Traditional Artists of the Yakima Valley

Iksiks Washanahl’a (The Little Swans)

Before the separation of people into reservations and counties and states, survival depended on generosity, love, family ties, shared occupational responsibility, and mutual values.

In this video, Levina Wilkons tells the legend and history of the Little Swans. She tells of a time when swans stopped to rest at Lake Chelan and bestowed upon a woman there the gift of their dance and song. 

This is how Wilkons describes the origins of the swan dance. Listen as she touches on concepts of equality, harmony, and collaboration, and how these characteristics manifest in the work to teach the swan dance to children. Wilkons tells us that you cannot just learn, perform, and then stop doing the swan dance; it’s a process of learning and understanding that is informed by legend. Kalea Benson and others have fought the decline of this dance form; now, children have learned it and even performed at the Yakima Convention Center, a formative and inspiring moment that enabled the group to see the power in what they are doing together.