Ernie Philip - Native Fancy Dancer

All About Ernie



A glimpse into the life of Ernie Philip

Ernie Philip - is an Elder of the Shuswap Nation and currently lives here with his wife Yvonne in the interior of British Columbia, Canada. Ernie Philip is a full-blooded Shuswap Native Canadian Indian. The Shuswap Tribe forms part of the Salish Nation from the Interior of British Columbia. For centuries his people have lived in this beautiful province taking only what was needed to preserve food for the winter months. Ingrained into the nature of an Indian person is the idea that living is for giving. Everyone was his brother's keeper.

Mr. Philip knows the Tribal Dances of his grandfather and later learned to dance the Plains Dances (Fancy Dances). He has been a professional International Dancer and Competitor since 1966. The dances performed by Ernie Philip are not sacred, religious, or occult, they are social dances of the North American Indian People, known as the Flag Dance, Medium Fast Fancy Dance, Prairie Chicken Dance, Owl Dance, and the Story Dance of the Eagle.

Before each dance is performed an explanation is given on the tradition and history. At the end of the performance, which takes one hour, question and answer time is available for interested parties. The high calibre of teaching regarding the cultural aspects of Native Indian Life and philosophy is to create better understanding between Indian and non-Indian people of the world. Thus, dispelling many of the erroneous ideas and concepts generally held by non-Indians conveyed by various Hollywood movies.

Mr. Philip has performed in Oklahoma, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Washington D.C. and Chicago. In Canada: British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec. He has toured Europe three times, e.g. Italy, Holland, Greece, Israel, England, Germany, New Zealand, Austria and Japan. In September 1983 he made his first tour of Great Britain visiting schools, clubs, and television shows, one in particular being a children's show. As usual this tour proved most successful and return visit has been requested. He has been an honoured guest at many other ceremonies.

In 1974 he was in a Walt Disney production, The Bears and I, starring Michael Ansara, Pat Wayne and the late Chief Dan George. He has appeared in numerous T.V. interviews and cultural productions in North America and Europe. Mr. Philip's most recent attribute in his acting career was in August 1983 where he played the part of a 100-year-old ex-professional fiddle player in the Beachcombers for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

In 1978 Canada put out a collection of silver dollars called Heritage Coins honouring the native people; Ernie Philip's picture was on the Series Two. During his career he has won over 100 awards including a title of a Straight Dancer at Seattle Coliseum. He has also been a Grand Champion Dancer 26 times.

During the years 1970 – 1974 he worked with the Education Department of Indian Affairs, visiting over 1240 schools. Since then the number of schools and university appearances has almost doubled. Ernie Philip is very active in the social work of Native people and was a very successful court worker. The rehabilitation of inmates and the world-wide problem of alcohol and drug abuse is just one of the areas that he is active in.

All of the artistic credits are, however, secondary to what Ernie Philip considers his major accomplishments: the sense of pride and understanding of the Indian Heritage that he has brought to so many people - both Indian and non-Indian - is what he cherishes the most.

In conclusion, Ernie Philip feels certain children and adults would enjoy this type of show as audience participation is involved, making this an educational and entertaining occasion. As he says: "lots of laughs and good feelings".


  • named Black Feather - by Blackfoot 1974
  • named Dancing Bear - by Sioux 1993
  • Acclaimed International Dance Artist of long standing
  • Competition dancer since 1966
  • Dancer, Lecturer, guest starred internationally in Italy, USA, Canada, Germany, Holland, Greece, Israel, England, New Zealand, Austria, France, Ireland, New Guinea, and the Yukon
  • Active in promotions, folk festivals, conventions, Pow-Wows and Expositions
  • Master of Ceremony for various events and galas
  • Marriage Commissioner


  • March 26, 2006 Ambassador Award for Aboriginal Tourism of British Columbia
  • presented by Graham Basett, President of Coast Hotels
  • Grand Champion Fancy Dancer many times; Straight Dance Champion; and over 130 other dance awards.
  • Heritage Picture by Leonard McGregor - Hangs in the Canadian National Archives in Ottawa.
  • Eric Klemm entered a photograph of Ernie in traditional regalia in one of the most important photography contests in Europe. He won first place in Paris in the portrait culture category. The contest was April 2007; he competed against 85 other entrants from 85 countries.
  • Profile on series Two Heritage coins honouring Native peoples of Canada
  • Full Blooded member of the Shuswap Tribe fluent in Shuswap language

