By Terry Lusty, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
(ANNews) – A good many people in Native country know Adrian LaChance as the man behind the mic, because he often serves as emcee for various round dances, community events and festivities. He’s also known as an educator/presenter at schools and conferences where he shares with Native and non-Native people alike, his knowledge of Native history, culture and traditions.
And while his popularity grows in those areas, LaChance is widely renowned as a powwow dancer, singer and drummer. He shines as a charismatic dancer in any powwow arena – you literally can’t take your eyes off him. He’s a bold, skilled and wonderful traditional dancer who originally hails from Saskatchewan but was transplanted to Edmonton.
LaChance stands out loud and clear in powwow circles. His colourful, well-crafted regalia is an attraction in itself and he is often the centre of attention for visiting photographers and videographers, myself included, who delight in capturing marvellous action images.
Be that as it may, it’s a wonder that an individual who grew up as he did, was able to overcome so many negatives handed to him in life, and emerge as an accomplished cultural individual, and also a kind person who walks that precious Red Road and gives so much of himself to and for the good of the community. But that’s Adrian – a good person, a kind man, and an upstanding role model for so many of Native country’s youth to appreciate and emulate. He sets a wonderful example for not only the youth, but adults as well.
And that’s just for starters. The teachings that he shares with the non-Native community is commendable and so important given the times we live in. In this present era of controversy, Adrian shares his wisdom and knowledge with the non-Indigenous community so they can better understand, appreciate, accept and respect Native people, including their lifestyles, culture and protocols.
LaChance’s early years were in a cultural vacuum. While being raised in group homes, he was one of many Indigenous children who were frequently subjected to damning innuendos, misinformation, and put-downs. He was taught that Native culture was akin to “devil worshipping.”
When people are told something repeatedly, they eventually come to believe it. It becomes so ingrained. Yet despite the colonialist concepts that attempted to “take the Indian out of the child,” LaChance was able to do a complete turn-around and recapture his historical customs and traditions.
“Because of what I was told as a child in those group homes,” said LaChance, “I was scared of powwow dancing and singing.” He grew up deprived of learning his roots and heritage but finally, at age twenty, LaChance attended and witnessed his very first powwow.
“Once I found the Elders and dancers who shared their truth about it, I felt comfortable learning more …. that it was beautiful and okay.”
It was those basic, simple truths that went on to set him free – free to pursue the culture he’d been denied, the culture he thirsted to know. Stolen from him throughout his young life, LaChance’s appetite for more of that knowledge simply exploded. He learned more, then more, including his long-denied traditions of singing and dancing. And what a transformation that turned out to be! He went on to become not just a dancer, but the champion dancer that he is today! Add to this his abilities at drumming, singing, facilitating cultural workshops and presentations, and you have a blessed individual who is graciously doing his own thing in a truly good way. He is sharing his knowledge and his skills for the betterment of all. How wonderful is that!
For years now, he’s been giving back, not just locally in Edmonton …. but all over the country!
LaChance’s character makes him stand out in a crowd and so does his regalia – thanks to his loving, caring grandmother, the late Eliza Running Thunder, who sewed for countless hours on end. Every stitch and every bead was filled with love.
“She was gifted with so much knowledge and wisdom,” LaChance explained. And, undoubtedly, she had a very positive influence on him in terms of helping others, valuing education and staying away from alcohol.
As for the powwow trail, it’s like his second home. LaChance loves sharing his skills and he dances in memory of his past mentors and Elders, all of whom helped make him the good person he is today.
“I honour them each time I dance,” he states matter-of-factly.
On the powwow circuit, he states, it’s a “beautiful energy …. the people are so nice and friendly. It gives my heart much joy and hope that we can overcome anything.”