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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What Does National Aboriginal Day Mean To You?

Every year on June 21st, National Aboriginal Day is celebrated in Canada. Now, I always tend to get completely cliche and exclaim that every day is “Aboriginal Day” for us as Indigenous people across North America because we live our realities, our cultures and celebrate our “Indigenousness” every day.

As for me, this year feels different. I’m in deep reflective mode lately (classic over-thinking Shan) about our growth as Indigenous people. I feel as though all Canadians have been embarking on a journey which includes but is not limited to:

  • The increased awareness of the 1,200+ cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls because of public marches, protests, dances and ceremonies. Because of the outcries from brave family members, the push for a national inquiry and for more support from our police force and the government. Because of the raised awareness that these mothers, sisters, aunts and daughters are being taken far too young and do not belong bound and found in our rivers. They are loved, remembered and respected and didn’t deserve the treatment they faced.

 

  • There is also an increased awareness about the residential school system era including the genocide of countless Indigenous children and the attempt to diminish our Indigenous cultures. So much has happened since the last school closed in 1997; formal apologies, investigations, healing circles and the told truth from various survivors and students who attended. There is also the increased understanding of the inter-generational effects that still effect our families and communities to this day.

 

  • The 60’s scoop has also been acknowledged. The stories of how many Indigenous children were taken from their families and placed in Non-Indigenous homes where many were faced with physical, emotional and sexual abuse and many never saw their families again.  There was also a formal apology from the Manitoba federal government to those children and their families.

There is a major shift in our Indigenous and Non-Indigenous communities toward reconciliation right now through these acts. Through raised awareness and education on our painful reality in Canada and the past issues that still haunt our communities to this day. There is action being done such as the implementation of Indigenous classes and the history being taught in our education systems, the invitations of our traditions into schools and events across the nation.

I also feel as though despite everything, our Indigenous communities are stronger than ever. We are reclaiming who we are as Indigenous people. We are relearning our traditions, our teachings, our languages and becoming increasingly proud in our identities. On top of that, all of us across North America and past those border lines are in a major time of healing and shifting. We are starting to discuss and become more aware of what had happened. We are educating and engaging all Canadians and communities across the globe of our rich history and our progressive ways forward. I am also seeing much interest from Non-Indigenous individuals to truly learn and help in any way that they can to work toward reconciliation . We are all making positive baby steps forward but we must keep going. We have much more work to do, much more healing to bring to our communities, our families and ourselves. We need to work on these new found relationships between all of us, we need to encourage our systems and our nations to take this journey with us. We need to re-establish trust and protect our children, our women and our communities.

This time of shifting is exciting and encouraging to witness. To see the healing taking place, to be a part of educating Canadians about our culture and our traditions through performing at different schools, events and gatherings across turtle island and internationally. I just hope this momentum doesn’t stop. I hope we continue to move forward. I hope that one day my children will see a world where our Indigenous women and men are protected and can feel safe in their own homes, that every community has clean running water, that they can continue to swim and witness the beauty of our lakes and oceans without the fear of polluted waters. I hope my children will see a strong nation and feel proud in who they are. I hope they will feel support from their leadership and governments.  I hope for a future where all Canadians are aware and truly equal. That’s all we can rely on is that hope. We must begin with ourselves which will then reach our families, our friends, then our communities and then hopefully across the nation.

Like I said, much work still needs to be done and I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks this. I hope this wasn’t too long of a rant but this has been on my mind for awhile. What does this particular day known as “National Aboriginal Day” mean to you? What does it mean to be a Canadian? I would love to hear from you! I also asked this question across my social media and here are some of the answers I recieved.

“Happy to those who join us to celebrate our heritage through good faith and a reminder of what our people have over came and we are still here as a sovereign nation no matter what tribe we come from nation to nation we are all related.” 

“Being proud in who we are. Celebrate our heritage.”

“Free Bannock.” 

“Showing pride that the government actually recognized us for one day!”

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Thanks for reading. Feel free to like, share or leave a comment!

What kind of post would you like to see next? Let me know by clicking HERE!

 

Summer Season – Fav Place In Winnipeg, MB!

