Exciting Updates!

Tanisi – Hello!

Hey, happy hump day! (published on a Wednesday obviously – hopefully this opening line grabbed your attention instead of losing it, because sometimes I think i’m funny and clever when really I’m not).

Moving along, I would just like to do a stream of consciousness, a stream of words typed out onto my laptop screen to be read by potential readers who may or may not be interested in my exciting developments and insight into the little life of Shan. So here it goes.

First of all, I don’t think I properly acknowledged or announced my new domain in a blog post yet, but I secured the domain name of http://www.anishanaabe.com! How sick is that!? I would also like to point out how clever I feel and also the meaning behind this title. So, Anishinaabe is usually spelled with an “I” like I just did, but I changed the “I” to an “A” so that my name is also within the website title. Thus making it Ani – SHAN – aabe. Does that make sense? I thought it was a pretty clever name. Anyway, a new domain means a new whole journey. I hope to grow this little online business through travel and lifestyle blogging and to become a self-employed Indigenous woman boss badass. That’s the goal anyway. So here I will put a plea of please finding it within your heart to support this little project of mine through subscribing to this website and take it a step further by sharing it with your friends. I really want to focus on growing this website and little business of mine, so you will now see more consistent and quality blog posts.

There is a lot of exciting opportunities and experiences coming up that I will also announce now so that you can start to get excited for potential future posts.

  1. I have booked by first solo trip to Cuba where I will stay with a host family and explore the local Cuban culture, lounge on the beautiful Vardero beach, take day trips to Havana, Trinidad, etc. and hopefully meet new people with similar interests. I hope to gain some insight into what it will be like to be a solo female traveler!
  2. I will be turning a quarter century old at the end of June so perhaps I will try my shot at instilling some of my wisdom I have gathered throughout my 25 years on this planet. lol.
  3. I will be attending the Winnipeg Folk Festival 2017 in July, but there’s a twist! This year I’ll be an actual performer! Say whaaaat? with the backstage access pass and everything. I will be hoop dancing alongside my little sister Rylee Sandberg with the amazing DJ Shub at the “Big Blue @ Night” Stage Saturday night with mini workshops throughout the days on Saturday and Sunday.
     
  4. In October 2017 I will be traveling to Santiago Chile to attend the World Indigenous Business Forum. On top of that, I will be exploring the city and then taking an extra week to venture off to Machu Picchu. Crossing that off my travel bucket list and I’m extremely excited.

These are just four of the many exciting opportunities that I’ll be up to this year and that will surely be highlights. However, there will be many more adventures in between that I will also be posting about. I would also like to take the time now to switch gears over to a new feature that I have instilled on this website which includes YOU! the wonderful readers and blogging community! I hope to feature a monthly guest here on the site under the tab marked “community”. With this, I hope to gain a fair amount of entries and I will pick a person every month. The community post from you can include anything from a guest blog post about a subject you are passionate about, it can be a multi-media project, it can be photography, written works like poetry or short stories or anything that is related to who you are and where you are from. This is a chance to share your voice, in whichever way you like and to also promote yourself. So please start sharing with your friends of this awesome opportunity and start sending in your entries.

Before I log off, I would also like to ask, how are you doing? How are you really doing? Have you asked yourself this lately? For myself personally, I’ve been asking these important questions and I have discovered that I have been a wild mixture of emotion, thought and weird transition adulting stage in my life. Perhaps some of you can relate. I have felt this vibe or energy of a shift in my physical, emotional, mental and spiritual being. Now that i’ve graduated from something that I’ve known my entire 25 years of educational institutionalization, I feel like i’m floating. I don’t really know what’s next and that’s both incredibly terrifying but also extremely exciting. I am in a stage of my 20s where I am exploring more of who I am. I am discovering new interests, new passions and I feel like I’m graciously growing into womanhood and shedding away my younger self. I’m beginning to find new ways to move forward and to regain my independence. I feel a shift in who I am, a change, a growth and I’m learning to embrace it and go with the flow. I want to say “yes” to more opportunities, I want to slay the game in my business and to work towards my goals and dreams with confidence. I’ll be honest though, its not all healing and holistic and easy. It’s messy and scary to confront your fears, to bring your voice forward and to trust yourself. It’s challenging but also very gratifying to realize your own potential and what you can be capable of. It is amazing to look around and see that you are surrounded by those who love you dearly and who want to help and support you in any way possible. Life is full of ups and downs, twists and turns. You just gotta put your hands up and embrace the ride.

Phew, okay I’m done. It feels so good to have these thoughts down in a post and to send it off into virtual internet land. Please leave a comment below, perhaps send me some entries if you’d like to be a featured monthly guest and don’t forget to subscribe/follow to this blog. Thank you all so much, take care for now!

~ Shan.

Reminiscence of the Miss Indian World Contestant experience.

The days of April 25th – May 1st and those leading up were a pure whirlwind that took my world by its roots and nourished them with adoration; a whirlwind that took me to new heights and greater understanding and respect for the world around me. An unforgettable experience that consisted of adrenaline highs, altitude sickness lows and all the amazing fun times through that, far and wide and in between.

