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Prince George residents perform weekly Indigenous drum dance to cheer on health workers, patients

·2 min read
Prince George residents perform weekly Indigenous drum dance to cheer on health workers, patients

The evening ritual of applauding and banging pots to show solidarity with health-care workers has pretty much subsided since its peak during B.C.'s first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But Prince George men Ivan Paquette and Wesley Mitchell are continuing the tradition.

Every Monday at 7 p.m., the two men lead a group that includes members of Lheidli T'enneh and other First Nations — as well as non-Indigenous people — as they perform an Indigenous drum dance to cheer on medical professionals and patients from the parking lot of the University Hospital of Northern British Columbia.

At the time of their performance on Jan. 11, they had two friends in the hospital.

"We're going to do some songs for them tonight — one in ICU and another one on life support," Mitchell said at the beginning of the performance.

"Just put them in your prayers," he said.

Northern Health continues to have one of the highest rates of COVID-19 positivity and patients in critical care in B.C.

During the prayers, Paquette places a bundle of eagle feathers at the centre of the performers' circle. The number of feathers varies depending on how many people have died of the novel coronavirus, as announced by Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry every Monday.

"Every life has a purpose and meaning, and it [the bundle of feathers] is to honour their life," Paquette said.

When patients and workers in the hospital noticed the singing and drumming outside on Jan. 11, they went to the windows to watch and show their appreciation. Some even danced along.

Catherine Hansen/CBC
Catherine Hansen/CBC

While performing, Paquette was thinking about his friends and family members who are front-line workers. He says he also thinks about the elders.

"They have fear. They have concerns of what's going on … they need that love [from the community]," he said to CBC story producer Catherine Hansen.

Paquette says his circle of drummers will pray and perform outside the hospital every Monday until the pandemic ends.

"I was a born leader," he said. "To be a strength to support for my fellow men in my community is something I've always done since I was a young man."

Tap the link below to hear Catherine Hansen's story of Indigenous drum dance for patients and health care workers on Daybreak North:

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