Through the language we can bring healing to our people.

 

Through the Language we can bring healing to our people.

Tansi/Kwe,

As a First Nation, Inuit, and/or Metis individual, what priorities would you bring to the forefront of Turtle Island in order to bring healing, renewed relationships, positive action and revitalization of our diverse cultures?

This question was at the heart, spirit and intent of over 26 First Nations, Inuit and Metis Nations as I travelled Far East to “Unama’ki – Land of the Fog” and “People of the Dawn” in Membertou First Nation, Nova Scotia. Knowledge keepers, youth, elders, women, men, two spirited and all sovereign passionate souls gathered here on Mi’kmaq territory to collaborate, discuss, network, share stories and record ideas toward this question and plausible solutions.

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Jeff Ward (a member of Membertou First Nation) confidently stated that, “through the language we can bring healing to our people.” I have heard this time and time again from elders back home on the plains as well. That our languages and cultures go hand in hand and that it’s vital to keep our languages alive in order to also keep our cultures alive.

Jeff Ward also mentioned that, “We have a gift of Indigenous language, we need to think about that and honour that. Think of this gathering here in the east as a new beginning”.

A woman from the Native Women’s Association of Canada proclaimed that “Indigenous women are keepers of the language” and that only 5% of First Nation children learn an Indigenous language.

Many of these knowledge keepers, with passion in their words, their eyes pleading and searching for change, their hearts pouring out to a sea of Indigeniety sparked a flame inside my being. It had always been there but had not been inflamed to that capacity.

Being a young Nihithaw and Anishinaabe woman, who was born and raised in the urban inner city, far from any Indigenous language other than the “official” colonial construct of English and French. I am now learning so much more about the loss of our culture and languages and how its such an incredibly important time right now to strengthen our heritage, revitalize and reclaim who we are as Indigenous, First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples. I must return back to my roots, visit and learn from the source, from my Cree (Nihithaw) territory in Northern Manitoba. I must return back and fully immerse myself in the language in order to fully become fluent.

Some nations have only a few fluent speakers of the language left and most of them are beginning to approach their final years in this physical realm. This is very painful to hear and ignites my spirit to want to create concrete action in order to reverse this. To create new generations of speakers.

Some tips to achieve this include:

  1. Record and document elders
  2. Teach children in public school system
  3. Begin immersion with on-reserve schools
  4. Create new generation of adult speakers committing to 2000 hours of meaningful exposure to the language.
  5. Language camps
  6. Elder socials
  7. utilization of media (TV, movies, cartoons, books, social media, etc.)

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With that, us as Indigenous, First Nations, Inuit, Metis peoples need to ask ourselves how bad do we want it? What are the commitments we are willing to make right now in this moment? What sacrifices do we want to make for our languages and culture? We need to feed the passion. We need to accept our role, its all within us.

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A group of passionate youth rose up and spoke out. They exclaimed straight from spirit that “before asking the people for their hand, we must ask for their heart”. They also said that language revitalization is about healing, reconciliation and belonging. We need to ask what re-learning our languages would mean for those “lost generations” to the residential school survivors. To bring life back to their beings and spirits. We must infiltrate and enforce our leadership, lead by example, use language whenever we can, adopt traditional roles and have hands on learning.

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Its time for us to come together and collectively heal. I believe in us.

Naicatchewenin First Nation

As the open road warmly embraces three generations of dancers, Treaty 3 territory smiles right back as we whisk our vehicle through curvy roads bordered with lakes, treetops and far open lands. Headed to the beautiful little community of Naicatchewenin First Nation for their 40th annual Powwow celebrations.

Just a month prior I was in the same location, presenting to the youth of Naicatchewenin First Nation and surrounding communities at the same newly built wooden arbor. After that presentation, two members of the powwow committee approached me with tobacco and asked in a respectful way if I would come back to represent as head lady dancer for their powwow. Honoured, I accepted. I had never been a head dancer in the many years I’ve danced so the new experience and opportunity excited me.