For the first time in awhile I dug deep to find the courage to apply and run as a “Miss Indian World” contestant at the Gathering of Nations in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In past years I had never felt fully confident in myself and my abilities and the title of “Miss Indian World” seemed incredibly prestigious including the criteria of a young, beautiful, confident Indigenous woman with strong cultural knowledge, abilities to represent entire Indigenous nations across the world, speaking from her heart and showcasing her true self to the world. I always thought to myself, of course I wasn’t deemed fit for that. However, at this time I would like to thank those strong, beautiful and resilient women who inspired and mentored me throughout the years to the point where I felt ready to embark on this experience. To my mother Melanie Dean who paved the way my entire life, implanting that seed of cultural knowledge, raising me in a home with our traditional instruments, medicines, teachings and creating intricate works of regalia for every stage of my growth. I also thank my grandmother who also shared with me her wisdom and stories and offered her support and care. These two women were my prime examples growing up, following in their footsteps and striving for self-respect, self-love and an all seven sacred teachings attitude toward our self and the world around us. With this thanks, I would like to extend it to the rest of my family from my Nihithaw “Swampy Cree” roots on my mother’s side from our community of Mathias Colomb Cree Nation. Including all of my aunts, uncles, grandmothers and grandfathers and countless cousins who supported my journey throughout the years. I would also like to acknowledge and thank my father Andrew Spence and my Anishinaabe/Ojibway roots from my father’s side from the community of Lake St. Martin First Nation. I wouldn’t be who I am if it wasn’t for that acknowledgement of both my Cree and Ojibway identity.

The thank you list continues, hang in there. Please do not turn away, as these people are vital to the story and deserve all of the recognition in the world. I’d like to thank those community mentors who have inspired me, those who I looked up to and found guidance from including Tasha and Leslie Spillet, Miss Lisa Meeches, Wab Kinew and Lisa Kinew, Connie Constant, Ray and Rhonda Stevenson, Violet Duncan and many many others. All of these people have paved the way for us as Indigenous peoples. Becoming well known in their home communities and being amazing people in their own ways, thus becoming role models and mentors for young Indigenous women like myself. Tasha and Wab specifically helped me with writing incredible recommendation letters and Lisa has always motivated me toward running. I’d also like to acknowledge Hilda Bighetty: super awesome phenomenal elder and cousin who helped me with my Nihithaw language that I would later include into my speeches, introductions and recognitions. All of these beautiful souls helped build together the courage to represent myself as a Nihithaw and Anishinaabe woman and to also bring a voice to Mathias Colomb Cree Nation and Lake St. Martin First Nation and speak on behalf of issues that I felt were important in our Canadian society including youth empowerment, mental health and (MMIWG) missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.

Youth empowerment encompasses youth from all nations and backgrounds but of course also specifically within Indigenous youth. Providing them with the tools and resources to feel empowered toward reclaiming who they are as Indigenous young people; Reclaiming songs, dances, traditions, languages, stories, etc. and being proud of that. Bring empowerment to educate themselves on their rich histories and find ways to move forward in this ever-expanding world. Also empowerment to non-indigenous youth to do the same, learn about who you are, where you come from and learn to keep an open mind and open heart to those around you. Create safe spaces of acceptance and equality among your peers, find ways to diminish racism and discrimination and violence in your community, for we are all related and we all need reconciliation and healing.

In regards to mental health, this is a topic I am also passionate about because I have experienced my own path of mental health in forms of anxiety, panic attacks and depression. It is a story that I was ashamed of for many years and kept a lot of it to myself but it was through the strength of sharing my voice and asking for help that brought healing into my life. The hoop dance and a lot of my cultural teachings also played a major role in this growth. I hope to grow to be a strong advocate for these issues and bring a heightened awareness to mental health and its ties with Indigenous communities in terms of intergenerational effects, adaption to urban lifestyle, etc.

And of course my final platform of MMIWG, after attended countless candle lit vigils, watching the tears and outcries from elders in my community, watching as fear set into the young women in my community and watching close friends, family and community members have to deal with a lost loved one. This is an epidemic happening in Winnipeg and all across Canada that needs to be fully addressed, talked about and given action from all levels of peoples from our self, to our communities, to our nations and through out governments and those in power. We need change.

With each young woman backed with their platforms in mind, the pageant began with a fun orientation dinner where all of us young women met each other and our chaperones. The next day we were straight into traditional wear and private interviews. The holding room was full of nerves, laughs, coffee and snacks as well as beautiful, motivating and inspiring positive talks from the committee members. Following the interviews we had another dinner at an aquarium where we were distracted by the large pointed toothed sharks, funny looking fish and ancient looking turtles. This is when we also did the raffle draw. At this point I would also like to thank all of you who supported and bought raffle tickets even it was only one with the 2.50 in your pocket or if you bought 50! The support was greatly appreciated and I was very proud in the fact that I had sold all 1000 tickets. It was a fun evening and by this point I was more relaxed with the amazing group of women and committee members.

