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The Story behind the song He Can Fancy Dance

I am deeply honored that my song He can Fancy Dance has found its way to you. It has been a long road for both me and the song. I wrote it in 1990, when I was just twenty, without a guitar, at midnight in an isolated camp where I was working saving up money to leave my northern home. I couldn’t sleep, my heart was heavy as I lay awake thinking about the visit I recently had with my older cousin Aggie.

I knew her all my life.  She kept an immaculate house, she was always well dressed and her short wavy hair perfectly in place. We were neighbors.  I was Aggie’s self-taught hair stylist that regularly dyed and cut her hair.

It was that visit, in the quiet of the afternoon sun, as I brushed her soft brown hair she spoke the words that woefully inspired the song. “Everyday… I stood at the top of those steps… for so many, many years… and wanted to jump.”

I swallowed down the shock of her confession to me. “My mother died when I was nine, they took all of us kids from my dad and put us in the mission.” My heart sank down to my feet as I dropped my arm and sat beside her. She continued to tell me of a tale so astonishing, so heart wrenching, so unbelievably evil to my young, fresh out of college mind that I could hardly stand to hear her haunted words. 

You see, I wrote the song that night to help me sleep as I remember the staircase too. I had been in the building myself as a child to see a dentist that came to our community. I left with sucker and a plastic ring completely unaware as I walked by and ran my hand down those very same heavy walnut rails. They tore it down a few years ago but when I closed my eyes to sleep I imagined her standing there, looking down with her soft brown hair severed off in a mission cut, nine years old… then seventeen.

She is thirty five years my senior. I knew her all my life.  I knew there was large building that stood in the centre of our small northern hamlet called the St. Henry’s Indian Residential School, opened in 1900, closed in 1968, operated by the Roman Catholic Church. I knew she struggled with additions, depression and had suicidal tendencies. I knew her all of my young life and it was in that moment that I realized I didn’t know her at all, until that day, until I heard her story.

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