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Discipline, Action, Responsibility, Excellence


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“Together, Stronger, Each of us has a Voice”

Written by Glenn Marais, DAREarts Musician-Educator

imgp9722The week in Marten Falls started slowly with students reluctant to sit in our circle from a combination of shyness coupled with an unfamiliarity with our program.  Discipline, Action, Respect and Excellence blended with Traditional Teachings are the corner posts of DAREarts and we center all of our arts activities and leadership skills around these core values.  As we became familiar with the community and students, our level of understanding increased exponentially and our relationship with the students deepened as they bought in more and more every day. Together, we worked incredibly hard on a challenging art project, constructing a bear out of water bottles and tubing that was massive in size and dimension. So big it took three people to get it to move, two in the body and one for the head, which was independent of the body.  In addition, community members and students painted a large canvas of bears, all done in First Nations style.  Several tracks of music were created, as well as a rap song and an original song titled “Makwa Obwoo Momun”.  All this work created a common purpose amongst the teachers, community members, students and us.  Some of the students have incredibly difficult lives and are dealing with residual effects of abuse and neglect. The community show was incidental to the experience of creating it; the measurable pride the kids showed in performing for their community was tremendously gratifying and our collective memories will live with us forever.

taliyah-delora-lennoxEarly on Monday, after this exhilarating, incredibly emotional week in Marten Falls, we arrived exhausted in Webequie. We were picked up by Morris, the school caretaker, who dropped our supplies at the school and took us to our lodging for the week. We were all short of bedding and I was missing a bed; however this community can pull together and get things done fast, so by the afternoon, we had bedding and I had a bed!  Unlike Marten Falls where we all stayed together at a Bed and Breakfast, here we would be staying at different teacher’s homes. The weather was very rainy and cold and the roads were a muddy bog. The environment, coupled with our fatigue and separation, put us all into a funk of fatigue and low energy.  After a hearty meal, we all felt better and went to bed early to get ready for our first day.

circle-to-rehearse-the-song-banner-by-ashlynn-and-deloraWe noticed right away on the first day that the students here, Gr 7/8, were more animated and quicker to join in for drama games and movement.  The week here has been incredibly emotional. Webequie is home in so many ways and DAREarts is like a brand name up here.  All you have to do is mention DAREarts and you are greeted by knowing nods and smiles. Re-connecting with former students, elders and friends has elevated everyone’s spirits to a euphoric level. On Wednesday, Laura, Kaitlyn and I participated in a sweat lodge ceremony run by Bob Wabasse. We all felt that there was a purpose and a need for us to attend the sweat. Bob took his time and explained it all to us and we did two rounds of healing prayer and songs in the dark and steam-driven heat of the lodge. It was incredible. We all felt renewed, cleansed and invigorated. Our emotions are open and we feel deeply connected to this land, these people we call friends who feel like family and our sense of purpose and dreams for our students.

As Bob told us, when you live with honesty, truth and share your life, you will be connected to the creator and the universe. This is how we feel at this moment. Very connected to a special light and love that can only come from good hearted people, coming together.

Our song is called Mashkwe Seewin Maa Moe
Stronger Together
We understand it more now than ever.

Sunday is the community show.  40 youths showed up last night! There is much work to do, but our hearts feel lightened and carried by many hands.  We know that whatever happens in the show is only a small part of our journey. The realizations and shared experiences we have had are beyond measure. They exist between the stars, under the moon and across the Albany River, over Lake Winisk and down the same road that we choose to walk in harmony with our First Nations Family. We are blessed with so much love.

To our First Nations brothers and sisters
Meegwetch
Thank you for your gifts

– Glenn for the DAREarts team

darearts-webequie-company


DAREarts is a charity that empowers young at-risk Canadians aged 9 to 19 to ignite change as leaders.  Visit www.darearts.com to learn more.  DAREarts ‘First Roots’ program partners with First Nations to work alongside youths, local artists and elders and, together, address challenges such as school absenteeism, hopelessness and suicide. DAREarts’ lead supporters are: Northbridge Insurance, Scotiabank, TD, Anne Livingston and The Ontario Arts Council (an agency of the government of Ontario). Supporters of this program are: Palgrave Rotary Club; David & Teresa Thomas; Noront Resources; The Paul Semple Award; Allan Drive Middle School; and Nasdaq Corporate Solutions Canada.


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Mama Bear Teaches Us How to Dream

Written by Cathy Elliott, DAREarts Indigenous Artist-Educator

bear-outsideNine years ago, DAREarts, a national charity that empower kids using the arts, came to Marten Falls (Ogoki Post) FN after a successful week in Webequie FN and we had some adjustments to make.  Ogoki was much smaller. There were no highschool students here. There were some problems with holding on to teachers, drug dependency, very high absenteeism, and a lot of anger. This was when the internet was a community board, when no one (except some of us) knew that Residential Schools and the 60’s scoop did so much damage, and when a water boiling advisory was the norm.

