A traditional powwow dancer for thirty years, Mike Retasket honours the ancestors through movement. Each dip and hop on the grasslands is his way of saying thank you to the ones who came before; each feather he wears is a designation of responsibility to those who are yet to come.
From Stutcwewsemc, located in southern Secwepemculecw near Cache Creek, British Columbia, Retasket shares his knowledge and the protocols that have ensured the integrity of traditional dance for many generations. During a traditional powwow, spectators are reminded not to touch the dancers’ regalia. A dancer’s regalia is an expression of personal identity, specific connections to family and land, as well as the role of service undertaken by an individual who steps into the role of a dancer.
In total, his elaborate regalia carries 438 eagle feathers. He explains: “And I didn’t just go out and take an eagle’s life in order to have this. I had to earn the right to carry these feathers by going into the mountains for four days and four nights without food or water.” Following his journey into the mountains, he was gifted eagle feathers from his Uncle.
While showing his magnificent double bustle, Retasket shares the lesson he received during his journey into the mountains: “So, each one of these feathers has hundreds and hundreds of barbs on them and what came to me when I was out on the land was that each one of those barbs represents one of our ancestors.”
Retasket teaches the youth that dance is a way to take care of their ancestors and make them smile. And it makes Retasket happy to share this experience of connection and gratitude with others.