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

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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● Little Grand Rapids, Manitoba ●

IMG_7549Myself and a crew of dancers from Winnipeg made our way north east to the small community of Little Grand Rapids. We made our way through long winding snowy highways, never ending rough winter roads, drove across the ice roads which was my first time anxiety prone experience and had a couple vehicles end up in the ditch. But alas, we had made our way there all in one piece.

For all of us women, they let us crash in their community lodge which was a very comfortable facility with our own beds and just enough space for everything. We were very grateful and appreciative of their hospitality, kindness and welcoming during our visit. Then it was time to powwow!

The powwow took place in the gym of the local Abbalak Thunderswift Memorial School. There was three drum groups which included the community drum, a visiting drum from Saskatchewan and one from Winnipeg. There was also three craft tables and a good amount of dancers which made for a nice little powwow. It went on for two days and they fed us very good with three hearty meals a day and snacks in between. The entire community was very friendly and always smiling and I believe all of us winnipegger’s felt very welcomed.

I was also asked by the school to come back and do hoop dance/powwow dancing workshops with the youth which I hope will pull through because that would be simply awesome and overall it was very good trip to this friendly little community and to experience and dance our hearts out at their powwow. I now look forward to the powwow trail this summer and to possibly come back to their powwow next year! I have selected some very special snapshots from the weekend and coupled it with its own description underneath, enjoy!

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As we all pulled over on the highway for a driving break, one of the vehicles hit a patch of ice and slid into the deep ditch of snow. The situation ended up with a chain attached to the truck behind and as that truck pulled the entire family of that vehicle pushed. It ended up with it coming out of the ditch but with a smoking hood due to an unattached belt and excessive pressing on the gas. Besides the delay in our commute it all ended well and we got there safely.
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Relaxing in the “Thunderbird” Lodge after our 5-6 hour drive. Photographed here is my grandmother Lucy.
Some of the dancers from Winnipeg and some of the community member of Little Grand Rapids all dancing together during an honor song.
Some of the dancers from Winnipeg and some of the community members of Little Grand Rapids all dancing together during an honor song.
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Abbalak Thunderswift Memorial School gym.

 

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I was handed tobacco and asked to speak to everyone a little about myself as a dancer and to share the background and teachings I was given about the traditional hoop dance.
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Tracy (Left), she was the one who had asked all of us dancers to come on out and support the powwow in Little Grand Rapids and my grandmother (Right) who had also came down for the visit. They were very proud about their hats :p
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Lorne Stevenson, a traditional dancer from Winnipeg who dances at almost every powwow and has performed at the DOTC First Nation’s pavilion during Folklorama.
Gayle Pruden, a very respected and beautiful jingle dress dancer from Winnipeg
Gayle Pruden, a very respected and beautiful jingle dress dancer from Winnipeg
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Lucy, My beautiful grandmother who dances the jingle dress style.
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This young woman inspired me immensely and proved to me that anything is possible if you have a passion for it and set your mind to it. She had hand sewn her entire gorgeous outfit all on her own. No sewing machines or fancy equipment. Something very admirable and to be proud of.
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This little adorable lady won our hearts. Her name was Lavina and she had shown quite an interest in our dancing. When we asked if she would like to come dance with us during intertribal her eyes lit up and she jumped up almost immediately. I showed her some fancy shawl steps and we danced around the gym. One of the nearby craft tables saw this and gifted her with her very own shawl. She was beyond excited and couldn’t stop dancing. She would mirror everything I would do including folding it nicely and putting on the back of her chair during breaks. I told her to take very good care of it and encouraged her to keep dancing and to keep practicing and that we would come back next year. During retreat I also gave her the chance to dance out with one of my hoops. I really hope we made a difference in her day and I hope she keeps it up and realizes how special and beautiful she was to all of us 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A P O E M

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The Performance of the World

For strength. To embrace me,
I can recognize its brevity,
Surviving among impulsive disasters.
For evolution, revolution,
And time. To withhold
Dreams, imploding at the seams, inspire,
Open our minds. To maintain
And protect damage – of land
From populations pollutants, of toxicity
From each nation. To thrive.
To pry open our eyes from
padlocked visions. To enhance the reflections.
To be reminiscent of the true power.
To arouse cultures and states,
And trick our minds of divine beauty’s meaning,
Bringing us closer to the light. To be
Connected, picturesque, state of mind.
To provoke change, commence humanity, like a game
of chance I’m constantly playing
But was informed of no victor.
Write antiquities, evolve.