The day finally approached. As we left, the sun was just sitting overhead, ready for our 4-hour journey into their beautiful territory. We set up camp atop of one of the hills overlooking the powwow grounds close to some friends from Winnipeg who had also travelled over for the celebration.

The next few days were fulfilling and good for the soul. Late nights spent by the fire at our camp, watching the flames dance in the summer breeze, listening to the nightly creatures roam around the land, looking high into the sky at the brightest stars and Milky Way twinkling. Thinking deeply about this life and all experiences and opportunities that lead me to that very moment. Getting lost amongst constellations and wishing upon shooting stars. Sharing laughs with my mother and grandmother, as we lay snuggled in our tent.

The community was amazing. They were very hospitable and generous. Each morning we were greeted by smiling faces that cooked up massive delicious feasts for breakfast at the community gym. We were also served grand feasts for dinner; Tender fresh fish fry, moose meat, handmade wild rice, potatoes, bannock and vegetables. We were also offered a beautiful cabin just a few kilometres outside of the community but I had decided to stay within the community and camp amongst the locals and stay close to the powwow grounds.

The community and powwow committee also allotted me space and time to host a dance special! I raised enough funds to put together an “Empowering Our Youth” special for kids ages 12 and under. The four places were granted to those youth who danced hard for the people with high energy and smiles. They were then granted a set of their own hoops and some prize money for them and their families. The drum group, “Little Foot”, then honoured them with an honour song. I also made sure that every youth didn’t walk away without anything so I put together consolation honorariums and put together a handmade motivating gift for each young one. I felt this special was important, as the committee members had mentioned most of the people in the community haven’t seen hoop dancing and many are dealing with healing journeys of their own through intergenerational traumas. So in order to empower the young ones to keep dancing and carry on these traditions I held this special.

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Almost over 70 youth filled the circle, dancing hard for the smiling elders under the hot summer sun. Their beaded and sewn regalia sparkling in the sunshine, their fringes and ribbons whipping all around to become a beautiful wonderful blur of colours and resiliency. I was in awe. I felt proud of all of them and their families cheering them on from the sides. It was incredibly difficult to choose only four dancers to receive the hoops but with the help of my mother, grandmother and the headman dancer, we put our minds together and decided on four who’s spirits lit up when they danced.

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It was a memorable experience that I will cherish and I hope to see these young ones grow with their hoops or still see dancing as we all grow through the years still following that red road and powwow trail.

On some time off, my family and I explored the beach where the locals swim and we shared stories and laughs with some new families we met there. Being a head dancer we had many roles. Each and every grand entry and retreat we were there, dancing behind the honoured flag carriers, elders and dignitaries. We judged dance competitions, supported all honour songs, spot dances and traditional sacred whistles that were blown and above all we just danced. Danced for our communities, for the community of Naicatchewenin, for the youth and elders. We danced to pray and to heal and to represent Indigenous country with our heads held high, with our feet and moccasins connected to our mother the earth, praying with each step of light for that water just a few meters over. Praying for the continuation of healing nationwide for our people and that renewal and reclamation of our identities.

It was a beautiful time spent with family, community, outside on the land and opening our minds to connect, experience and grow.

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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.

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

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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Music Festival Season

Music Festival season is upon us and it’s glorious.
The summer heat mixed with the satisfying sounds of music flowing into our ears.
Giving us that sense that every little thing is going to be fine, reality forgotten.
The exhilarating feeling of unity as every individual around you embodies the same vibes,
flowing into their bodies creating electric movements and exposing their soul.
Time ceases to exist, living in that moment, for that moment.
The excitement of greeting old and new friends,
acceptance and love felt from all.

