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Secret of the Dance by Andrea Spalding

Secret of the Dance

by Andrea Spalding

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Spalding, Andrea and Scow, Alfred. Secret of the Dance. Illus. by Darlene Gait. British Columbia, Canada: Orca Book Publishers. 2006. Primary.

In 1935, a boy named Watl’kina witnesses a forbidden Potlatch. The historical perspective accounts for the forbiddance of Native American groups to practice their culture’s ceremonies. In response, the Elders in this story decide to hold one final Potlatch. The children are told to go to sleep, but one is able to see the mysticism and familiarity within the ceremony. Realistic acrylic paintings alternate the pages between color and black & white to convey this stories perspective of retelling a story from this current point of time. It includes mixed mediums to interlace realistic visions with cultural symbolism. In the preset day, the narrator is happy that he can wear the regalia openly and participate in the dance openly.

AK Context: This is a similar story that can be applied to many of the indigenous populations when a Western government sought to control and forcibly assimilate people. This specific story is based on Alfred Snow, and Elder of the Kwick’wa’sut’eneuk, one of the Kwakwa’ka’wakw Nations in Canada. A historical note and glossary are worth sharing in a way of sharing culture and historical perspective. However, it doesn’t quite go over the intricacies of Potlatches.

Activity: I would like to bring in an Elder to come read the story or have while I read the story. I would like to have them share their experience with their culture and possibly delve into what a Potlatch is, and what it means.
  Tlholen | Mar 28, 2016 |
Reviewed by Me for Kids @ TeensReadToo.com

For young Watl'kina, taking the fishing boat with his family to a small village nestled in an inlet starts out as an adventure. He's not sure why they're going, or what the strangely wrapped bundles contained that were hidden on board the boat during the night. When he and his siblings are put to bed while his parents meet with the Elders, Watl'kina is disappointed to not be part of the feast and festivities. He knows, though, that if an Indian Agent were to have followed their boat from home, there would be trouble.

After his younger siblings are asleep, Watl'kina is unable to resist the lure of the drums and chanting he hears outside his window. He sneaks away, only to meet masked figures who allow him entrance into the Big House. There, he's able to watch the ceremony, the dancing, and the chanting. He even sees, for the one and only time in his life, his masked father dancing.

SECRET OF THE DANCE is based on history, when the Canadian government instituted laws forbidding the Aboriginal people to hold their ritual ceremonies. Offered a choice between prison and having their ceremonial garb and regalia confiscated, many chose prison.

Although this story might be too complicated for younger children who don't understand true oppression or the Aboriginal customs, it's still an interesting look at how the world has come full circle. ( )
  GeniusJen | Oct 12, 2009 |
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Eight-year-old Watl'kina steals out at night to watch the masked dancers at a secret Potlatch.

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Orca Book Publishers

2 editions of this book were published by Orca Book Publishers.

Editions: 1551433966, 155469129X

Orca Book Publishers

2 editions of this book were published by Orca Book Publishers.

Editions: 1551433966, 155469129X

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