Hey guys! Sometimes I like to unleash the inner creative poet within me and it helps to be taking a creative writing class in university at the moment to suck out all of my creative juices and plaster them on to paper. There are much more poems and short fictions I wrote so if any of you are interested in reading more I can start posting some? Let me know in the comments. I may surprise all of you with a poem here or there anyway in the future. I also thought that the images I captured on a sunset on a spontaneous beautiful evening complimented this poem very well. Hope you enjoyed. Thanks for reading. 🙂

Travelled Northern Manitoba

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I’M BACK!

Hello wonderful people! I feel like I haven’t written a post in a very long time & that is true so I am sorry for the lack of content & for my foolish unmotivated ways. Anyways… I have a nice adventure to fill you in on!

During the week of July 27th – August 4th I travelled up north in Manitoba with the family. We drove up to The Pas and visited some family in OCN then caught the train to Pukatawagon, Manitoba which consisted of a slow 12 hour ride full of hyper restless children, bone chilling air conditioning, beautiful northern scenery and the fresh smells of the outdoors. Luckily we managed to keep ourselves productive and occupied through that journey. Once we arrived in Puk we met up with more family; cousins, aunties, uncles, etc! During our stay up in Puk we danced everyday at their powwow which took place at their youth center for 3 days. We all felt so grateful for their wonderful hospitality, friendliness, and welcoming arms. We also had the chance to explore the area. Swimming at high rock, shopping at the Northern, driving up to the airport, carpooling to the sweat/sundance grounds and climbing up the Pukatawagon “mountain” and taking in the sights. I felt so humble and proud to meet so many strong women and family members who I am related to and share ancestry (sorry for the cheezyness). After the trip to Puk we headed back down the province to camp for one night in Clearwater Lake at the Guy Hill Residential School Gathering that was taking place. As we approached the grounds we all sat silent through the drive down the long, twisted, eerie gravel road with nothing but brush and solemness as we thought about those young children that were forcibly taken from their families and taken to this place. Some of my relatives attended this residential school which had one of the bad reputations of horrific abuse. My family and I had the chance to learn about local medicines and how to identify them. We also heard many stories that I will forever hold in my memory and we were surrounded by the spoken language of Cree which I was particularly grateful for since I would really like to learn it. After our stay at the grounds, I left feeling like I had the responsibility to keep the memory of these elders and their stories alive and to further educate people on what was on the residential school system and the effects it still has on our communities today. I also left feeling incredibly grateful to be surrounded by such strong, loving relatives and lucky to have had this experience and meet all those people. After we had left, we returned back to some civilization back in The Pas where we went to visit my grandpa who had passed away approximately 4 years ago. It was a lovely way to end our trip and we are all happy to be back on the road to hit back for home. 

After this trip and the entire experience I felt so much more grateful and humble for the experiences I have had in my life so far and grateful for the chance to see, hear, listen and learn from my family, elders and community. I hope to carry these memories far off into the future and educate others on what I have experienced in hopes of continuing the memory and not allowing our important indigenous heritage/culture fade away throughout the years.

I look forward to travelling back up north to possibly teach and host workshops on our culture, specifying on the hoop dance since their was a great interest from the community for that. I also want to find a way to give back to the community of Pukatawagon for everything they had done for us during our stay. I came home feeling a sense of renewal. I captured much more images of our time up north, if you would like to see more just “like” this post or comment down below requesting them! I must just do an extended post to showcase the beautiful images I had captured throughout our trip!

Thanks for reading! Much Love

Adventure Is Just Around The Corner. Literally.

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If you are anything like me, you tend to crave adventure. 

This past month, I had the chance to visit the old jails on Vaughn Street here in our little city and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The old, grotesque and odd stories of past sinister villains, public hangings and other oddities that had happened there filled my mind with awe and wonderment as I tried to picture the things we were being told; some of the stories happened as recently as the 1960’s! The tour continued as we were brought down into the basement into the actual old jail cells where they continued to tell us horrifying stories of past prisoners and other things that had gone down in the spaces we were standing.

My advice to you is that if you don’t have the funds for an extravagant trip, or if you don’t have the time or simply want to fill that void of adventure but would like to stay close to home go out and explore that area of your city or town that you’ve never been before. Book a tour of an old building or a part of your hometown that has a lot of history. You’ll be surprised to learn about things you’ve never known before in your own backyard.

Thanks for reading, Hope you are all doing well!
P.S – Stay tuned for more adventure & photography type posts, summer is here & will be full of travel! 🙂

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 […]