Amalkay: Bringing Mi’kmaq Music and Dance Into the Classroom

With Richard and Julie Pellissier-Lush

A single sunflower stands in a large field of sunflowers.


The information shared in this resource is presented to increase Indigenous knowledge and develop skills in singing and dancing in Mi’kmaq while having fun. Having this knowledge at a young age can be the starting point of reconciliation, bringing our communities together in song and dance. When we share these things, we are welcoming others to see where we come from and what it means to us to be Indigenous.

There will be three songs, and one dance intermixed with stories and language-learning. Eventually, each child will know how to say “hello” in Mi’kmaq. We hope that these children—the leaders of tomorrow—enjoy the songs and dances. Learning about and respecting Indigenous culture brings us one step closer to reconciliation with each other.

In your classroom

The big idea: Learning about the Mi’kmaq Culture through music and dance.

Curricular competencies: Choose elements, processes, materials, movements, technologies, tools, techniques, and environments of the arts; and apply learned skills, understandings, and processes in new contexts.

Content: Elements in the arts, including but not limited to: body, space, dynamics, time, relationships, and form.

The learning experience

The dance lesson featured in “Amalkay” embodies understanding of biological processes in nature expressed through four of the elements of movement: body, space, dynamics and relationships.

Body / What?

Locomotor (travelling) movements: walk, run, hop (one foot to same foot);

  • Standing in a circle holding hands
  • Moving arms in a circular motion while moving feet to the right with a side step for your feet
  • Ending with all dancers in centre around the drummer and moving back for next round where you dance to the left this time

Non-locomotor (stationary/axial) movements: Stretch/extend, bend/flex, twist, rotate, etc… 

  • Turn, rise/grow, elevate, fall, swing, rock, shrink, shake, enclose, open, close, etc…
  • Theme is together, moving forward to let go of the negative

Space / Where?

  • Place: Space large enough for everyone to be in a circle
  • Size of movement: big, small
  • Size of reach: near, mid, far
  • Level: low, medium, high
  • Directions: forward, back, sideways (right/left), diagonal, upward, downward
  • Pathways: (floor and traced in air) curvy, straight
  • Shapes: curved, straight, angular, twisted, asymmetrical, symmetrical, still forms
  • Laban Movement Analysis: pin (long, linear), ball (round, spherical), wall (flat, wide), pyramid (wide base with point on top), screw (twisted, spiraling)

Dynamics / How?

Qualitative vocabulary: Mi’kmaw chant

Qualities combining different effort factors:

  • Weight: strong/light
  • Time: quick/sustained
  • Space: direct/indirect

Relationships / Who?

Individual/group and environments: near, gathering, together

  • Credits and acknowledgements

    Created by Richard Pellissier-Lush and Julie Pellissier-Lush

    Edited by Ryan Elliot Drew

    Acknowledgements: We would like to thank Mi’kmaw Elder Junior Peter-Paul for granting the NAC permission to share his musical work.


    Note: Descriptions and pronunciations for phrases depicted in red are displayed in the glossary that follows the lesson plans. Additionally, contributor biographies and a list of resources and materials for further learning is also included at the end of this document.