Some things have changed since then, but not all.

Now, there’s internet. Intermittent internet.

Now, everyone knows about the Residential Schools, and if they don’t, they just don’t want to.

Now, there’s STILL a water boil advisory.

darearts-circleOur trip here last week happened to fall just after the 50th anniversary of 12 year old Chanie Wenjack’s attempt to walk away from sexual abuse in a terrible government and church sanctioned institution to his home in Ogoki.  He froze to death en route. His death was a blip in the news, became the subject of a beautiful song by Mi’kmaw Singer Songwriter Willie Dunn (“Charlie Wenjack” was sung to me in Vice Principal Wayne Potts’ office in 2010 in Attawapiskat when he found out I was Mi’kmak.)  Chanie’s story was so far under the wire that it didn’t get the attention it deserved until this year, when Tragically Hip’s Gord Downie released his book/animation/concert and author Joseph Boyden published his novela “Wenjack.” DAREarts has been working with Annie Wenjack for years, not knowing the connection until this year. She is Chaney’s sister. Many other members of his family have worked with us over the past nine years. The circles keep connecting us all together, and that’s where the dreaming now starts.

elder-elizabeth-inspiresElder Elizabeth Achneepineskum told our workshop participants (grades 5, 6 and 7 students of Henry Coaster Memorial School) the story of a mama bear that took a baby and taught him to talk like a bear.  “She pointed out the geese flying south and she said, ‘We’re going to eat them!’  When the bear was killed by humans for meat, they realized that she had protected the boy, and they honoured her with a human burial because she was his mother.  The humans taught the boy how to talk like humans. When they asked the boy how he survived the long cold winters of hibernation, he told them, ‘I dreamed about food.’

Principal Fay Zoccole said to me, on our way to the airport at the end of the week, “These kids don’t really get to dream. Their reality makes it very difficult to look ahead, to have hope.” To have a Teaching that tells us that we need to dream our future, to honour our past, to love our culture and build on our lives tied up in such a joyful, funny, enrapturing undertaking as the DAREarts First Roots Project is inspiring.

bear-makingWhen asked about their impression of bears, the kids told us that they were “dump bears” they lived in “dump dens” and “stink like sh*t.” But when they heard Elder Elizabeth tell a traditional story about a mother bear teaching a baby how to live, they found something new. With that, the kids updated their millennial-old story and applied it to their own lives. They did this. And when, to tell their story in art, drama and music,  they built that bear out of water bottles – hundreds of them, that otherwise would have gone to the dump – they made a bigger statement. They stayed after school.  Forgot that their time to work was over. Stayed into the evening. Brought their little bothers and sisters and those kids helped, too. Adults came too. All week, the gym was lit up with music and laughter and the hum of productivity. They performed their play and shared their creations with their community. The final words were spoken, loud and clear by a little boy who came every day and evening. “My mother taught me how to dream.”

Something else in Ogoki has changed, too. On the final day when I went back to the school for one last visit and a ride to the airport (the rest of the team went ahead – to Webequie) I smelled sage for the first time. I smudged and looked around at the kids. All of them were gathered in the rotunda hall of the school, calm, quiet, listening. The school is changing. Their Principal is a strong Indigenous woman. The Education Authority is receiving a little more funding for programs.

Young Chanie Wenjack was robbed of his culture, his innocence, his life. DAREarts is dreaming of a time when these children can live a life full of possibility and hope.

“The Boy Bear,” along with other bear stories from First Nations kids all over Canada, will be read May 4th at the DAREarts Leadership Awards in Toronto and the students’ stories, artwork, songs and photography will be shared in an installation at the Stratford Festival every night of the world premiere of ‘The Breathing Hole’ next August and September to celebrate Canada 150.

darearts-marten-falls-ogoki-team


DAREarts is a charity that empowers young at-risk Canadians aged 9 to 19 to ignite change as leaders.  Visit www.darearts.com to learn more.  DAREarts ‘First Roots’ program partners with First Nations to work alongside youths, local artists and elders and, together, address challenges such as school absenteeism, hopelessness and suicide. DAREarts’ lead supporters are: Northbridge Insurance, Scotiabank, TD, Anne Livingston and The Ontario Arts Council (an agency of the government of Ontario). Supporters of this program are: Palgrave Rotary Club; David & Teresa Thomas; Noront Resources; The Paul Semple Award; Allan Drive Middle School; and Nasdaq Corporate Solutions Canada.


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DAREarts Youth Experience Opera Atelier’s Dido and Aeneas!

darearts-thanks-opera-atelier

img_0238On Tuesday, October 18th, 25 DAREarts youth and families were invited to see a very special dress rehearsal performance of Opera Atelier’s Dido and Aeneas.

