Ernie Philip is an Elder of the Shuswap Nation, British Columbia.  He was given the names Black Feather by the Blackfoot in 1974, and Dancing Bear by the Sioux in 1993.  Ernie is an acclaimed international dance artist  and a competition dancer since 1966.  A Grand Champion Fancy Dancer many times, a Straight Dance Champion, Ernie has received over 130 other dance awards.  He has also has appeared in numerous movies and TV series.

As a dancer and lecturer Ernie has performed in Italy, USA, Canada, Germany, Holland, Greece, Israel, England, New Zealand, Austria, France, Ireland, New Guinea, and the Yukon.  He has entertained and taught thousands of children in schools in BC, Alberta, Manitoba and overseas in England and Austria.

Active in promotions, folk festivals, conventions, Pow-Wows and Expositions, Ernie has been a Master of Ceremony for countless events and galas.  He is also a spiritual counsellor, a marriage Commissioner, and performs traditional ceremonies for the Shuswap nation.

BRIAN SUMNER - producer

Brian Sumner has worked in social services a good part of his life, both for the government and for non-profit agencies which “give a community its glue”.  He has also been a logger, a log house builder, and lived off-the-grid.  Brian met Ernie Philip 33 years ago when Ernie was a native court worker and Brian was a youth probation officer.

In 2010 at a conference at Three Valley Gap, Brian saw Ernie dance in his full regalia, and heard the story  of his residential school experience.  The experience was transformative: “I knew the legacy of residential schools as history, but hearing Ernie and others such as Chief Wayne Christian speak from their hearts, I  woke up to how their childhood –and thousands of other childhoods had been stolen, and the path of  adult lives so  deeply challenged.

Brian offered to help with a grant proposal for making a film that would explore the idea of reconciliation in the context of Ernie’s life.  The modest proposal became a short film that became a longer film.  And Brian became a film producer.

Reflecting on his experiences working with Dancing Bear, Brian says, “Until now, I never realized  the importance of sharing what I witnessed: the music which moved me, the drumming that went right into my bones; the exhilaration of the Pow Wow and the images of friendship and kindness that occur there ... all of which took me out of my analytical preoccupations and showed me what is right in the world, even under the cloud of what was done that was so very wrong for all those years.”

BEN GED LOW - director / producer

Ben Ged Low has credits on hundreds of films,  working at one time or another as producer, director, writer, cinematographer, composer, stills photographer, music producer, editor, and sound design\mixer.

“When Karie Garnier showed up on my doorstep with footage he’d shot of a fellow named Dancing Bear I was intrigued.  As a child, I made my own moccasins, my most treasured possession was a bow, and the stories that fascinated me were of  the First Nations.  Karie was wondering what kind of film could be made from the footage.  I figured maybe a 24 minute TV half-hour, needing only a few weeks to edit it together.

     Then I met Dancing Bear.

Karie was drawn away by other commitments.  Ernie Philip (Dancing Bear) came to visit.  Ernie and Brian Sumner and I spent long evenings chatting at my dining room table.  

Ernie’s insights were so simply stated, and yet so full of wisdom, I realised that his story was not about the descent into darkness, into the horror that was the residential schools; Ernie’s story was about the climb into the light.  A half hour TV show suddenly seemed painfully inadequate.

It has always troubled me – the almost impossible complexity of trying to understand and resolve our mutual history – the colonial invaders and the never- quite-conquered First Nation peoples.  Apologies, no matter how sincere, don’t seem enough.  And I can’t imagine how those who have been so betrayed could ever forgive their transgressors.  But at one of those evening dinners Ernie offered a way out of this maze.  It is contained in a single word: ‘Respect.’

KARIE GARNIER - producer

Karie Garnier is an author, photographer, painter and award-winning filmmaker.  He created the photographic show and book, OUR ELDERS SPEAK - A Tribute to Native Elders.

Long fascinated by the world of the First Nations, and inspired by his friendship with Ernie Philip (Dancing Bear), Karie proposed making a film about Ernie’s life.

Over the next three years he raised financing for a film and spent a great deal of time talking with and filming Ernie.  Later he brought in filmmaker Ben Ged Low to help further develop the project.

At this point Karie was called away to other commitments, and to his ongoing work with the Fuga Islanders in the Philippines.  Though one could say Ernie Philip is the inspiration for this film, Karie is certainly the acknowledged initiator, both the spark that got it started and the dedication that took it well along on its journey to completion.