I was recently challenged by EventBrite to participant in their Hometown Hunt online project and share one of my favourite local places during the summer season. I thought this would be a great opportunity to promote our little hometown city known as Winnipeg, MB and spotlight one of my favourite areas to visit and a place I would recommend anyone visiting in Winnipeg!

The exchange district is without a doubt one of my most favourite places in the city for a variety of reasons. Besides the beautiful architecture, character charm and historical aura . . . it offers support to small local businesses and artists. Just recently it has welcomed “Teri Beads” to the area which is an indigenous owned business that sells traditional indigenous materials and beads and also supports the indigenous community in Winnipeg.

The exchange also hosts a variety of engaging community events. Just recently they have hosted the 2015 JazzFest with a variety of unique musicians and bands at venues around in the district. Another bonus to the JazzFest is their free opening weekend with live local music playing at a stage known as “The Cube” right in the heart of the exchange district known as the old market square. This is always a wonderful opportunity for families and friends to gather and take in the sounds of good music and to enjoy the surrounding food/beverage vendors. Other exciting events that the exchange district plays host to is the Fringe festival which supports our local actors and performers, the Winnipeg Folk Festival, and many others that help bring our community together and support the up and coming businesses and artists.

In addition to this, the exchange district offers so much more such as a variety of artsy cafes, lounges, restaurants and bars with great food and great drinks and most offer live music or their own unique twist. The exchange district also offers walking tours of the area to recount the history of the area and to witness some of the popular venues or buildings with specific  meanings or rich character.

These are just some of the reasons why I enjoy the exchange district, particularly during the summer months. This is just a quick sneak peak into some of the things the area offers but there is so much more that could be said. If you are at all interested in learning a little more about what the district offers, feel free to visit their website! Also please feel free to visit the website of eventbrite and consider using it to help host an event in your community! They have a great event management page easy for anyone to use! Click here if you’d like to host an event!

Thank you so much for reading and I hope you enjoyed it! What’s your favourite place during the summer and why? Let me know in the comments below!

Take Care Everyone!

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Let’s Talk

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January 28th, 2015 marked an important day. Million’s of people brought down their walls and began a dialogue concerning mental health and wellness in hopes to diminish the stigma, re-direct our language choices and support one another.

I decided that this would be the time to also share my story despite how anxious and afraid I am to do so and have been for as long as I could remember. First off, I need to be clear that I am not sharing this for any attention or sympathy whatsoever, I am simply sharing it in hopes to reach out to at least one person who also may be too anxious to discuss how they are feeling and to spread awareness that it’s important to re-shape how we think about mental health and wellness.

For years and to this day, I have dealt with anxiety/panic attacks and periods of depression. It was at its worst through high school where I tended to withdraw myself and enclose myself with feelings of guilt, shame, worthlessness, and weakness. I would constantly ask myself questions in my mind such as, “Why am I feeling this way? Why am I so stupid? why am I so weak” After thinking this way nearly every single day it came to the point one night which resulted in a one-time case of self harm and thinking how easy it could be to end everything. I was a mess, I hated who I was and who I saw in the mirror, I hated the way I felt and I had no idea how it would get better. This terrified me and I knew for sure that something was wrong. I ended up talking with a close family member but even then I was too hesitant to discuss the full details and the full extent of the situation. Explaining and releasing those bottled up feelings felt great and to hear and feel listened to really made a difference. I didn’t tell anyone up to that point all of what I was feeling and thinking. I was afraid of losing friends, I was afraid of disappointing my family, I was afraid of what everyone would think. In all honesty, I’m still afraid but I’ve been inspired by others who had shared their story so courageously and I felt like it was something I needed to.  I needed to be honest, to be real and truthful with my situation.

I feel as though many who know me view me as a smiley, happy, strong person who can get up in front of an audience no problem when really deep down on some days I don’t truly feel that way and a lot of  times the way I’m feeling or used to feel is hidden behind a smile. It’s very frightening how easy it is to hide that and if something wrong peeks through it’s so simple to just state that I’m tired or not feeling well and the discussion ends.

