Abraham Kelly, leader for the Pilot Station Dancers, joined the group in 1994 when his children started being on their own.
When asked about when their dance group started, he explained that his grandparents, and their grandparents before them have always practiced dancing. His ancestors used the drumming and dancing as a form of prayer. In the spring the good shaman and bad shaman would compose songs to ask for a plentiful harvest of salmon, birds, berries, wood and other necessities need to prepare for the coming winter.
There used to be more elders, but they’re gone, and young people have replaced them. The young men here are willing to learn the songs, so we are teaching them the ropes of drumming and singing.
In March 1974 a group of 4 from Pilot Station traveled to the University of Alaska in Fairbanks to share their drumming and dancing to the students and faculty at the college.
The Pilot Station Dancers still use the songs used by their ancestors, and the elders compose new songs, but most, like all Alaskans, are borrowed from other villages. Kelly said that they hear their songs too, sung by other villages with some words changed as that happens when they cannot remember the lyrics. Their favorite song is the welcome song which was composed by our elders. It is sung in anticipation for the arrival of dancers from other villages, which includes the words “those coming by ski-doo, and those coming by plane.”
The age range for the drummers is under 40 years old, and the dancers ages are 20 to 50 years old when they travel, but during the potlatch in Pilot Station, the drummers number around 20, and the dancers around 100.
They practice dancing at the city hall from October to February, they hold their potlatch in February.
The Pilot Station Dancers are performing Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at the Cama-I Dance Festival this weekend.