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'It is a good day': Indigenous TikTok dancer reflects on past year

For National Indigenous Peoples Day, a Burnaby man from Ktunaxa Nation performed his traditional dance across Metro Vancouver.

A B.C. Indigenous man is using social media to educate people on First Nations heritage and culture with the hopes of people being more empathetic.

Today, National Indigenous Peoples Day, Peter White, known as “Peter Not So White” or kanǂupqa kȼiǂmiyit (NightRunner) on social media, is driving all throughout Metro Vancouver to perform the men’s traditional dance.

“I performed at two elementary schools and I did one for the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre and then I am just off to another one for Lululemon,” he tells Glacier Media between dances.

He's feeling proud, he says.

“It is a good day here. [With] restrictions lifting, more people are wanting people to come in and talk and teach things,” he says, noting more people are trying to get involved and learn about Indigenous culture and history, especially Canada’s residential schools.

The response from the public around the day has been similar to years in the past, attendance-wise, and Peter says there are many things settlers or allies can do right now.

“It’s listening, learning, acknowledging it and actually just being present with [the day],” he says.

He started posting his videos on TikTok in November 2020 after not being able to participate in pow wows due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I started to figure out that people get really captivated by the dancing so I could throw knowledge in there to educate people also,” the Burnaby resident told Glacier Media in an earlier interview last year.

He performs the men’s traditional, which originated from the Sioux people (Lakota, Nakota and Dakota), in public places. It’s something his ancestors were not allowed to do.

“Dancing and potlatches were banned for almost 100 years. You weren’t allowed to do anything traditional and not wear any [traditional] clothing,” he said.

Many people will stop and watch his dances, asking him questions afterward.

“l am very grateful when I am dancing. I sometimes get lost in my dances, which is nice because I think of what has happened before and how I have the privilege to be able to suit up and dance wherever I want and how my ancestors couldn’t do that.”

White trains year-round and focuses on cardio so he can dance longer without being fatigued. He only performs in the spring and summer months.

“With my teachings from my Ktunaxa people, we are supposed to hang up our regalia more in the fall and winter time because it has a spirit and it needs to rejuvenate itself to be able to heal people and be able to heal myself,” he said.

His Indigenous regalia has many layers and each bell weighs about five pounds.

“The regalia ties to who they are, where they come from, their style of dances, sometimes there’s lineage passed down from families before,” explained White.

His grandfather, who White used to watch dance growing up, made and sold tepees. Fittingly, the social media sensation’s regalia has many symbols of tepees and mountains.

“Dancing is medicine. Dancing is movement.” 

White struggled with cancer in his foot more than five years ago. He started learning how to perform the dances once he was released from hospital.

“As I was leaving the hospital, I just knew it was my sign to start dancing and start reconnecting with ceremonies and dancing,” he said.

White hopes his dancing will help people have more empathy and understanding toward Indigenous people.

“To understand a lot of us have been through a lot of trauma, not just through the residential schools, but the Indian Act, reserves; all these things add to be a toll on people,” he said. “We have a lot of trauma we are healing from.”

White says he'd like National Indigenous Peoples Day to fall on July 1.

“What is there really to celebrate being a Canadian when they’re still uncovering all these innocent children’s bodies in all these places?” he says.“It is good to have more people together celebrating but it takes away from Indigenous people and the struggles we go through daily.”

For immediate assistance to those who may need it, the National Indian Residential School Crisis Line is available 24 hours a day at 1-866-925-4419.