The next day was the huge talent production at the Kiva Auditorium with rehearsals all day starting at 8am sharp leading up to the main event at 7pm. I had chosen to fuse together traditional and contemporary powwow music together and bring forward my teachings on the traditional Indigenous hoop dance. The day was full of fear, excitement, dancing, massage trains, random break outs in song, braiding of hair, makeup fun with the Aveda team, all of us practicing in any space we could find vacant including showers, bathroom stalls, hallways or quietly in a corner. This was a day where I feel like we all truly bonded over funny family and travel stories, through sharing our experiences and common feelings and creating friendship and networks that would leave us feeling supported, grounded and ready for the night ahead. Let’s just say, I believe this was the pinnacle turning point of the whole week. The amount of adrenaline and pride I had up on that stage, giving it all that I had, dancing hard and speaking from the heart to the audience. Then afterwards being greeted by a roomful of applause from my newfound sisters. This was followed by an influx of crowd after the show; peoples young and old approached me in enthusiasm with an overwhelming array of questions, compliments and photographs. Through the blur of people I was on a mission to find my loving family through the sea of faces. The moment I found them my mom broke out in tears which then initiated the empathetic tear train from myself, my grandmother, my aunty, Lisa (one of the hosts of the talent show) and Candice. In that moment, I felt on top of the world, I felt proud in my performance and I could feel the immense amount of love and energy pouring from my family and those audience members who approached me and the rest of us girls after the show. I was overwhelmed with emotion. I spoke and danced with the strength of my ancestors deep in my heart, I danced to honor my family, my community and those who were in attendance that night. This performance won the award for “Best Traditional Presentation” on the final day.

The days that followed consisted of the the grand “Gathering of Nations” powwow! Nations represented from all over turtle island, North America and beyond. It was held at their new home at the Tingly Coliseum – Fitting name as the grand entry and the powwow always leaves most of us with the tingly feelings. Neeeh haha – This is me trying to offer some comic relief now, not too great at it ay? Anyways, our days were full of dancing in the grand entry, a feeling all on its own. The bright spotlights reflecting off our intricate regalia, our ribbons and fringes ready to whip, our feathers standing tall and our heads held high. The moment of first walking in to that arena, all eyes on you from every direction, the jingles of the bells and the bass of that drumbeat pounding through your entire being. The singing of that grand entry song as the announcer introduces each category into the circle. To be a spectator of the grand entry is marvelous but to be a participant within the grand entry, to be surrounded by nations, pride, dancers and constant flowing energies is beyond anything I’ve ever felt before.

Throughout the powwow times, us girls had our public speaking competition out at Stage 49, our dance competition and of course the crowning and awards ceremony that took place after the final grand entry of the final day of the powwow. During this time I became deeply reflective mode Shan. When am I never deeply reflective mode Shan though, am I right? Anyways…the whole day I was reflecting on everything I had learned, gained and found through this experience. I was thinking about everyone back home and those who were keeping up with this adventure online throughout social media updates or on the live stream. I was thinking about the youth, the elders and the community members back home. I was thinking about our ancestors who perhaps prayed and dreamed about a day like today where we were all gathered in that one place in pride. I reflected a lot on the past, present and future and above all I reflected very deeply about whom I am, whom I’ve become and whom I strive to be moving forward. The moment that they called my name for Second Runner up I was astonished. All of my hard work paid off and excitedly I ran up to Danielle who passed over to me the banner and gorgeous award with flowers. I would also love to congratulate the First Runner up, Mykhal Mendoza and of course the amazing Raven Swaamp. They were both so deserving of the titles they won and I know they will both do amazing at representing Indian country. I also want to congratulate my fellow sisters who also worked incredibly hard and represented their home nations with pride too. Each and every one of them inspired me and brought forward valuable moments and experiences that I will cherish for a very long time.

With all of this being said, I would like to thank everyone for reading up to this point and if I left anyone out of the thank you list I apologize, but please know everyone’s words, thoughts, prayers and immense support was deeply appreciated by little ol’ me and I am honored to have had this opportunity and to have been guided on this path in my life.

You may be asking, “K now what?” and in response to that, I’m going to keep doing the work that I am doing. I am going to continue to represent myself, our ancestors and our nations in the best way I know how through hoop dancing, fancy shawl dancing and speaking in regards to our reclamation as Indigenous peoples, bringing to light issues that are still prevalent in our society, raise awareness of topics I am passionate about and continue to try and inspire the next generations and change the world in the little ways that I can. Here’s to upward and onwards. See you on the trail! 😉

All my relations, ekosi – thank you.

  • Shan

P.S – Please enjoy the snapshots below that don’t even represent or encapsulate the amazing trip that we had or display the multitude of emotions, events and feelings that occurred throughout. Feel free to click on a photo for a longer description of that particular photo.

Thoughts from the road – Beginnings of the Miss Indian World Experience!

Tansi,

Hello readers!

Road trips often result in the deepest reflections. Long hours of highways and changing landscapes, delving further into unknowns and driving further away from what we know, who we know and where we come from.

On this trip in particular, I have been thinking about each and every one of you. Everyone who is taking the time to read my thoughts carefully typed out into constructive sentences, everyone who has lovingly supported this journey, and those who have inspired and mentored me throughout my years of growing up. Those who have come into my life to teach me lessons, those who have offered kind words of support or critique and most of all, my close and distant family who have been the backbone and foundation for all that I do. I truly appreciate and honour all of you. I keep you close to my heart as I embark on this new adventure.

