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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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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24 Hours In Dryden Ontario

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7:00 AM up bright and early, essential Tim Hortons coffee stop and then we were ready for the approximate 4 hour road trip down to the small town of Dryden, Ontario, Canada.

24 hours later my travelling partner (a.k.a my wonderful mother) and I were heading home with great vibes, stories to tell, new connections, people we had met and a collection of significant photographs to reminisce over our wonderful 24 hour getaway.

My mother and I were invited to Dryden to participate in their annual honouring youth powwow at their local high school. It was very lovely to see so many youth, young women and the whole school up and dancing during intertribal’s along with their teachers.

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ShorIMG_7634tly after the regular powwow protocols of the grand entry, flag song, veteran song, prayer, intertribal and honour songs it was time for my mother and I to showcase our dances. The MC handed me the mic and I proceeded to introduce myself and share my teachings of the Indigenous traditional hoop dance. I then began to dance to the sound of the drum, making sure to use up as much space as I could, to practice some new formations and moves I had been eager to try in front of an audience and to try my best to keep the room engaged with my performance. When I was finished I was greeted with a large applause.

Then it was my IMG_7636mother’s turn. They proceeded to drum a song for her as the young women were asked to watch because they would be trying after. My mother looked beautiful as she kept in time with the beat, her golden jingles creating that comforting familiar sound and her feathered fan raised high in the air at every check beat. After, as promised, the young women came up to dance alongside of her. They all had such enthusiasm in their eyes and watched my mother closely again as they tried to mimic her fancy contemporary jingle dress style foot work.

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IMG_7653The powwow had been held annually for over 20 years and the man who had started it all was still teaching and hosting the powwow at the school. His name was Leonard Skye. He was a gentle, loving and incredibly respected man in the community and was honoured while we there for his years of dedication to the school, the youth and his community.

He will be retiring this year so they held a special honour song for him, as students came up giving him hugs and words of thanks. They then proceeded to honour him with awards such as the prestigious one shown in the photograph which was to be hung in the city hall. He is originally from Eagle Lake, 15 minutes west of Dryden and was a residential school survivor. He spoke with so much passion and pride and you could feel the love and respect everyone had for him.

The next day after the powwow, we decided to take a detour before heading home to check out the round dance that Eagle Lake was hosting to honour the missing and murdered Indigenous women. It was a gorgeous warm day with a slight breeze and when we arrived they had hung symbolic red dresses throughout the community to signify those they had lost and to honour them as they are still loved, valued and remembered. After a beautiful round dance of women, men, youth, elders and the whole Eagle Lake community, everyone was given a pouch of tobacco to offer to one of the sacred fires that were set up in each sacred direction. Everyone then proceeded to walk down the road to choose a specific sacred fire to offer their tobacco.

I was so glad that we were able to come and witness such a resilient and strong community and to partake in the round dance and offering of tobacco. After that we had to hit the highway to make it back to city but we made sure to make some time to pull over and create an inukshuk along the way since the highway between Winnipeg and Dryden are full of them and we had always wished to do  that one day and then we had the chance!

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Overall it was a very nice 24 hour trip and I was incredibly appreciative and thankful for our invite to their community to dance. I hope to continue to travel to a variety of communities to showcase my dancing and share the teachings I was given.

Thank you for reading if you’ve made it this far. Please feel free to like, share or comment below. If there is anything I discussed in this post that you would like an extended explanation/post on let me know and I can definitely do that! Also feel free to leave any other suggestions of future posts you may like to see. Please stay tuned and subscribe to this blog to keep updated with my adventures. I hope to start posting one every week or to get on some sort of blogging schedule.

Take care everyone.

World Indigenous Business Forum 2014!

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The Indigenous Leadership Development Institute Inc (ILDII) in Winnipeg helps organize the World Indigenous Business Forum (WIBF) with a community host in different parts of the world every year. This year it was hosted in Guatemala City at the West Camino Real Hotel in the heart of Guatemala and took place from October 28th – 30th.

The forum’s website states that the forum is a platform that engages Indigenous communities and their leaders in global discussion on economic development issues such as community, industry, academic and government and the varying challenges/successes. The forum operates on the seven generational thinking that provides sustainable prosperity for children and the children seven generations on. The first portion was connecting and networking of indigenous communities and their leaders. The second portion was sharing knowledge and strategies for community development and the third included inspiring diverse speakers from around the globe to motivate future endeavors of economic success.

