestern Ontario this summer, Hupfield had the opportunity to film one at Fort William First Nation, where she spent part of her childhood. 

The video, filmed on Anemki Wajiw (or Mount McKay), is aimed at children. 

While reaching a growing audience through her videos, Hupfield said she's also just launched a new effort to share another of her skills with others, virtually. 

Hupfield also makes regalia, and her new online jingle-dress making course is proving to be popular.

You can hear the whole interview with Hupfield on CBC's Superior Morning here.