ST. PAUL – The rhythmic beating of the drums echoed through the hall, as people held each other’s hands. They danced as they moved in a circular motion around the drummers and the singers – who sang songs that carried a weight of history and remembrance.
“They say these songs and the beat... it comes from the spirit world,” said Leah Redcrow as she watched. Redcrow is the research lead and executive director of the Acimowin Opaspiw Society (AOS).
“They’re mimicking the northern lights in the sky,” she explained, describing how the lights often appear to move and dance in the sky. “When they dance... that’s representative of the spirit world and the northern lights.”
The memorial round dance is the AOS’ Second Memorial Round Dance of four planned. The round dance was held on March 18 at the St. Paul Recreation Centre.
Last year, the first memorial symbolized the beginning of “our grieving period,” said Redcrow. “We’re grieving for four years straight,” and the fourth one will mean “our collective grieving is over.”
Redcrow explained how his year’s round dance is “meant to memorialize all the survivors and the children who died” at the Blue Quills Residential School during its 90 years of operation. She said the memorial consists of walking around with photos of the children who died in the residential school, as well as the survivors who passed way – to honour them.
“This needed to be done for the children’s spirits to give them peace... they weren’t honoured in death... so we’re honouring them now.”
Redcrow then expressed her gratitude to the Town of St. Paul for the venue and shared that the St. Paul area was originally the Chief Blue Quills Reserve. “All of us here, all the survivors, we’re the original band members of the Chief Blue Quills band,” which made the location of the memorial symbolic.
She also thanked the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saint Paul for its help with the investigations. “We have a really good relationship with them,” she acknowledged.
Bishop Emeritus Paul Terrio and Catherine Warholik, a staff member from the diocese who helped provide records for the investigations, were also present during the event. “We gave them a blanket,” honouring their support for the investigation, said Redcrow.
Even after the conclusion of the Memorial Round Dances in 2025, Redcrow affirmed that, “We’re still going to continue with the investigations.”