As we left Winnipeg, I was mixed with emotion. I was full of fear and sadness as I drove further away from those I love, my friends and community. However I was full of an immense amount of excitement, knowing that I would be driving toward a new experience with the potential to change my life, a chance and platform to stand proudly as a Nihithaw and Anishinaabe woman. Growing up, through ceremony and powwows I was greeted with that pride of our community. It was my home and it was through dance where I learned my biggest life lessons about myself. This included my limits, fears, visions and ultimately my Indigenous identity. It was also through dance where I was met with boundless opportunities to meet with other cultural communities, spread awareness and education about our Indigenous nations in Canada, to speak on behalf of the teachings that I was gifted with, to dance for that healing for our peoples, to put a smile on a diverse array of audiences, to instill that hope within our elders that the next generation was continuing with our dances and teachings and to reconnect to those deep depths of who I am.

The first day was fairly easy, only driving a few hours to Fargo, North Dakota. The second day we managed to drive through 3 states! Making sure we had enough time to stop, move about a little, dance, practice my speech, fuel our bodies with nutrition and maybe a little too much chocolate and popcorn and enjoy the scenic route. We even had time to greet the gorgeous Missouri River that popped up just as we turned a corner, its waters glistening in the sunlight. We said hello, dipped our toes in, skipped a few pebbles and kept on.

All the while, I was thinking about everyone back home in Winnipeg and the intense April snowstorm that hit, wondering what everyone was getting up to and then also thinking about the pageant and how it will be like meeting all of the other beautiful young women. Also pondering about what the competition was going to be like and if I’d do well. Wondering about this huge responsibility that we all took upon, to be ambassadors, role models and mentors and the huge responsibility it will be to who ever takes that crown. How beautiful it will be to witness in person, side by a side, a new Miss Indian World. I can’t wait to fully commit myself to learning all that I can, trying my ultimate best, pushing past my own walls and barriers that I had built over so many years and to conquer my fears to find all that is meant for me on that other side of fear.

For the Miss Indian World pageant, there are 5 elements that we all had to focus on, an essay we had to write, a personal interview, public speaking, the talent presentation and then the dance competition. Then all in between we have moments to grow our friendship among us 24 women, where life long friendships will be formed, inspiration will grow, motivation will manifest and an inner evolution, a fire, will ignite in all of us.

Today we start a new day, finally reaching our destination of Albuquerque, New Mexico and then the chance to finally meet everyone and start our amazing experience will begin tomorrow evening! If you are interested in keeping up to date, please make sure to follow my facebook page here www.facebook.com/shanleymary! You can also livestream the public events online (this includes the talent presentations, the 1st day of the powwow with the dance competition and grand entry introductions and the last day of the powwow with the awards and crowing!). The livestream can be found here www.powwows.com. Perhaps leave me some comments below and I will be sure to respond as soon as I can!

I look forward to representing my swampy Cree/Nihithaw roots from Mathias Colomb Cree Nation in Pukatawagan, Manitoba. I also look forward to representing my Ojibway/Anishinaabe roots from Lake St. Martin First Nation, as well as my birthplace and home of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada and to represent all of you who have been a part of my life. Elders, community members, family, friends, youth, mentors, teachers and those amazing souls who have guided mine in the most profound ways. I hope to continue to speak from the heart, follow my heart and to lead with light and love to best of my ability.

Kinanaskomitinawow, love you all.

  • Shan

A Start to Twenty Seventeen

Happy New Year to you ,where ever you are in the world!

I’m a little late to the game but better late than never to celebrate a brand new year amiright? To celebrate this new year, you have probably already noticed but I have relaunched my website, which is now http://www.anishanaabe.com! I was very excited that I was able to claim this domain name and I hope to increase it’s presence in the blogging world. I also updated some of the pages and created a super cool new tab labelled “community” which provides links to amazing resources and grassroots led initiatives and a space for anyone willing to share their story in any form each month. I am looking forward to keeping this site updated with the little shenanigans I get up to and the shenanigans that my community gets up to.

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Anyway, it’s that time of year again, where all of our minds drown in our deep self-reflections and analysis. We reflect on the past year and what it has brought to us in terms of successes, failures and all of the good stuff in between. It’s that time of the year where we start to make lists of goals and dreams and make plans to commit to them. It’s that time of year where we feel the utmost amount of love and gratefulness for those closest to us and for those who have supported us every step of the way during the previous year and hoping to god that they stick around for the next one fast approaching. It’s also that time of year where I make my own annual reflection of the year that has passed and offer some of what I have learned into the deepest depths and corners of the internet in hopes that someone somewhere out in the world can relate to my words or gain something from my insights.

img_0744 img_0733Personally, 2016 has been the most influential and awakening year of my life. My eyes, mind and heart were open and I gained incredible insight into who I am, who I want to become and to the world around me and how that all interconnects and correlates. I am astonished, looking back to where I was this time last year. I was a completely different person. It’s truly amazing how fast one can change and grow and how fast ones perception and mindset can evolve. It’s amazing to witness the amount of people who left your life but also how many new people and new connections can come into your life. It’s amazing how many changes and self-improvement that can happen and ultimately change your life forever.

In 2016, I learned to let go of negative energies that could include people, thoughts, activities or routine. I learned that once you do that, it could open your world to so much more. I’ve met so many amazing people and have created closer and more meaningful connections to people who taught me so much. What I thought was impossible happened and actually proved to me that it was possible. I learned about the importance of breaking down barriers and walls, even if they are your own. I’ve learned more about the beautiful community that I’m situated in and the Indigeniety and resistance that remains strong despite such a vast dark history in our country and the ongoing colonial systemic processes that continue to oppress and challenge our people. There is so much work to be done and I only hope that the work I continue to do makes even the slightest change in our community.