As the children arrived at the Elgin Theatre, we were welcomed into the lower lounge for a pre-show discussion with Opera Atelier’s Senior Manager of Communications & Education, Bronwen Bradley. After a quick introduction to opera, Bronwen highlighted many of the components that make Opera Atelier a world-class leader in Baroque period productions. The young teens were enthralled to learn that they would be seeing an opera in a way that it would have been performed in the Baroque era, and that many of the instruments being used by the orchestra, Tafelmusik, were over 300 years old!

After meeting with Bronwen, the group was led to the theatre and seated. Opera Atelier’s Co-Artistic Director, Marshall Pynkoski, welcomed the audience and explained the process of the rehearsal. Between these explanations and Bronwen’s shared knowledge, the youths were eager to enjoy their first opera experience! When the performance concluded, everyone rushed home to be ready for school the next day – but not without smiles and thoughtful reflections on the incredible experience they just had.

We would like to extend a tremendous thank you to Opera Atelier for inviting our children into the beautiful world of Baroque opera!


DAREarts is a children’s charity that uses the arts to empower at-risk young people to become leaders. Our lead sponsors are Northbridge Insurance, Scotiabank, TD Bank Groupand the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.


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Presentation of the first Paul Semple Award for Innovative Mines

Alison Semple, Esther Semple, and Mark Baker from Noront Resources photographed with scholarship recipient, Nicole Valiquette (upper image) and Laura MacKinnon representing DAREarts (lower image).

Alison Semple, Esther Semple, and Mark Baker from Noront Resources photographed with scholarship recipient, Nicole Valiquette (left image) and Laura MacKinnon representing DAREarts (right image).

Written by Esther Semple & Mark Baker.

On Friday September 16th, 2016 at a reception at Penguin ASI headquarters in Naughton ON, the first Paul Semple Award for Innovative Mines was presented to Nicole Valiquette, an M.Sc. student in Environmental Microbiology at Laurentian University. Nicole was awarded $2,000 to support her research on microbial genomics for countering acid mine drainage in cold climates.

In attendance were six members of the Semple family; Mark Baker and Kaitlyn Ferris from Noront Resources (where Paul was COO); Dr. Greg Baiden and others fromPenguin ASI (which Paul co‐founded); and Laura MacKinnon, Lead Instructor at DAREarts. Guests from Laurentian University included Nicole’s supervisor, Dr. Nadia Mykytczuk and the Dean of Science, Engineering and Architecture, Dr. Osman Abou‐Rabia.

Paul Semple was a successful professional engineer and mining executive and this award is to be given annually to a student from Northern Ontario whose educational and career goals will contribute to innovative mining projects.

Mr. Semple was Chair of the Board of the DAREarts Foundation until 2015. To recognize his commitment to promoting education for First Nation youth, an equivalent award is provided to DAREarts to support their empowerment programs in remote First Nation communities.


DAREarts is a children’s charity that uses the arts to empower at-risk young people to become leaders. Our lead sponsors are Northbridge Insurance, Scotiabank, TD Bank Groupand the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.


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Celebrating DAREarts Volunteer Guru of Grandeur, Sinclair Russell!

Photo courtesy of Beth McBlain.

Sinclair celebrates DAREarts’ 20th year with Leadership Awards Committee Chair Eileen Crichton & DAREarts’ staff Suzanne Clark. Photo courtesy of Beth McBlain.

Our dear volunteer, Sinclair Russell, is celebrating a milestone year on Oct 5th and we would like to say Bravo! Let’s salute his talent and spirit of FUN and FUNDraising by raising a glass to his many years of  involvement in Toronto Charity and Society Event Style.*  What better way than a VIP event at Cirque Du Soleil!  Click here to see your VIP invitation which includes a tax receipt as well as parking, a red carpet reception with sipping and supping, best seats in the house and a lovely gift-to-go!

Over DAREarts’ 20 years of empowering at-risk kids, Sinclair has been our dedicated Design Guru making our Leadership Awards and other events truly glorious!  But he went even further to give back: in 2011 Sinclair joined our team of teachers and artist-educators and headed to Webequie First Nation to work with Indigenous youths as they designed and sewed their own buck skin vests.

Professionally, his talents have contributed to Simpsons, Eatons, Estee Lauder, Fairweather / Dylex, Seven Continents, Display Arts of Toronto, Robert Gage Salon, Museum Tavern, many other retailers and publications. His talents took him abroad for 20 years working globally that won him awards and acclaim. He now lives in Minden, ON where he devotes his time and talents to many fortunate local efforts.

*Some of his lucky collaborators:
Peter Munk Cardiac Centre, Mt Sinai Hospital, DAREarts, WestPark Health, The Yonge Street Mission, Baycrest, The Griffin Trust, Canadian Opera Company, National Ballet School, Stratford Festival, Best Buddies, PetSOS,  The Fashion Group, The Brazilian Ball (x 12), and many society hosts, fine friends and his loving family members.