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IMG_7796 (1)One of my all time favorite music festivals is our local festival here known as the “Winnipeg Folk Festival”. However, I must admit this is the only one I have been too but I have a wishlist of others I’d love to attend in the future including Coachella, SummerFest, Lollapalooza, etc. This was my 3rd year camping at Folk Fest and it was the best one yet. From the moment you  lineup to even enter the parking lot you are greeted with constant cheers, happy vibes, friendly volunteers/workers and many unique things that put a smile on your face. Once you’re in and have scoped out the perfect camping spot equipped with trees (a.k.a morning shade so you don’t wake up in a sauna at 8am), a fire pit for late night shenanigans and jam sessions and being somewhat close to the campground amenities (but not too close, you don’t want to be smelling everyone’s discretion’s) you can finally enjoy the rest of the festival.

IMG_7813Some of my personal highlights of folk fest was the discovery of new artists such as Bobby Bizini from Quebec with a soothing indie voice and adorable timid presentation, Birds of Chicago and their impressive blended harmonies and playing of instruments, Nahko and the Medicine of the People with his empowering lyrical performances and thrilling engagement with the crowd and of course the many other beautiful and unique artists that graced the stages of folk fest. I also enjoyed the artists I knew such as Jose Gonzales with his calming voice and indie vibes and of course Leonard Sumner who kicked ass from main stage to solo concerts to group workshops, his insightful words and lyrics enlightening us all and representing our indigenous communities with such pride, grace and style. Each new day was full of wanders through the festival, naps in the shade, friends by my side, incredible artistry, music heard from every direction, delicious food and being surrounded by wonderful, friendly, loving, accepting, like-minded people (except the one young woman who had the courage and the nerve to wear a headdress and face full of tribal print paint – like, really?).

 

IMG_7786Now, the festival campground – that’s a whole other story!
That’s when us true folkies come to life, that’s when the music festival doesn’t end! It goes on all night until dawn and continues and repeats again. That’s when we all mingle, meet each other, make friends with our neighbors and our neighbors neighbors. That’s when you experience the oddity yet fascinating side to the festival such as the many animation stations operating 24/7 like the wardrobe closet with parades of people coming in and out in outrageous costumes or the Vinyl Village with endless quirky instruments and jam sessions happening non-stop. You also experience sunsets and sunrises from atop pope’s hill or campsites you can see a mile away because they are pouring gasoline into their fire and you go to check it out and join in their song..“gasoliiiiine I loooooove yooouuu, I love you gasoooooline”. The festival campground and the festival itself is always so hard to explain and there is always something going on and too many things happen in the duration of the 5 day festival that you can’t recount every single adventure to those who ask. I simply say that it’s something people need to experience for themselves to really see and feel what folk fest is like. It’s truly a wonderful event and I imagine that other music festivals must feel this way. It has it’s own specific music festival feeling.

I hope that many of you festival goers understand that feeling I’m talking about and those who haven’t experienced one yet, I only hope you’ll get the chance to attend one in your lifetime. I feel like a lot of people have presumptions of music festivals to the point where it prohibits them from attending and their judgments get the best of them. They assume it’s just a wild hippy world of naked people mixed with drugs and alcohol and I won’t lie, there are the few that do represent that stereotype but it’s not all that way, not everyone participates in that lifestyle. Music festivals, specifically Folk Fest are inviting to all and that’s the beauty of it. Anyone, not matter your age, race, sex, gender, background, etc can feel comfortable and accepted and come together with a common cause to enjoy the music and to be themselves. I remember thinking after my first festival experience that if everyone in the world participated in this festival, the world would be a better place.

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One of the many reasons why I fell in love with Folk Fest
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Birds of Chicago performing in Shady Grove
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Beautiful lady singer from Birds of Chicago
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Nahko and the Medicine of the People rocking main stage
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Leonard Sumner impressing the crowds and representing our Indigenous communities with pride

 

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Jose Gonzales soothing our hearts on main stage
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Winnipeg thunderstorm cancelling the grand finale of Folk Fest

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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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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