“Every day she tells me how proud she is of me,” Oakes said. “I always remember being a little girl watching my mom dance, telling myself that I wanted to be like her.”
As part of a special feature on the Native Dance Troupe, an article was recently published by Vogue magazine, and inside is an image of Oakes dancing. She laughed as she remembered how Shirley contacted her via Facetime, asking her to stay calm.
“The fact that my photo was used in there, I was just panicking. I’m still on cloud nine on this,” she said.
Oakes just completed her first year of teaching at Oskāyak High School in Saskatoon, the same school where she graduated almost ten years ago. She said if she could send a message to the students at home it would be to believe in themselves and to know whatever they decide to do, they can do it.
“One of the main things we were taught growing up was to finish your education and go out into the world and do whatever you want to do,” she said.
Steven Pisano was the photographer who took the picture of Oakes and said PANOW he has been interested since college in native art and culture. Explaining that the show is as educational as it is entertaining, he said it does a great job of keeping the culture alive.
“And not just keep it in some sort of nostalgic museum display, but to say that it’s a thriving part of our heritage and we want to involve people in it,” he said.
On Twitter: @nigelmaxwell