By Chevi Rabbit, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
(ANNews) – Chayla Delorme Maracle, an extraordinary Cree woman, student, artist, and businesswoman, graced the stage in Edmonton as a Jingle Dress Dancer on Sisters in Spirit Day, a solemn occasion observed annually on October 4th. This day serves as a poignant reminder of the lives of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, transgender women, and gender-diverse individuals, and provides an opportunity for people and governments across Canada to stand in solidarity with grieving families and support healing efforts in the wake of the ongoing Canadian genocide that continues to impact these communities.
Chayla’s dance is more than just a performance; it’s a healing dance. She offers her energy and dance to heal all in attendance. It is a dance that goes beyond the symbolic; it’s spiritual and beautiful. Its energy emanates from the heart. Chayla’s presence at the Edmonton Sisters in Spirit Day event was driven by her profound sense of community and sisterhood. She explained, “Personally, I haven’t had any direct relations to anyone who has been missing or murdered, but to me, it’s still my people and my sisterhood.”
“I care about my community and my people,” she added, “and I want to see my people succeed and become empowered and to heal and do big things because I know we’re all capable of that.”
Chayla has dedicated her life to helping and empowering others, primarily high-risk youth, for 11 years. She is deeply involved in her community and educates both youth and professionals about First Nations history and culture. Chayla’s life goal is to empower individuals to overcome obstacles and lead positive, healthy lives. She teaches cultural workshops in schools, serves as a cultural dance instructor, and aims to raise awareness about First Nations history to foster compassion and understanding in society.
“My god sister got me into jingle dress dancing,” shared Chayla. The traditional dance form was introduced to her through her god sister and fostered by her mother’s deep connection to Indigenous culture. “My mother introduced me to my god sister who taught me how to dance jingle and how to make regalia,” she recalled. Sadly, her mother – Gail Delorme – passed away recently and Chayla has dedicated her cultural ways to her mother’s positive influences.
Jingle dancing also holds a personal significance for Chayla. It became a vital component of her own healing, mental health, and recovery process. “Before I started dancing, I was doing drugs and alcohol,” she explained. Dancing has provided her with a path to follow the Indigenous cultural practices that she wholeheartedly embraces, along with the realization that drugs and alcohol are not part of the culture.
Chayla reflected on her journey towards sobriety, attributing a significant part of her progress to her mother’s active participation in the Sundance. “My mom introduced me to the Sundance, where living a sober life for at least four years is a requirement before participation,” she said. Chayla expressed gratitude for her mother’s inspiration, guiding her to embrace their Indigenous heritage and engage in cultural ceremonies like the Sundance. “She’s my role model,” she stated.
The path to healing, however, has not been without its challenges. Chayla faced personal setbacks, particularly after the passing of her mother. She shared, “After my mother passed away, I relapsed. She passed away about two years ago now.”
In her quest for personal growth and transformation, Chayla emphasized her own role as a mother. She expressed, “I just had a daughter; I have walked the Red Road, I have had relapses, but I try again. I want to be a role model for my daughter and break the cycle of abuse.”
Her experiences and triumph over adversity have shaped her perspective on addressing issues such as substance abuse and the trauma experienced by many Indigenous women and girls. Chayla affirmed, “I want to tell them that I know that in this society, it’s hard because substance abuse is glamorized, and it’s a part of the mainstream culture, but it’s not a part of our culture.”
Chayla recognizes that the struggle is not unique to her community, and that many young girls may be going through similar challenges. She urged, “Young girls out there who are experimenting for the first time. We all go through that stage of experimenting, but we need to do it safely. I urge young girls, boys, and two-spirit individuals to be open and honest with someone close to you and let them know your whereabouts at all times, your location.”
To emphasize the importance of openness and honesty, Chayla underlined, “Be honest with [at least] one person in your life about what you’re doing because if you keep secrets like that, you don’t know who can be silencing you.”
Chayla’s participation in the jingle dance on Sisters in Spirit Day was not only a celebration of Indigenous culture and resilience but also a reminder that support and solidarity transcend personal connections. She embodies the spirit of empowerment and resilience, offering hope to Indigenous women, girls, and gender-diverse individuals who are seeking healing and recovery. Chayla’s unwavering commitment to her community and her determination to be a role model for her daughter serve as a source of inspiration for all those fighting against gender-based violence that impacts First Nation, Métis, and Inuit communities at an alarming rate. Her story encourages us all to be loving, kind, and understanding, fostering a safer and more inclusive world for everyone.