Jamie Medicine Crane loves sharing the joy of native dancing with the children she teaches and with audiences across southern Alberta.
Four years ago, the Lethbridge teacher founded École St. Mary Dance Troupe, which is open to students from K–6 at the bilingual school that is part of the Holy Spirit School Division, in Lethbridge. The children learn native dances and present about 10 choreographed performances each year for audiences in Lethbridge and area. About half of the 30 dancers in the troupe are Aboriginal and the other half come from a variety of cultural backgrounds.
“Dancing really helps raise the students’ self-esteem, and for the Aboriginal dancers, it helps them find their cultural identity—that connection to who they are,” says Medicine Crane, who has seen big changes in many students who take up dancing. “All the dancers do an amazing job. They are amazing children. I think one of the biggest things is to know who you are and where you come from, and always be proud of that.”
Medicine Crane, 31, has been dancing since she was 5 years old. She grew up on the Kainai First Nation (Blood Reserve), located about a half-hour drive southwest of Lethbridge. (Her mother’s side of the family is from the Piikani Nation, located about a half-hour drive west of Fort Macleod).
A former model, Medicine Crane once owned and operated a modelling school with a focus on building self-esteem and leadership for girls ages 13–17. It was there that she developed a love of teaching and decided to study education.
After completing university, Medicine Crane taught at École St. Mary for five years before being seconded to Holy Spirit School Division’s central office, where she is now the First Nations, Métis and Inuit lead teacher. In this role, Medicine Crane works to build awareness of First Nations, Métis and Inuit education at all levels, and helps teachers integrate Aboriginal culture into the curriculum. Medicine Crane is also president of the Alberta Teachers’ Association First Nations, Métis and Inuit Education Specialist Council and says she eventually wants to obtain her master’s degree and PhD in education.
On top of all of the things she does, she still loves to dance, and in her free time performs with blues rock artist Curt Young, a singer-songwriter who does blues and hip hop with a native twist.
Medicine Crane says she believes it’s really important for everyone to be open to opportunities for success: “Believe in yourself because no matter how much we want others to be there for us, and no matter how much they want to be there for us, in order to personally succeed in our goals and dreams, we need to believe in ourselves and follow through.”