The old timers say that the name should be War Dance Lakes because, on at least two occasions, the Indians met there to confer about punishment for two “crimes” — grave robbing, and trap line robbing. On one occasion, one was elected among them to kill the accused, and it is alleged that the verdict was carried out. This incident is perpetuated in the name “Fur Thief Creek” which appears on some old maps, but was changed by the surveyors for the highway to Xavier Creek.
The persistence of old stories or names such as “Sundance Lakes” often turns out to have foundation in fact. Therefore more questioning may substantiate the reference to what was essentially a prairie ceremony, of which the details are well known.
It appears that the Athapaskans, except the Sarcees who are presumed to have adopted it from the Blackfoot, did not need the Sundance. The prairie Indians lived in a perpetual state of war, involving Crees, Blackfoot, Stoneys and Sarcees. Among all of them the need to endure pain was essential to a warrior, and was carefully cultivated from early childhood. The Beavers, on the contrary, especially after the Peace of Unchagah, were peaceable – certainly non-military – in nature. They tended to avoid enduring or inflicting the pain of dancing to exhaustion, or until the thongs laced through the back or breast of the dancers tore through the flesh.
More information is being sought on the subject of dancing in the Peace River country, and will be added if found. Among these may be the Ghost Dance. We also have the name “Ghostkeeper” among our native people. The Thirst or Rain Dance is probable, as is the Chicken Dance. The Eagle Dance is also probable, because the Thunderbird seems to be common to most western tribes, and an eagle feather in the hair had a certain significance. The elaborate headdresses of the Stoneys were not native to the north.