One January night at the COVID-19 checkstop at Kahkewistahaw First Nation in Saskatchewan, security worker Mike Bitternose put on his red basketball shorts, an orange tied-at-the-midriff safety vest and his granddaughter’s heart-shaped sunglasses.
Then he started to dance for the camera.
In the resulting video, which has been shared on social media more than 5,000 times, Rod Stewart’s Da Ya Think I’m Sexy plays in the background while Bitternose dances toward the camera with a red, handheld stop sign.
“I never, ever thought that I would do something like it,” Bitternose said with a laugh, during an interview this week about the video. “The outfit that I had on was just a spur of the moment thing.”
Originally from the George Gordon First Nation, which is also in Saskatchewan, Bitternose works security at Kahkewistahaw, which is located 150 kilometres east of Regina.
Like many First Nations, Kahkewistahaw has implemented check-in stops at its border during the COVID-19 pandemic to screen people as they come into the community.
Bitternose did the dance as part of the #RezSecurityChallenge, a social media trend that started late last year to inspire people working at COVID-19 checkstops on First Nations.
It can be a tough job, the stops aren’t always welcomed by people coming in.
Bitternose said he was inspired to join the challenge after seeing a security guard from another First Nation dancing in a video. He almost backed down, but went for it.
“If it ever came down to it, I would do something like it again,” Bitternose said. “I can’t save the whole world. But I can be there for my team. Always be there from my team, day and night.”
He said he’s feeling sorry he didn’t wear a mask for the video challenge. He said he normally wears one, and always does when working security.
The pandemic has not been easy for First Nations, and Bitternose said he wanted to do something to lift up his security team.
“It’s not getting any easier with this, with everything. It’s a challenge,” Bitternose said. “A lot of our elderly people are really facing it in the hardest of times. And it’s something that we have to recognize as a nation.”
The First Nation has put in protective rules such as an overnight curfew order to help prevent spread of the virus.
Bitternose said he didn’t expect the video to go viral.
That night, after the camera was off and the song ended, jigging music blasted from the speakers and six other security members joined in for a jigging dance, he said.
We need laughter. As Indigenous people, we believe that laughing is our medicine.
– Shauna Taypotat
Security worker Shayna Taypotat was one of the people who videotaped Bitternose dancing. She said the group wanted to join the challenge because the community has been going through a difficult time.
“There’s a lot of tragedies and things going on here and so we’re kind of having a hard time. So we decided just to do it because we need laughter,” she said. “As Indigenous people, we believe that laughing is our medicine.”
The community recently lost a member — a 52-year-old previously healthy man — to COVID-19. In a social media post, Chief Evan Taypotat said the man was exposed at a housewarming party.
In that post, the chief said that as of Jan. 12 there were 14 active cases on the First Nation and that 30 people were waiting for test results.
Shayna Taypotat said the death left a dark feeling in the community.
“Everyone’s scared,” she said. “It’s very scary.”
Little moments of joy make help, said Shayna Taypotat, who also said she hopes the video helps community members appreciate what the security guards do.
She said people don’t usually like being asked the COVID-screening questions, even though the purpose is to keep community members safe. The job can take a toll on security guards, she said.
Bitternose said other security groups should join in and issued a challenge to other dancers:
“I will do another challenge if you can beat this one.”
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