To this day I still find myself thinking negatively and I have many days where I feel lost or I break down and get in that state of mind again. Or I’ll have days where I tend to withdraw myself from everything and just want to curl up in my bed at home. This can last as little as an hour, can turn into a day or can even go on for weeks. I still deal a lot with anxiety and panic attacks as well but I’m slowly learning what to do in those situations, how to deal with it in a healthy way and I can say that I’ve come a long way from where I used to be. I still have a long road ahead but I’m determined to try to learn how to love myself humbly and greatly and to re-shape my thinking behaviors with hopes of inspiring other young women or girls who may be going through the same things I had and still are at this point in my life. Children, youth, young adults and even seniors shouldn’t feel ashamed of what they are truly feeling and shouldn’t have that fear of being  judged. We are all human and most of us have dealt with mental health or has known someone who has. The issues surrounding mental health and the way everyone perceives it is in a state of transition and it’s a good start to be discussing it in our communities. We are showing the youth and everyone that it’s okay, that it’s normal and something that shouldn’t be shameful.

I hope that this transition and journey toward better understanding continues and that we will see a day where people feel safe and comfortable enough to share how they are feeling and that the societies way of dealing with mental health improves. If any of you are reading this right now and need someone to talk to, someone to rant to or maybe need some advice, I’m always open to listen. You can shoot me a message anytime. I will also leave a list of resources below if you or someone you know may need them. Love you all, let’s take care of one another.

WORLD SUICIDE HOTLINES:

Austria 01-713-3373
Australia 1-800-817-569
Barbados 429-9999
Brazil 21-233-9191
Canada 514-723-4000
China 852-2382-0000
Costa Rica 506-253-5439
Denmark 70-201-201
Egypt 7621602
Estonia 6-558-088
Finland 040-5032199
France 01-45-39-4000
Guatemala 502-254-1259
Holland 0900-0767
Honduras 504-237-3623
Hungary 62-420-111
India 91-22-307-3451
Italy 06-7045-4444
Japan 3-5286-9090
Maylaysia 03-756-8144
Maurititus 46-48-889 or 800-93-93
Mexico 525-510-2550
New Zealand 4-473-9739
Nicarague 505-268-6171
Norway 815-33-300
Poland 52-70-000
Portugal 239-72-10-10
Republic of Ireland 1850-60-90-90
Russia 8-20-222-82-10
Singapore 800-221-4444 or 000-227-0309
South Africa 0861-322-322
South Korea 2-715-8600
Spain 91-459-00-50
Sri Vincent 1-692-909
St. Vincent 809-456-1044
Sweden 031-711-2400
Switzerland 143
Thailand 02-249-9977
Trinidad & Tobago 868-645-2800
Ukraine 0487-327715 or 0482-226565
United Kingdom 08457-90-90-90
United States 1-800-SUICIDE (7842433), or 1-800-TALK (8255), or 1-800-827-7571

 

RESOURCES SPECIFICALLY IN WINNIPEG, MB

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Reaching Out

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Hey guys,

The issue of violence has been bothering not only me but communities worldwide for quite sometime. Especially in my own home community of Manitoba, Canada where each day I’m constantly greeted with posts about missing persons, news reports announcing more and more violent events. I feel like violence is more prominent here in Canada that it has been ever before and it feels like it won’t ever stop. I can’t help to think of those effected by violence such as the families and communities with the growing cases of over 1181 missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada alone. The fact that verbal, sexual, physical and emotional abuse is still effecting families all over the world. The fact that a girl as young as 6 was found in critical condition after being sexually assaulted and left outside in the snow. The fact that a 13 year old girl was sexually assaulted and later found bound in our local river; tragedies such as this with victims too young for such awful things to happen to them as well the fact that abductions, wars, and many more horrific tragedies continue to happen each day.

One particular experience has stuck with me when I was at a performance for a group of elderly tourists from the U.S, one lady asked,

“The Native American people here in Canada are treated much better here though than in the U.S right?”

After that question, we all looked at each other and continued to say,

“We wouldn’t say that, our government system isn’t cooperating well with us and let alone the fact that there is over 1800 cases of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls that are often unsolved.”

