Removing Barriers by Teaching Cultural Understanding Through Passion

If you are looking to make an impact on your students, look no further than Shanley Spence.

Shanley brings healing, storytelling, and reclamation to people all over the world through her gifts of dance, content creation, writing, powwow fit, hoop dance, sharing her voice, and speaking on important subjects. Most recently, Shanley has branched out as a practicing Life and Empowerment Coach…and it all began at the age of three!

Born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Shanley has roots of Nihithaw/Cree ancestry from her mother’s community of Pukatawagan and Saulteaux/Anishinaabe from her father’s community of Lake St. Martin First Nation.

She began dancing at the age of 3, evolving into her highly sought-after world-class and internationally known hoop dancer at the age of 13.

“Growing up I’ve always been fascinated in watching the hoop dancers at local powwows or events,” states Shanley. “Around 12 years old, a hoop dancer named Bruce let me experiment and practice with his hoops. He coached me through my beginner stages, including, teaching me how to make my own set of hoops. I taught myself through YouTube videos as well.”

Shanley has gone on to perform worldwide; from the amazon jungles of Ecuador to the coastlines of Hawaii and beyond. While working as a professional dancer, she has graced the stage with award-winning “A Tribe Called Red”, fellow hoop dancer Tony Duncan, and Canadian singer/songwriter Nelly Furtado, Mohawk DJ “DJ Shub”, Boogey the Beat and so many more.

Her participation within her community has earned her the Top 40 Under 40 Manitoba Award for 2017, a Manitoba Youth Achievement Award for Artistic Performance, the community champion award for volunteerism, the Anita Neville Member of Parliament Award, second runner up for Miss Indian World in 2017, and other recognition from her community.

Shanley has been part of the Folklorama family for as long as she can remember. She started as a youth ambassador for the DOTC First National Pavilion and has been part of it ever since.

“Being a part of Folklorama is important to me because it allows a safe space for Indigenous voices to be amplified, shared and empowered,” states Shanley Spence. “It not only does this for Indigenous peoples but for all the beautiful, sacred, diverse cultures and representations. It allows a broad range of opportunities and a community of networks so that the teachings can be dispersed and widespread amongst our local and international communities.”

Lately, she has also become a popular request with the Folklorama at School programs. From daycares to school-age children and youth, Shanley proudly explains the importance of her culture, leaving an impact on children of all ages.

“Growing up, we were always told that each step we take in our dance is a healing step”, states Spence. “We dance for reasons greater than ourselves, for those who can’t dance, for those who are sick, for the lands and the waters and our mother the earth. We dance for the youth, elders, and next generations and yes for those ancestors. They persevered and retained a lot of the ancestral knowledge even through a history of dark colonization, assimilation and attempts to eradicate the culture fully. When I dance, I honour their legacy, I carry their vision forward. Their DNA and blood memory exists within my physical body and when I get that blood flowing and moving, when I ignite that energy, when I reconnect, I am keeping them alive. Their bones and body have returned to the earth, so when I walk or dance upon mother earth, I am connected to them, I tread lightly, I pray to them. It all connected; it is all one. The past, present and future in a creation right in this moment.”

“Working with Shanley leaves me in awe”, states Christian Hidalgo-Mazzei, Director, Ethno-Cultural Arts. “Shanley is more than a performer. She is an inspiration to all who meet her. The educational impact she leaves on the children she inspires is truly incredible.”

Shanley recognizes the gift she has been given and understands the importance of educating our youth.

“Youth and children are sacred,” states Spence. “They bring new life, new ideas, new spirit to the circle of life. When I educate our children and youth, I remember this and do my best to bring forward valuable life teachings, to plant seeds of love, cultural awareness, self awareness, compassion, understanding and so much more. I also hope to serve as a reflection and an inspiration. To show them that I’m just a regular human being like them and to show them what’s possible, especially the Indigenous youth who can still face intergenerational trauma, discrimination and low self-esteem. I show them how fun it can be to connect with your lineage, your culture and with your community. I do my best to sow seeds for the future visions of unity, reciprocal relationships with each other and mother earth, and a strong connection to body, mind, emotions, and spirit.”

Thank you, Shanley, for sharing your given gifts and inspiring the world.

If you would like to have Shanley at your school, contact Folklorama today at [email protected] or call (204) 982-6226.