Pretty Indian Girls inspire new generation of round dancers

A group of indigenous women from Saskatchewan are taking the powwow trail by storm.

Young girls are watching and think round dancing is 'cool', says Desirae Desnomie

The members of Pretty Indian Girls are Judy Starr, Trisha Goodwill, Raeleena Dawson, Candace Gadwa, and Desirae Desnomie. (Desirae Desnomie)

A group of indigenous women from Saskatchewan are taking the powwow trail by storm.

The five friends were on their way to a round dance in North Dakota in January, singing songs in the van, when they decided to post a video online.

Home Sweet Home — sung in a round dance style, with their own flavour took off on social media

Within weeks they went from uploading a video, to becoming the group called Pretty Indian Girls. The response that they have received from people within the community has been described by member Desirae Desnomie as "surreal".

"There's young girls that are watching us and think that [round dancing is] cool. So they're coming to sing behind the drum."

"We see so many young women coming to sing with us and we're encouraging these young women to come and sing with us. There is special energy around it, there's healing energy in that round dance and singing."

New generation of round dance

Round dances became well known in Canada during the height of Idle No More, as a form of protest.

Judy Starr is a co-founder of Pretty Indian Girls, and writes the songs for the group. (Michael Keith Dubois)
But the round dance — said to originate on the plains — is still a ceremony, that follows traditional protocols. The dancers link hands, and dance in a circle around the drum. 

"It's a night ceremony to dance with your ancestors," says Judy Starr, the songwriter for Pretty Indian Girls.

Starr, from Star Blanket Cree Nation, Sask. has been singing at round dances since she was 16. 

She has noticed over the last couple of years that the round dance has started to gain more popularity.

"People are starting to get more engaged. Because it happens on the weekends, it's a good way to socialize, especially for the youth."

She describes the round dances as a safe place where everyone is welcome.

Watching the videos, it is clear that the Pretty Indian Girls are having fun. 

"The womanhood and energy that we have amongst each other is contagious. We get along so well. We're always joking, always laughing."

Even the acronym of their name — PIGs — reflects the sense of humour the group has. 

"When we go to round dances, it's something that we do for good, clean fun, and socializing. We're all trying to live a positive, healthy lifestyle."


Lenard Monkman is Anishinaabe from Lake Manitoba First Nation, Treaty 2 territory. He has been an associate producer with CBC Indigenous since 2016. Follow him on Twitter: @Lenardmonkman1