At that moment we were greeted with gasps, disbelief, enormous amount of questions such as why? what’s being done? why is this happening? It was so incredibly overwhelming to learn that these individuals had never heard of what was happening and that there is probably much more individuals out there who aren’t aware. This one moment has stuck with me ever since that day. There is so much more we can be doing to outweigh the bad with the good and so much more work for us to do in terms of becoming aware ourselves and educating others on what’s happening.

I recently read Michael Champagnes post concerning violence as well and how important it is so spread love, spread awareness and even come together to pray in whatever form that may be. It inspired me to extend that invitation, to ask all that are reading this right now to find extra little ways to spread that love, to become aware of what’s going on, to begin more dialogue about the truth and to pray. Pray for the families who have lost loved ones, pray for those children living in fear, pray for world leadership to find ways to handle conflict in sincere and non-violent ways, pray for the world.

Let’s acknowledge and focus on the positive but remembering to keep ourselves aware and educated of what’s going on. There will always be good with the bad but if we all look out for each other, lend a supportive shoulder to cry on, lend a helping hand, come together and hope for the future, we just may create a beautiful contagious array of hope and love.

I hope you’ve made it to this point and thank you so much for hearing me out. I know for myself I will continue to focus on those who are doing good, to teach those around me the importance of respect and love, to continue to support families and communities who need it and find those small ways to help implant that positivity.

Pass On The Message
Love You All
– Shan

Canada’s top priority?

  Stephen Harper recently got back from a summit in Toronto which dealt with the importance and top priority of saving the lives of mothers, newborns and children in developing countries. I understand the importance of helping others and many individuals around the globe certainly need that help. The thing I don’t understand and can’t […]

Sorry If I’m Not Distracted.

Through Imagethe last couple of years I have attended conferences, peace rallies, protests, etc. Every direction I’ve gone I have learned a harsh truth about our society. I started feeling overwhelmed with these issues that have never been brought to my attention before. I’ve discovered the millions of women across the globe being caught in cycles of abuse. I’ve discovered that many Indigenous and Non-Indigenous women are still going missing and are still being murdered. I’ve discovered that the government and other officials aren’t doing much about these women and not starting any inquiries. I’ve discovered that Indigenous communities up north – in our own backyard – are living in 3rd world like conditions. I’ve discovered the inter-generational effects of Residential schools and the thousands of horrifying stories from residential school survivors themselves.The fact that so many people, especially our youth, each year, end up taking their own lives.

There is so much more I can say that I have heard, stories and speeches that I’ve listened to. Cries for help and prayers for action to be taken. I have witnessed frustration, urgency and most importantly hope.

The thing that bothers me the most is the fact that so many people are oblivious to the actual truth and to the harsh dark realities that are in the world. I almost feel as though most of the world are distracted or maybe they choose not to be faced with this awareness. The fact is, millions of children, millions of people YOUR age are going through horrifying things right now. It’s come to the point where even the safety of our own planet is at stake and the safety of a sustainable future is at risk.
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I have found a frustration when the people around me are distracted by other things such as Miley Cyrus’ latest twerking debut, The latest fashion trend, Justin Bieber’s latest DUI, Getting the hottest new phone, etc. I’ll admit and be honest that I have been caught within these distractions that the media and dominant culture portrays from time to time but after becoming aware of much larger things I have just grown frustration to our mainstream society.  I also start to get frustrated when people view me as a “superhero” simply because I involve myself with many different community organizations and youth groups. I am not even close to being a superhero. The true hero’s are the mother’s who travel miles and miles a day to retrieve clean water for their families. The true hero’s are those children who have the strength and courage to tell their stories despite the many risks they face. The true hero’s have faced far greater adversities that I have ever faced in my lifetime.

All I ask of you – if you have continued reading to this point – is to wake yourselves up and wake up those who are around you. Make yourselves aware, let’s educate each other and begin a dialogue as to how we can move forward and start tackling these issues a little at time. Everything will take a group effort and if magnitudes of us come together we can create the change we want to see. By each person doing their small part it can really make a difference. We all have a choice and I’m asking for you to choose the path of awareness and to think a little less of those everyday distractions.

Thank you for sticking until the end. Take care ♡