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Airdrie Music Lessons to host class on Blackfoot culture and music this weekend

Blackfoot Elder Shirley Hill will lead the class.
Blackfoot elder Shirley Hill teaches special master class to educate kids on Blackfoot culture at Airdrie Music Lessons (AML) this weekend.

Blackfoot elder Shirley Hill is coming to Airdrie Music Lessons (AML) this weekend to host a special master class that will educate kids on Blackfoot culture and music.

The master class is scheduled for April 30 at 3:30 p.m. at AML, and kids can register online.

During the class, Hill will share Blackfoot stories about the connection between humans and animals.

“Those teachings share how we're connected with everything in nature – the stars, the plant kingdom, the fish and everything in the water, the birds that fly, the four legged and of course human beings,” Hill said. “I want the kids to understand how we're all connected and that we need to share and show kindness and compassion to one another.”

Hill, known as Anatsipi’kssaakii (Pretty Sound Bird Woman), has danced fancy shawl and hoop dance styles for more than three decades, and has taught the craft to many students over the same time period.

There will be hoops for everybody at the workshop and they’ll learn step-by-step how to move their feet and story-tell through dance.

The indigenous artist and designer works as an inspirational speaker and Indigenous Knowledge Keeper to teach Blackfoot history and culture. Hill explained that in Blackfoot, they sing Niitsitapiisinni (Our Way of Life) which talks about the interconnectivity of nature, animals, and the people who have lived in this area for thousands of years.

Music used for the dancing portion of the class will be a combination of native music and contemporary music.

“Music is important because you have to keep in time. As indigenous people, the drumbeat is like the heartbeat of Mother Earth, so we have to keep in time with that drumbeat,” Hill explained.

Hill added that she will also bring baking clay and buffalo presses, which the kids will decorate and bake at home on a cookie sheet.

Shirley Hill is known as Anatsipi’kssaakii (Pretty Sound Bird Woman) and has danced fancy shawl and hoop dance styles for more than three decades. Submitted

Owner of AML, Anthony Burbidge, and Hill have known each other for many years and Burbidge said she is really great with kids.

“She's a very interesting person – she's very grounded,” Burbidge said. “She's just graceful and patient and kind and she just exudes love and acceptance.”

Hill has been teaching kids for decades in and out of the school system, doing workshops and ensuring they enjoy their learning experience. She noted that her joy in life is to be able to teach children about the Blackfoot culture through fun activities.

“Even though they're from different backgrounds, the kids love it,” Hill said. “With the connection that I have, the kids know that I care and they can feel my passion for dance and they have fun.”

Burbidge hopes the workshop will provide kids with a direct experience with a Blackfoot elder. During his music classes, his students often mention what they learn about First Nations in school, he said, but he doesn’t know whether any of them have ever met a native elder.

“This is an opportunity for them to actually meet someone who speaks the language and understands the culture,” he said.

He added he hopes participants will come away with a better appreciation of indigenous culture and heritage, but that they also have a lot of fun with the physical and creative side of the cultural dances and crafts.

AML has weekly music classes for students, but none of those are currently focused on Blackfoot music.

“It's something we've wanted to do for a while but the last two years with COVID-19 restrictions, we haven't been able to do anything that we wanted, but now here we are,” Burbidge said.

Those who want to attend must RSVP via AML’s google sign up sheet, which is available on the AML Facebook page at

Contact Candace at [email protected] to ask questions or book a spot.

Masha Scheele

About the Author: Masha Scheele

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