Agency Creek Round Dance set for March 8-9

02.29.2024 Danielle Harrison Round Dance
Attendees dance in a circle around drummers during the 18th annual Agency Creek Round Dance held in the Tribal gym last March. This year’s Round Dance is Friday and Saturday, March 8-9. (Smoke Signals file photo)


By Danielle Harrison

Smoke Signals editor

The 19th annual Agency Creek Round Dance will be held Friday and Saturday, March 8-9, in the Tribal gym.

Friday’s events will start with a pipe ceremony at 5 p.m. and a traditional dinner served at 6. Round dancing will begin at 7. On Saturday, the schedule is the same except there will be no pipe ceremony.

Head staff for this year’s Round Dance will be Tribal member and Cultural Resource’s Cultural Advisor Bobby Mercier as pipeman, Garnett Whitecalf and Anthony Ironchild as stickmen and Devon Bellrose as master of ceremonies. Eighteen guest singers have been invited.

The event is hosted by the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde and its Youth Empowerment & Prevention Program.

Youth Empowerment & Prevention has been preparing for the event by sponsoring several gift making workshops in order to create giveaways for guests.

Additionally, Children & Family Services hosted three ribbon skirt and shirt making workshops. Fabric, ribbon and supplies were provided.

The first Agency Creek Round Dance was held in April 2003 and subsequently held annually until the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the event in 2020, ’21 and ’22.

The event is an opportunity for Tribal members to dance with their ancestors as they join hands and circle around drummers throughout the evening and early into the next morning, and also is a celebration of sobriety and community health and wellness, regularly attracting 400 to 500 attendees.

“It’s a whole ceremony in itself, it’s not just a bunch of people coming together and singing,” Mercier said in a 2016 Smoke Signals article about the Round Dance. “For us here, we want to do it right. It also ties back to other ceremonies like the Ghost Dance; that’s how powerful that Round Dance is.”

Mercier was responsible for starting the Round Dance tradition in Grand Ronde because of the healing nature of the ceremony and what it can do for a Tribal community.

“All of Friday until midnight and all of Saturday until midnight is the time that we are dancing with our ancestors, we’re dancing with those spirits and it is to bring that healing and teaching back. That’s why people get up and dance – it’s a healing dance.” Mercier said.

To hear Mercier discuss more about Round Dance, visit and search for Episode 8.