Movies TV

  • Movie: 1989 - Davy Crockett
  • TV Series: 1989 - Border Town 1983 - Beachcombers
  • Movie for West German TV filmed In Surrey BC
  • Documentary: "Ernie" Simon Fraser University, filmed in Surrey, BC
  • Fish out of Water - Episode 6 Quaaout Lodge 2008
  • TV Commercial for British Columbia
  • International talk show appearances - Canada, England, and Germany
  • Spent time with famous movie producer / director Neil Jordon from Ireland
  • Entertained and talked to thousands of children in schools in BC, Alberta, Manitoba and overseas in England and Austria

A Glimpse into the Life of Ernie Philip

Ernie Philip is a full-blooded Canadian Shuswap Indian and a professional native dancer.  Ernie is an international Dance Artist, Guest Lecturer, and twenty-six time Grand Champion Dancer.  Since 1966, Ernie has danced, lectured and made several guest appearances all over the world, taking pride in his Native Heritage.  Over the time span of his career, Ernie has won more than 130 awards and is recognized by many for his contributions to the youth of today.  In 2006 Ernie was awarded the prestigious Aboriginal Tourism Ambassador Award for British Columbia, a very well deserving tribute to all of his hard work.  Yet these artistic credits are only secondary to what Ernie considers his life’s greatest accomplishments, the sense of pride and understanding of the Native Indian Heritage that he has brought to so many people, both Indian and non-Indian everywhere.

As Ernie speaks to people about his heritage, he talks about how the Shuswap Tribe forms part of the Salish Nation in the Interior of British Columbia.  It has been noted that the Shuswap people have been here probably for over 11,999 years and that they are known as the “Plateau People”.  For centuries the Shuswap people have lived in this beautiful province, taking only what was needed to preserve food for the winter solstice.  Ernie describes the philosophy of the Native Culture is the belief that “living is for giving” and everyone is his brother’s keeper.  When Ernie is invited to speak to groups around the world, he shares these beliefs and his great pride of being a Shuswap Indian.  He also shares his vision to bridge a better understanding between the Indian and non-Indian people of our world.  One of his life’s desires is to dispel many of the erroneous ideas and stereotypes that have been presented by writers and Hollywood movies.

 Ernie shares his memories as a child growing up in the Residential School in Kamloops and how they tried to take away his pride and his native Heritage.  The many beatings and hard work, the loneliness of a child missing his family and friends, not being able to speak in his native language or practice any of the culture, were difficult to understand and he wondered why his people were treated the way they were. There were many days of hatred towards the white people who treated him badly and also towards his own people for allowing this to happen.  Ernie now shares how he overcame that hatred and how now he is trying to educate both the Indian and non-Indian in understanding his culture and heritage.  The Shuswap People were very unique.  They were fishermen and hunters, who were good at survival.  They had their way which was very opposite of the Western ways that were being introduced to them.  Their way of life was to live in harmony with Mother Nature, loving the animals, trees, bugs and anything else that Mother Nature created.  In the Shuswap territory they had rabbit, deer, elk, caribou, moose and they took only what was needed to survive.  There were thousands of fish especially salmon and sometimes there would even be millions come through their traditional waters, again they only took what they needed to survive and always thanking Mother Nature for what she provided.  The Shuswap people lived off the land, using the Indian potatoes, carrots, and celery; they had all kinds of vegetables and berries, because of this they were free of sickness.  As part of their tradition, they lived this way for thousands of years and this is what makes their culture so outstanding.  They believed that they must respect everyone, the Shuswap people never had a swear word in their language and there was no hatred towards anyone.  He has traveled all over the world to bring this message to all people and he hopes that one day that all Aboriginals will get their traditions and culture back.  Ernie also hopes that they will be able to combine some of the modern things that they have today with the culture and heritage of his own Shuswap Nation. Doris Peterson

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