I had the privilege to participate and listen to the various speakers and it was interesting to see similarities between all nations in attendance such as the hope to alleviate poverty through focuses on investment and financial strategies and the importance to maintain cultural practice to sustain their heritage for future generations. It was very inspiring to see Indigenous leadership participating in this forum through networking, learning and being able to relate to one another. I also believe it was very appropriate and important to have different levels of Indigenous individuals involved in the forum such as individuals at the grassroots level, local Indigenous communities, individuals who owned their own companies and leaders such as the president of Guatemala. It is important to include and engage all members of a community in the dialogue towards economic development for the success of communities in the future and to participate in the learning process toward a better economy with the use of efficiency, effectiveness, self-reliance and sustainability.

I also had the opportunity to showcase the Indigenous hoop dance to everyone in attendance which left me with a sense of pride to showcase and represent my home community and my brother, Jesse Spence, was also able to showcase the grass dance. Youth from Fisher River Cree Nation were also able to showcase their unique styles of powwow dance. I believe we all finished feeling proud to be able to educate all of these different communities in attendance of our culture, dance, songs and ultimately ourselves as individual, unique, proud indigenous youth.

Overall, it was an amazing experience and it truly inspired me and embedded a deep hope that it is possible for nations to come together in peace to learn from each other, grow and help each other toward positive, sustainable economic development. Next year, the forum will be held in the beautiful land of Hawaii. If you have any further questions or would like to become involved in such a wonderful event please visit their website at http://www.wibf.ca. Also feel free to search #WIBF2014 to see a glimpse of this years forum.

Thanks for reading!

Self Doubt, Insecurities, Etc.

332Self doubt. we all have it from time to time. some more than others. In fact, I’ve had major self doubt about this post. I haven’t written anything in awhile because I’ve been over thinking on what kind of content to write. Should I write about serious personal stories? perhaps a comedic piece? or how about just some photography? maybe a story about an upcoming event? so many things crossed my mind and then I would scratch them out because I would think that it wasn’t interesting enough. Then I got to the point where I was questioning my previous posts. After way too much thinking about what to write next I realized how ridiculous I was being.

I started questioning myself, why do I always worry about what others think? why do I always compare myself to other people or other blogs? I can write about whatever the hell my little heart desires! Then I got to thinking that I’m not the only one who does this. Just by reading this post so far you can imagine how deeply I think into things and how my train of thought can be crazy sometimes. Anyways, after all of this wondering I starting thinking, why do so many of us doubt ourselves? maybe it’s the messages and images put out by the media or the way society raised us or maybe it’s just all simply a part of human nature. I guess no one really knows. This is starting to turn into a ramble which is alright and I’m glad that I warned you about ramblings in my blog title and my first post entitled, “New Beginnings”. So don’t tell me I didn’t warn you.

Anyways, after all this thinking of self doubt, insecurities and things related to this I started wondering about how it would be if more of us started to not worry about what others thought, if we lived in a world without self doubt. Sure, there must be a balance of consciousness obviously, we don’t necessarily want murderers to be running around our neighborhoods confidently. But what if that boy down the street wasn’t afraid to go after his dreams, what if that woman went beyond her self doubt and created a masterpiece of art, what if YOU moved beyond all that self doubt, all those insecurities and purely did what you loved without worrying about what the outcome would be. Sure, they may be individuals out there who have come to this epiphany way earlier that I did and they are doing this as we speak but my point is, we all have the potential to do great things, we all have the potential to create wondrous things! It may sound incredibly cliche but it’s true. We may fall down sometimes and we may fail but with hard work, passion and moving beyond those fears we can all bring great things.

There is so much things I would love to do and things I’ve been wanting to do or try for a very long time. I also find that I compare myself to other people  who are doing all these cool things which lead to me saying, you know what..I can do that! Instead of holding back in fear of being judged, envying others who are doing them and forever being to afraid to try, I should just get off my lazy ass, shut up my loud insecure mind and do it!  I’m taking it upon myself to move past my comfort zone and finally do all the things I’ve been wanting to try or do and I challenge all of you who are reading this right now to do the same! Life is all about experiences and learning from them, I know that far off in the future I don’t want to regret not trying something just because of fear of being judged or fear of failing. But please take into account, I am not advising that we all go try the new drugs or that new cocktail at the bar. Everyone has their limits, everyone has their choices so please move past your comfort zones responsibly.

Let me know in the comments below what you’ll do next!