Speaking of hope, this is something I really want to focus on in the year of 2017. I have hopes to take what I have learned and implement it daily in the work that I do in our community and in my mindset through completing my education and pursuing my dreams. I hope to stay inspired, motivated and passionate about all of the little things that I commit to and then in turn inspiring, motivating and impassioning others who dare to witness.

Through this I have learned that it’s important to look after yourself, to take the time to heal and listen to your heart, mind and spirit and to follow your intuitions. I hope to continue to travel, express myself creatively, share my story and share the stories of my community to the world. I hope to continue my path of awakening, self-discovery, self-love, understanding and to flourish in a colonial world that tends to put immense pressure and limits to our capacities. I will also end this blog entry with the hope that you – the person reading this right now – understands the jibber jabber that I have just typed out onto my screen and that it somehow engaged you and implanted a lasting impression, so much so that you’ll come back and immerse yourself into my future words that are yet to be extracted from my brain and heart and formed into sentences and blog posts or other forms of creative media for you to see, share and discuss. Therefor I believe that it’s a perfect time to do a little self-promo plug, please subscribe to this blog to be notified when my next gallivant of thought is posted. I would greatly appreciate it. Also feel free to share it with your circles and consider sending me your story to be featured in the community tab of this site.

The photos provided in this post are personal photographs depicting how I rang in 2017, I have also provided a youtube video that captures those memories, please feel free to watch if you’d like to. ❤

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Ekosi – kinanâskomitin for taking the time to read.

Farewell for now.

~ Shan

Hoop Dance Championships

Each year, the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona hosts the World Hoop Dance Championships where Indigenous hoop dancers from all over the world gather to meet, compete, inspire and represent their home communities. It was my second year attending and representing my Cree and Saulteaux roots from Mathias Colomb Cree Nation and Lake St. Martin First Nation. Little did I know, that my inner critic would get the best of me and that it would become a very teachable moment in my life that I’ll remember for a long time.

The days leading up to the event were full of excitement, boatloads of support from our communities back home and reminiscing about that buzz I had felt after my first year. I traveled down with 6 year old Rylee Sandberg and her family and we had coined ourselves as the “Winnipeg Female Hoop Dance Team”. We received immense support from our families and communities as we prepared for our big trip by promoting ourselves through social media, t.v interviews, school workshops and extra performances.

The big day arrived and I was excited to meet and dance alongside all of the dancers who I look up to and cheer on Rylee. We drove down to the Heard Museum bright and early under the Arizona sun and after a long day of sitting in the sun and watching all of the tiny tot, youth and teen divisions perform, it was my turn to dance. My nerves intensified as I walked up to the northern drum and told them to give me a nice fast beat.

A
NICE
FAST
BEAT.

Once the drum began, I instantly knew I was in trouble. My mind was a blur and everything I had practiced in my routine was thrown out the window as I tried to keep up with the fast pace. Once I finished, I shook all of the singers hands and walked away with my head low and my eyes filling with tears. I was in a panic, out of breath and felt completely disappointed with my performance. I quickly shuffled to the restroom quickly disregarding many comments that I did fantastic. I was just too engulfed in my own self critique and funk. I swear this story gets better though, hang in there.

I went to go sit in the lounge where many other hoop dancers were. Celina Cada-Matasawagon was one of the first people to offer wise words of support when I was feeling my lowest. She reminded me of the reason why we dance and that we should just go out there and have fun and not dwell on the idea of placing. She reminded me of everyone back home rooting for me and that it’s important to keep my head up and keep going because of those young ones looking up to us. She said a lot of things that I needed to hear and I was incredibly appreciative of that. That evening we discovered that Rylee had made top 6 in the youth division. That evening was full of mixed emotions. My earlier disappointment in myself was overpowered by an overflow of love and happiness for Rylee and for all the kind words and support everyone had for the both of us.

That second day was another wondrous day. I was in better spirits and continued to meet and talk with the other dancers, partake in honour songs and support Rylee all the way up until she placed 3rd over 31 other youth hoop dancers in her division. I also found Celina and gave her a huge hug and told her that I was appreciative of what she had did for me. At the end of that day, the winners were all announced and everyone was saying their goodbyes. At that moment I also experienced the utmost love and support from the hoop dance and Indigenous community. Everyone asking if I was coming back and that I did a great job. Dallas Arcand and Tracy Bone also offered words of advice that I needed to hear exclaiming that even though I may not have placed, I was still a champion in everyones eyes including our home communities and the youth that I teach. They told me that I’ll get there one day and that it’s important to not give too much of myself away and to look after myself too. They also thanked me for all the work I was doing back home by planting those seeds and offering teachings to the younger generations. Those were words I definitely needed to hear as I emotionally gave them hugs and thanked them for their kind words of advice.

This year’s hoop dance gathering in Phoenix was another amazing year. I learned so much more about myself, met amazing influential people and felt all of the positive supportive vibes from everyone there. I learned that we are all human and we make mistakes and that’s okay. Our harshest critique is ourselves and it’s important not to be too hard on ourselves and to look after ourselves first before anyone else. It’s important to enjoy life as a journey and not as a competition, to go with the flow and not focus all of your energy on the top prize. It’s important to remember why you started in the first place and to do it simply for that reason and for all the reasons that you stand for. This year proved once again that everyone in the hoop dance community is incredibly supportive of one another and we value ourselves in building each other up and looking out for another.

