The Spirit Concert:
The Rainbow Creek Dancers
Spirit of Haida Gwaii Concert

Rainbow Creek Dancer-Eagle
The Eagle Dance
Photo courtesy -
Eagle of the Dawn
Rainbow Creek Dancers derives its name from a creek that runs behind the village of Massett, Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands). The creek only runs in the winter, which is the ceremonial season and the traditional time of the year for songs and dances to be revealed.

Renowned artists Robert Davidson and Reg Davidson founded Rainbow Creek Dancers in 1980. Most of the songs and dances were taught to Robert and Reg by their grandmother, Florence Edenshaw Davidson. Our objective is to bring meaning back to the songs and dances of our ancestors, performing them as they were taught to us by our elders. Following along the path of our ancestors, we strive to continually grow and connect with ceremonies that are relevant to contemporary Haida people. We create new songs for old dances, new dances for old songs and new songs for new dances - building upon the cultural foundation of our ancestors and drawing from our collective cultural and ceremonial experiences.

Rainbow Creek Dancers consists of Tyler Crosby, Mike Dangeli, Ben Davidson, Reg Davidson, Robert Davidson, Sara Davidson, Lori Davis, Jackie Hans, Marianne Jones, Robert Long, Jordon Seward, Peggy Shannon, Christine Smith-Parnell, Leslie Williams and Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson.



The Dance Descriptions
by Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson


Gagiid / Gagiixiid

"Hold Your Seats Firm! I Found This Wild Spirit Thing at the Edge of Town!"

Gagiid, or Gagiixiid, is a wild thing, who was once a human being. Gagiid is transformed through surviving the capsize of a canoe or boat in the turbulent waters of Haida Gwaii. He survives, but remains in a hypothermic state. In this altered state, Gagiid absent-mindedly and desperately eats codfish Ė and he is usually depicted with cod spines lodged into his face. In essence, Gagiid is a person whose spirit is too strong to die. He overcomes obstacles and traumatic experiences and returns to remind us of the tenuous balance we live in. In this sense, Gagiid represents aboriginal peoples enduring many challenges in our collective history, but always reminding us of our profound connection to the land and sea.


Prayer Song

The Prayer Song and Headdress Dance are two of four parts of the Haida Opening Ceremony. Prayer Songs open ceremonies and events by clearing the air and clearing the floor, before ceremonies begin. This prayer song is a "Call to the Ancestors", acknowledging our respect for them and asking for their assistance to ensure that all of our thoughts and actions are respectful. We encourage you to take a moment to connect with your higher power.

"Call to the Ancestors", © Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson, 1996.



Headdress

Hereditary Chiefs, or their designated dancers, traditionally danced this dance to welcome guests to a potlatch or feast. The white down feathers of eagles are the universal symbol of peace, good will and serenity in the Northwest Coast. Haida oral history tells us that when Haida Gwaii was submersed in floodwaters, that birds with white feathers gathered upon the mountain peaks and spread their down upon the waters, causing the waters to gently recede. The dancers spread the sacred eagle down in a graceful and beautiful headdress dance and dramatically close with cedar down-spreaders. Tonight this dance honours the Musqueam peoples, in whose territory we are, and extends a welcome from Haida Gwaii. This headdress song is in the Tsimshian language; it survived in Massett, Haida Gwaii.

"Tsimshian Headdress Song", © Haida Nation.



Raven Dance

Raven, or Nang Kil Sdlaas ("He Whose Voice is Obeyed"), is the trickster in Haida oral history. Raven is androgynous, neither male nor female. She-He created the world as we know it, transforming it to its present state. Nang Kil Sdlaas revealed to the supernatural beings and the rest of the world, Haida Gwaii, traditionally known as Xaaydla Gwaayaay ("Islands Out of Concealment from the Supernatural Beings"). Oral Histories of Ravenís travels teaches us, through many seemingly mistakes, that its alright to make mistakes and in fact, that there are no mistakes in our lives. This dance reflects the playful and chatty personality of Nang Kil Sdlaas.

"Raven Love Song", © Robert Davidson, 1994.





Salmon Dance

Peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast rely upon the "Salmon People" for sustenance. Each year, when the Salmon People come back, we hold a First Salmon Ceremony to honour the spirit of the salmon and to express our gratitude for their return. The Salmon Song was composed to commemorate our collective return to the First Salmon Ceremony in 1989, at "Every Year the Salmon Come Back", held at the Yakoun River, Haida Gwaii. The song reflects the practice of Haida people exclaiming "I-Yo!v when we see salmon jump out of the water and our gratitude to salmon when they surrender their lives to us. This dance acknowledges the importance of wild salmon in our culture, and to mankindís continued existence in the world.

"Salmon Song", © Robert Davidson, 1989.



Shark Dance

Once a Haida man found a shark caught in a tidal pool on the beach in Massett, Haida Gwaii. The tide was receding, and the shark would not have survived in the tidal pool. Sensing this, he released the shark back to the ocean. In return, the shark expressed his gratitude by gifting this song and the use of the Shark as a personal crest. The song was survived by the Alaska Haida people, and returned to Massett in 1982. The Shark Dance is a new dance, inspired by the Shark Song and the powerful image of sharks in Haida Art.

"Shark Song", © Haida Nation.



Eagle Transformation Dance
Eagle Transformation Dance
Photo courtesy -
Eagle of the Dawn
Eagle Transformation Dance

Transformation masks of the Northwest Coast generally show a transformation from one being to another. This dance shows Eagle transforming into Eagle, and represents the journey and personal transformations we all undergo. Our goal is not to transform into something different, but to transform into our true self: to remove our outer masks and reveal our true identity. In the song, we ask for wings to glide, eyes to see and feet to stand strong.

"Eagle Transformation Dance", © Robert Davidson, 1993.





Spirit Concert story

This page is part of The Cockburn Project, a unique website that exists to document the work of Canadian singer-songwriter and musician Bruce Cockburn. The Project archives self-commentary by Cockburn on his songs and music, and supplements this core part of the website with news, tour dates, and other current information.