By Bren Kolson

Introduction by Elaine Keillor

Welcome to learning about our dances. For us, over time immemorial dancing is a way we express our feelings out on the land.  Also it was a very important activity when we met up with another family or met in a larger group.  That is still true today when we meet for the Dene Assembly annually or when we hold our Summer Games.

This essay only deals with Dene cultures on the east side of the Mackenzie River that speak various Northern Athapaskan languages. If you would like to sample some of the dancing traditions for Northern Athapaskan cultures on the west side of the Mackenzie or in the Yukon and northern British Columbia, some examples are available on the Internet.

A Dene Drum

In Denendeh the hand-held single-headed drum is equipped with snares. A snare is a string made of sinew that is stretched either under or over the membrane of the drumhead. The number of snares varies from one to four in number according to the culture or preference of the drum maker, but the most common number is two. When the drumhead is struck these snares resonate against the membrane making a very complex resultant sound.