Below I will post some snapshots of the championships. Thank you once again to everyone for your overflow of support and love. I am incredibly grateful, appreciative and humbled to have such wonderful people surrounding me. I am looking forward to what’s to come, looking forward to keep on doing what I love and to continue to discover and learn through this crazy rollercoaster we call life. I’m so cliche. Anyway, hope you enjoy the snapshots. Take care for now.

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Myself and Patrick Willie from Orem, Utah.
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Rylee, 6 years old.
Meeting Nakotah Larance, 2nd time world hoop dance champion in the adult division, been attending & bringing home titles at the world’s since he was a kid.
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James Jones from Edmonton, Alberta.

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22 Reasons I Love Travel & Why You Should Too!

Hey Fellow Travellers or future travellers! 😉

I have a list for you today! I am going to assume that there are probably many duplicates of this kind of list already out in the blog world with a wide range of different perspectives. Or not. Maybe I’m the first one! Anyway, I get this question a lot – “Why do you even love to travel?” and it inspired me to dive deep into the canals of my brain and create a list of reasons why I personally love to travel, which could potentially be reasons why all of you should love travel as well! Travel can certainly be a beautiful thing. If I have left anything out or if you have any unique reasons why you love to travel, let me know down in the comments! I’d love to hear your perspectives!

1. Experience of new cultures

It can be a wonderful thing by opening our minds and learning about a new culture from a different part of the globe. Immersing ourselves into what they have to offer and what they can teach us through various beliefs, values, teachings, traditional knowledge and ways of living. It can be beautiful to learn about individuals and their unique perspectives on life, culture and the world as a whole.

2. Witnessing breathtaking landscapes

Can’t deny that overwhelming feeling that floods your entire being when your eyes behold the beauty of the environment around you. That dream like state where you end up questioning yourself, “Is this even real? Is this real life? Am I actually here right now?” Well usually you are! Maybe try pinching yourself.  You are that lucky person, right in that moment, enjoying a rare beauty. Take it all in my friend!

3. Meeting new friends 

Speaking of friends, an awesome part about traveling is the potential to meet awesome new people! Sometimes they may be fellow travellers too and you can share stories with each other about adventures and hopes for the future. Sometimes It may even be locals of the area you are visiting, in which case you can potentially receive some inside scoop of the community. Score! Most of the time, these cool people you meet along the way can become life-long friends and if you travel enough, you may even create a network of friends all around the world, how cool!

4. Trying new foods

I’m still trying to get used to this one but it can be fun to try new foods from around the world. Most of the time it pushes you out of your comfort zone but it can be an awesome feeling once you try it and can say that you have. Hurray for bragging rights! Who knows, you may actually find some delicacy’s that you actually love and didn’t know existed!

5. Feeling of freedom

Through experiencing a sense of independence, away from your normality, witnessing such vast landscapes and meeting such humble soulful people can all contribute to the feeling of freedom. Free from our realities that we are used to, free from judgment, free from the constraints of our societal experiences and free from our closed minds which opened through these various experiences.

6. Experiencing new climates 

If you are like me, born and raised in the prairies where we experience all four seasons, where summer just always seems way too short, the lands are flat, the air is dry and mundane. Then if you ever travel to a hotter climate during winters or experience a different climate/weather system then it instantly becomes exciting.

7. Humbling experiences 

There’s something humbling about learning that you are but only a small part of a much large scale puzzle of the world. It is then you discover that all of your small concerns like your pizza being delivered too late, or that B- in English Literature instantly become non-relevant and you truly appreciate the simplicity that you are alive in that moment and that their are much bigger things out there in the world.

8. Mind-opening 

 Expanding from this idea of humbleness and the sense of freedom comes this notion of opening your mind. Opening your mind to things you’ve never witnessed or heard of before and welcoming those new experiences with your arms and mind wide open. In doing so, your travels become much more rich and much more engaged in the community or environment you are immersed in.

9. Letting go 

Please do not reference Frozen. Travel along with its distance and time can bring healing. As you remove yourself from your day to day activity and potentially toxic elements in your life and place yourself in a different part of the world. This can create space for you to breathe, think, analyze your life and your being and potentially bring healing in the art of letting things go.

10. That “No one knows me here” feeling 

Sounds exactly the way it is. There’s something fun, beautiful and different about being in a place where you feel that no one around you knows you. Being surrounded by strangers (potential future friends) and that feeling like a clean slab, free from judgments – if that makes any sense. No fears of running into your ex, hurray!

11. The architecture 

It’s a fantastic thing when you can appreciate the intricate arts of architecture and the various forms it can present. Temples and buildings that have been there for centuries, detailed carvings in stone and placements of shiny tiles and pebbles. Beautiful artwork and paintings of locals and the stories that can come along with it.

12. Finding hidden treasures

Usually the road less travelled can take you to the places that no other traveller has seen. Hidden gemstones of nature or unique objects and gifts from a certain community or individual. These treasures will forever remain in your heart and in your mind throughout your life. Now go out and explore and find that treasure!

