Dance contest commemorates the late Lorraine Kenny
Reeti Meenakshi Rohilla - Staff Writer
Lac Seul First Nation resident Serena Kenny is inviting people to take part in an online Jingle Dress Special contest in the loving memory of her mother late Lorraine Kenny. Hoping to reach friends and family near and far, Serena said that she is very excited to be launching this special event in honor of her late mother.
She shared, “Anyone that knew my mom knew she was so passionate about her culture and carrying on the traditions after losing so much of it in residential school.” Serena lost her mother on January 10, 2010 and every year, around this time, she and her family make offerings to remember and relive the presence of their beloved.
“During this hard year with all the COVID precautions and not being able to attend powwows has really been hard for me. I always felt closest to my mom when I would go to a powwow. Listening to the drums and watching the beautiful dancers,” shared Serena. Last year, with the amazing success of an online powwow, Serena was inspired to keep the light burning, of the thoughts and teachings of her mother, through an online Jingle Dress Dancers event.
Lorraine’s husband Brian Beaton shared, “During these difficult days of COVID, everyone needs to find creative ways to celebrate and share the love and healing that the Jingle Dress, the drum and dancing represents. This competition is to honour the love that Lorraine shared when she danced on our Mother Earth.”
Serena is inviting people from across the nation, and beyond, to partake in this event. There are two age categories of 16 and under and 17 and over. Each dancer is asked to wear Jingle Dress regalia as they dance to the beats of the traditional drum, Brown Eagle. The song can be accessed at https://bit.ly/3sP1qQE. All dance videos are to be submitted publicly on Facebook, using the hash tag #dancingforLorraine, where you can also access further contest information.
Serena said last week, “I got a video submission this morning and I could feel my mom there with this woman who was dancing all by herself. Dancing to one of the drums that were known to me so well when I was young and on the powwow trail.” Having started to receive submissions from as far as Oklahoma and Alberta, participants share their excitement of getting a chance to dance again, in the memory of Lorraine Kenny. According to the website of Canada’s Department of Justice, a powwow is a summer staple in many Indigenous families and communities: a season of gathering to share cultures, and spend time with friends, old and new.
Born at Kejick Bay in the Lac Seul First Nation on January 31, 1955, Lorraine was a strong pillar for the Indigenous community. She attended and is a survivor of three Indian Residential Schools: Pelican Residential School which operated near Sioux Lookout; Shingwauk Residential School which operated in Sault Ste. Marie; and, Cecilia Jeffery which operated in Kenora. Realizing the need for change and support in her community, she was instrumental in starting several organizations and movements to support Aboriginal women, families and children, and the survivors of residential schools.
She was an author and a teacher, working for over a decade in developing Raising the Children manual, as well as the Resiliency Workbook for Residential School Survivors. Serena said, “Raising the Children was her life’s work. That was something that she worked very hard on. She really wanted parenting to get back to the way that she remembered from before she was taken away when she was only five-years-old.” Lorraine was also a lifetime member of the Sioux Lookout Anti-racism Committee and the organizer and leader of five Sioux Lookout Women’s fundraising canoeathons.
Lorraine was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 49. As with so many other things in her life, Lorraine swam bravely against the current, deciding to discontinue her chemotherapy. She instead focused on traditional medicine, exercise, nutrition, prayers, meditation, and ongoing consults with trusted Elders. She lived happily, courageously, and healthfully for five years, before taking her peaceful last breath in her Sioux Lookout home.
Beaton concluded, “I am supporting Serena’s effort because I believe it gives all of us a chance to celebrate a life well-lived and remember the times shared together. Lorraine loved life to its fullest. She loved the ceremonies and the traditional teaching shared at the powwow gatherings. She loved dancing in her dresses. Her legacy continues with events like this Jingle Dress competition my daughter is organizing.”