Everybody Dances

I wish I could show you a photo of this event, but I can’t. The storyteller said that if there is dancing during his sessions, then ‘everybody dances.’ So I smiled and clumsily complied. I didn’t take any photos of the kids, because I was too busy dancing.

When I explore my interconnections to the first peoples of the Puget Sound, I usually do my exploring alone. Last week’s storytelling event was different, because I was accompanied by my husband Brent and step-children Paige (13) and Grant (9). We joined up with a crowd of cocoa-sipping under-10s, and we enjoyed the Tsimshian stories of Ravenspeaker at the Duwamish Longhouse and Cultural Center.

I discovered that experiencing this event in the company of my family meant explaining some ugly truths in unusually gentle ways…

“Why does this longhouse look so new? I expected it to be a couple hundred years old.”

“Well … it’s because the old longhouses burned down about a hundred years ago. Some mean people set them on fire on purpose. So just imagine if our house burned down…We would have to rebuild it, and we would make a new house.”

“Oh yeah, and we could make it bigger and warmer and everything would look new!”


Experiencing this event in the company of my family also meant moving those ugly truths to the side. Just a little bit. Never forgetting the injustice, but creating more space for the celebration of cultural beauty. Relaxing enough to learn from the story of a girl called Knifehand, and watching kids’ eyes grow wide as they listen. Remembering that life offers not only a time to mourn, but also a time to dance. I do not want to miss out on the dancing.


I first visiting the  Duwamish Longhouse in Feb. 2010. To read about that encounter, check out ‘The Condo and the Longhouse.’

Published by Michelle G. Garred

Just Peace researcher, strategist and evaluator

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