By Chevi Rabbit, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
(ANNews) – Internationally acclaimed Hoop Dancer Dallas Arcand’s story highlights the challenges faced by many Indigenous people from poor backgrounds and limited opportunities. It is a reminder that with perseverance, dedication, and passion, we can overcome obstacles and succeed.
The self-described “Multidisciplinary Artist” says he is more than a World Championship Dancer, he is a producer, educator, and motivational speaker.
Arcand acknowledges the challenges Indigenous artists face, such as being undervalued and underpaid for their talents and skills. Early on in his career he was accused of “selling his culture.” But that’s not the case, he says, “I’m not selling culture. I am selling my time, expertise, experience, and the hours spent learning my craft.”
Arcand grew up in poverty, and he needed to find a way to make an income. He felt he had something to prove to his friends and family who, early on in his life had written him off.
In an interview with Alberta Native News, Arcand opened up about how hoop dancing offered him an escape from his reality. As a result, he has become one of North America’s most prominent trailblazers and is ranked top tier among his peers.
Hoop Dancing gave Arcand a purpose and it helped him successfully turn his life around.
“Hoop dancing was a vehicle for me… It took me to a zone, and I think that is the zone that we all strive towards and to find that happy place,” said Arcand.
“My own family was lateral[ly] violent toward me because of their narrative of me; they didn’t understand me, they didn’t understand that I was an orphan and I was treated like an orphan, and I was mistreated.
“I got picked on at home and school, and I probably lashed out because of it; I remember a lot of my own family saying I was going to end up in jail or on the streets or dead – that’s how my family used to think of me,” said Arcand.
“On top of that I was bullied for being the only light skin with colored eyes on the rez, I got teased and bullied for it, and on top of that, I was poor.”
Despite these obstacles, Arcand found solace in Indigenous Hoop Dancing, which has become a source of inspiration and success for him. Nowadays, Arcand says his family’s views of him have changed. Change has to come from within, he explains.
“Nobody is going to come and save you. So, you must save yourself. You must participate in your rescue because no one is coming to save you,” said Arcand.
“If someone is trying to bring you down, they are only going to bring you down if you allow them to, but if you ignore those narratives, focus on your purpose in life, that will take you farther in life, it’s like winning the lottery when you tap into that,” said Arcand.
“I took control of my life, my narrative, it was a combination of my culture, training, and education – deep down inside, I wanted to change my life too.”
Arcand is a three-time World Hoop Dancing Champion. He competed at the 33rd annual World Championship Hoop Dance Contest last month at the Heard Museum in Arizona. He didn’t place this year, but he is planning to compete again next year.
In an online post, Arcand wrote, “I’m now going to dedicate myself to training all this year and in 2024 I will go into the senior adult category with a winning attitude. It’s not always about winning it’s simply just about dancing.”
Arcand says, “In the past, I was sponsored, but I noticed as I get older people don’t want to sponsor me because I am an adult. So, they kind of expect you to have your own money, so that’s why I fundraise.”
“If I traveled down there to compete, and I won I would only break even. So, it takes the stress out of me when I go down to Arizona to compete in the world hoop dancing championship,” said Arcand.
“I am not competing with other dancers in Arizona, and in fact, we are all friends down there. It’s a friendly competition; it is the Indigenous way.”
He says Indigenous people traditionally supported one another in each other’s winning seasons. And they still do.
Arcand’s body of work that he’s accumulated over the last twenty years adds value to Alberta’s Indigenous community and helps preserve Indigenous culture and promote understanding and appreciation.
He offers advice to Indigenous people who are moving to larger urban cities and metropolises across Canada, “Tap into organizations like the Native Friendship Centers, Bent Arrow Healing Society, and the Red Road Healing Society.”
Use the resources that are available in your community to help Indigenous people get ahead.
“There are a lot of resources for Indigenous people to tap into – that’s what they are there for, for your careers and your goals,” says Arcand.
“Stay away from the bad things, the drugs, and alcohol; it may be appealing because it’s a carefree lifestyle, but that lifestyle has no future and could end badly.
“The best thing you can do is stay in the light, stay away from the dark.”
Dallas Arcand can be booked for motivational speaking throughout North America and internationally by contacting Eddie Birkett CMA Entertainment [email protected] or call 204-982-7664.