13. Adventures that make you feel “alive”

There’s always moments during travel that reel you back into the reality of your situation. Sometimes, in our daily routines of work from 9 – 5, volunteering, school or whatever we become zombified to the point where we just move through the notions and know what to expect. But during travel, unexpected things always arise and that brings you back into the present moment where you must think on your feet. Hurray for de-zombifying ourselves!

14. Adventures that keep you in the present, in the moment

Expanding from the last point, these adventures that make you feel alive bring those instances that draw you back into the present and make you truly live in that moment with no time to think about the past or future. Most of these adventures will also make fantastic stories once you return or for your future grandchildren. Take it all in, perhaps record them in a journal and explore!

15. That little window where time ceases to exist 

Another beautiful but dangerous thing about travel is those moments where time seems to not exist. When you are flying across the ocean with your mind wandering high among the clouds, or when you are sitting and becoming one with the environment around you or if you are simply having a fantastic time with friends and/or family, time can simply vanish. Time doesn’t become a necessary thing to think about. You don’t have to worry about that class starting precisely at 2pm or that parking ticket due tomorrow before 3 pm. Just make sure to not miss that flight.

16. Expanding the idea that things are possible 

Pretty self explanatory. Travel can inspire the idea that anything is possible. Even the notion of you being able to travel can create this idea because you can look at your situation and be like, “well hey, look at me. I was a poor university/college student with the idea in my head that I had no time, no money or no one to be able to go travel but here I am, exploring a different part of the world!” It just takes determination and passion to get to where you want to be.

17. Pushing out of your comfort zone & facing your fears  

There’s something about driving along mountainous roads, trying new foods, swimming in potential shark infested or other creature infested waters, or seeing different wildlife and insects that you aren’t necessarily used to that creates the need for you to be pushed out of your comfort zone and face your fears. This can be both horrid and/or fantastic. It of course, depends on the situation at hand but usually these are all great life experiences and cool stories to share back at home or with your friends and family wherever they may be.

18. Faith in humanity restored 

Sometimes through witnessing the kindness and generous hospitality of another community or individual can in-still that restoration of faith in humanity.

19. Learning about the origins of things & how the world works 

Do you know where your clothes were made? or where those coffee beans were grown? Most of the time, a lot of us live our daily lives taking things for granted not ever knowing where it comes from, who makes them and how it has come to that point. Something beautiful about travelling is learning about those origins, depending on where you go. For example, I travelled to Guatemala and found out that a lot of the coffee i’ve been drinking was farmed and produced in the hills of central america by small scale family farmers. Who knew!?

20. Living minimally 

There’s something humbling about packing only your essentials and leaving all of your extra bits and bobs at home. Living minimally can contribute to that feeling of letting things go in the sense that you are leaving behind your comfort zone of having probably way too much choice and all of those unnecessary items. Come on, you don’t need those extra toe socks or that pointless fluffy onesie – those items can wait for you when you return 😉

21. Inspiration

Travel can often bring inspiration. Wether you are an artist, dancer, writer, entrepreneur, or some other cool title with its unique passion and flare. You may be surprised where inspiration can unexpectedly sprout from on your travels. It’s fantastic! Embrace it and move forward.

22. Learning about who you are and creating yourself

Finally, last but definitely not least, the fact that travel is a way to learn more about who you are deep inside. Learning about what you enjoy, what you loath, what your boundaries are, how you react in certain situations and your holistic views of the world and your place in it. This also goes along with creating yourself into who you want to be. I read a quote once that exclaimed that “life is a journey where you must not find yourself  but create yourself”. How deep.

 

What does Dancing Mean to You?

As a hoop dancer and fancy shawl dancer I often get the question, “What does dancing mean to you?” or “What is the meaning behind it?” and my answers usually vary. For myself personally, dancing is very special to me. I was taught that hoop dancing is a form of healing for oneself, for their friends and family and for the community as a whole. I was also taught that it was a form of storytelling and that each and every dancer is unique in this way, through telling their own stories. I love to dance because I dance for those things, it brings me joy to see children get excited or for crowds of people to be so engaged and enthralled by the shapes I create. It’s an amazing feeling to spread that happiness and educate everyone on a little piece of who I am and what our Indigenous culture strives for.

I have also been a teacher/mentor at two programs here in Winnipeg. One with the City of Winnipeg for inner city youth and the other for a group of young women with the Wii ChiiWaakanak Centre at the University of Winnipeg. After a couple of years of them dancing, I was curious to hear what it meant to them and how they felt as a dancer, so I decided to ask.

Some of their responses surprised me in a very good way.
Here is what they said.

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Are you a dancer as well? Showcase cultural talent? Dance ballet, jazz, hiphop, tap or any others? What does it mean to you and how do you feel when your out there showing your thang? I’m curious to know, let me know down below in the comments.

Thanks for reading!

Winnipeg’s Local Racial Inclusion Summit

Winnipeg, Manitoba.

The Centre of Canada and the heart of the prairies.
Thriving and bustling with multiculturalism, diversity, economic gain and industry progress. A meeting place of the Red and Assiniboine rivers. However . . . Winnipeg, Manitoba was also given the title of the most racist city in all of Canada while segregation and division among our ethnical communities still linger after the founding of the city.

