Burton Bird might be deaf, but that hasn’t stopped him from learning how to dance and being passionate about sharing the culture with others. Like most deaf or hearing impaired people, he can still feel the rhythm and vibrations from the music. “That’s how I learned, by the beat of the drum,” he says in an interview with the Saskatoon StarPhoenix.
The youngest child of late Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations Senator Allen Bird, he has always communicated through sign language. He and one of his sisters, along with two cousins who were also deaf, communicate through American Sign Language.
Bird’s interest in hoop dancing started in high school. He tried to get into a dance program at a First Nations school located outside of Saskatoon, waiting for a spot to open in the program.
Since the 1990s, he has been a hoop dancer, travelling the world to perform at powwows and other gatherings. He’s performed in Paris, all over the United States and across most of Canada. He has yet to dance in the Maritimes, but wants to one day, he said.
Below you can see a little bit of his dancing.
And here’s another video of his performance alongside friend David Kerr who is also deaf.
Some in society will always try and write off deaf children, so it’s important for these kids to have role models like Burton Bird. As he told the Saskatoon StarPhoenix, “dancing has a spiritual value, but teaching deaf First Nations children to dance has been important as well.
“There’s a lot of deaf children, and without dancing, they don’t have anything. So I seem to be the exclusive teacher when I go out and teach the deaf indigenous children that they find something, something they can use, that they can move with — something that gives them that connection to a spiritual sense of well-being.”
For more information on Burton Bird, please visit his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/deafnativehoopdance.