ERNIE PHILIP (DANCING BEAR)
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 has been 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 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.
BEN GED LOW - director / producer
Ben Ged Low is a filmmaker with 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.
“As a child, I made my own moccasins, my treasured possession was a bow, and the stories that most fascinated me were of the First Nations. Karie Garnier introduced me to Ernie Philip (Dancing Bear). Then Ernie Philip and Brian Sumner came to visit. We 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 school system; Ernie’s story was about the climb into the light.
“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.’”
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 that “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.”