After this public acquisition by Maclean’s magazine and after realizing the unfortunate truth that we are in fact a divided city, most of us realized that work had to be done. Our new elected Metis mayor Brian Bowman took the essential steps forward during this time of crisis by formulating the Indigenous advisory committee and creating/supporting community driven work and organizations.

Recently, a handful of youth leaders organized the “Local Racial Inclusion Summit” utilizing the hashtag #OurSummit. It was held at the same time of the mayor’s national summit on racial inclusion but the group felt some important local grassroots voices were missing from the conversation. The event invited and gave all local community members  from various ethnicities and nationalities the opportunity to join in various discussions about the division within our city, race relations, how to become better neighbours, how to enhance the relationship between non-Indigenous and Indigenous people’s and possible effective solutions moving forward.

The summit included a diverse range of speakers and the chance for community members to voice their thoughts on multiple topics including,

  1. Child and Family Services.
  2. Using dialogue to improve relations.
  3. Employment Income Assistance.
  4. Indigenous/Newcomer youth relations.
  5. Jobs and employment.
  6. Kids growing up in a corrupt world.
  7. Media.
  8. Missing and murdered men and women.
  9. Nutrition and food security.
  10. Moving past our racial mistakes.
  11. Systemic racism.
  12. Uniting humanity harmoniously.
  13. Water (Shoal Lake 40).

It was a beautiful and successful event and instilled the hope that it is possible to move forward as a city and work towards our relationships with one another. I personally wished to see much more in attendance but I understand that this is only the beginning. I hope that all of this momentum and hard work toward ways of reconciling and healing our communities continues and I hope that everyone in Winnipeg will someday be able to truly feel like a community instead of many divided smaller communities keeping to themselves. I only wish to see everyone intermingling together without borders, racism, discrimination or exclusion. Back in June of 2014 I co-organized an event called the “All Nation’s Youth Grand Entry” where my wish was to see youth of diverse backgrounds coming together as one, dancing and uniting and working together. Although that event went very well I was saddened back then to see such a lack of support from the various multicultural organizations that I had invited. Perhaps one day, sooner than later, we’ll see this happen. But for now, there is much work to be done and this racial inclusion summit made ways forward in a very positive way by encouraging dialogue, interaction between community members and brainstorming of solutions.

Question time!
Are there any important topics you think should have been brought up?
What are some ways we could move forward as a city and diminish the division that exists?
Any other thoughts on this matter?
Please leave your answers in the comments below, I encourage open conversation between everyone but please keep it respectful. Thank you.

I managed to capture some action shots from the event, hope you enjoy.
If you would like to learn more or would like more resources please visit www.groundworkforchange.org

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At the beginning of the event all community members in attendance were invited to partake in a group activity which challenged them to walk around the circle, introducing themselves. The activity then progressed to the next section where they were asked to partner with someone and each share their individual story.
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Community Members onlooking and supporting the various invited and local speakers, one specifically holding a sign with the word “love” written across. A common theme and attitude throughout the event.

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Rosanna Deerchild, A strong and empowering leader in our community, host of CBC radio’s “Unreserved” as she discusses the Maclean’s article, acknowledging the large challenging issue and ways to confront it and move forward positively.
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Breakout session on the topic of “Missing and Murdered Men & Women, We All Matter”.
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Topic “Uniting Humanity Harmoniously”. Conversation included the importance that we all live here on this one earth and must utilize and work together as one. One man also mentioned that he often felt excluded from important conversations due to targeted race demographics, he suggested the usage of calling on all of humanity rather than certain racial groups.
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Photo speaks for itself.
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The beginning of the march to the Canadian Museum of Human Rights.
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The event concluded at the Canadian Museum of Human Rights with a leader of each breakout group reporting on some important points made in relation to their topic.

 

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Hoop Dance Portraits

During the spring of 2015 I had the privilege and wonderful opportunity to visit the Avenue Photography Studio in the east side of Winnipeg, Manitoba owned by the creative founder, Robert Dearden. We had the chance to collaborate together in order to capture some shots of dance and “indigenized” portraits. I was very grateful for the opportunity and impressed with the final copies.

Robert Dearden has always been a well known photographer in our community. He studied photography at Red River College and shoots a range of photography including studio portraiture, community and multicultural events, weddings, newborns and maternity,  powwows and many others. He attends these events here in Winnipeg and throughout the province with his camera and gear in hand making sure to capture the right moments. He also appreciates the art of photography and honours the importance of quality and value. His work can be found on his Facebook page by clicking HERE or his personal website at www.robertdeardenphotography.com

Below I have posted some of my favourite’s from the shoot but there is lots more of where they came from so if you would like to see more just suggest it down in the comments and I may just post a part two. I also strongly recommend checking out Robert’s work and supporting his local business. I hope you enjoy the images as much as I do. I am also taking bookings for the remainder of 2015 and into 2016 so if you would like my services as a hoop dancer, fancy shawl dancer or speaker you can contact me by filling out a contact form below. I would love to hear from you!

kinanâskomitin / Thank You.

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Cottage Living – Betula Lake, MB

 Summer hasn’t gone yet folks! I suggest (if you haven’t already), planning a visit to a cabin or cottage for however long you are able too. For me personally it’s a very invigorating and detoxifying way to escape the city hustle and bustle for a while. Bonus points if your spot is right on the […]