Sinclair with DAREarts Leadership Awards volunteers, including Seneca College students and Northbridge Insurance employees who generously contributed their time and talent!

Sinclair handwaves with DAREarts Leadership Awards volunteers, including Seneca College students and Northbridge Insurance employees who generously contributed their time and talent! Photo courtesy of Amanda Robinson.

 


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If You’re an Indigenous Youth, Don’t Read This

Written by Cathy Elliott (celliott@darearts.com).

The toxic headlines, the comment sections, the conversations with “helpful” strangers, the radio call-ins…the environment that provokes racism and provides discourse that is potentially deadly; how does a young Indigenous youth process and proceed?

It’s hard enough just being a “Native teen.” When you’re locked down in “Indian” designation, you have to cope with the confusion, fear, anger and anguish that you are exposed to every day.

This reality was exacerbated recently when tweets, Facebook groups, politicians and other forums began talking about a teen who was murdered on a farm in Saskatchewan.  Some of the things written about this tragedy are beyond distressing. They are triggering, harmful and dangerous. They incite hateful behaviour, and the initial self-preserving response by Indigenous individuals is either to lash out or hide from them.

A teen or child living in this toxic environment is already dealing with poor education, missed economic opportunities and generational trauma. In a time when we are all talking about Reconciliation and forgiveness, it’s hard to raise your head when you read, “His only mistake was leaving three witnesses.”  And people are actually agreeing with him, saying things like, “It’s open season on Indians.”

The mental anguish caused by this is real. It’s not just your imagination when you see the vitriolic discourse by people with real names, real email addresses and photos on their Facebook comments. It means that they don’t care what people think.  It’s a full-on assault on every young Indigenous person’s well-being.

What kind of mechanisms and supports are there for young people?

The arts, along with cultural teachings do help.  Here’s how:

Kids speak up.

Give the kids a fighting chance by providing a forum in which to speak up about themselves to the general population.  When DAREarts held workshops last June with Attawapiskat First Nation students and teachers about media attention, the youths turned the camera on their community and ended their music video with, “Hi Canada.” They wrote a song – Walking For Peace – that voiced their concerns about their futures, their community and their mental health. They were honest with themselves by talking about suicide among their young friends, siblings, cousins and distant relations. The resulting video was seen by 4,500 viewers in two months. They used their voices to celebrate their strength and reach out to the rest of us, to see the “good side of Atta, to be the good things that matta.”

Kids Kill the Stereotypes.

The Internet has become the biggest community in history, hooking up Canadian Indigenous kids through social media with kids all over the world. When someone uses racist language, youths can choose to organize their emotions and answer back in a positive, even humorous way. Through poetry, music, art, video and theatre, they answer to and dispel the stereotypes that weigh them down and drain their potential for success. They learn how to use art to turn back the negative feelings and make art with it and provide real facts, real impressions of their lives, inner and out.

Kids Channel Anger.

Art is the best, best, BEST way to put down a hater.  It may not get through to the person who initiated the anger, but it will vent that anger in a positive way. People invent things, make positive historical decisions, cure diseases, save the planet by first becoming angry. Nothing wrong with being angry. But if that anger stays inside and doesn’t have an outlet, it festers. And that kind of anger creates illnesses, both mental and physical, which can kill. Ask any Indigenous artist, world-wide, if they were angry when they created their best works. Nothing is more powerful than an angry artist.

Kids Become Teachers.

By being proactive, kids create the answers through art and when they need it, it’s right there. In a picture. In a video. In a poem. In 2014, Grades 5 – 8 students in a DAREarts project collectively wrote about water, land and concerns about their First Nation home in a poem called, “The Land Speaks”, which they turned into a music video using dioramas and their voices. Their message is disturbing in a good way. We can learn from the kids about what they fear and desire. This messaging comes from them, unprompted and looped back by their Elders. The confirmation of their inherent knowledge by their cultural Elders is invaluable. Vital. Especially when a comment comes up on a newspaper article about defending our planet and their way of life.

One of the saddest headlines I’ve read recently is that Northern Ontario First Nations students were afraid to go to school in Thunder Bay this spring. After the inquiry that examined the deaths of First Nations teens over the last several years there, the cloud of fear and mistrust floats heavily in the air.   It’s not going to be easy to disperse.  But, for the anxiety and dark feelings that Indigenous youth are experiencing, collaborative art with artists who have a deep understanding of the issues at hand, and Elders who use wisdom and traditional/non traditional practices, there is a way to break it down a little.

And that in itself can save lives.

 


DAREarts is a children’s charity that uses the arts to empower at-risk young people to become leaders. Our lead sponsors are Northbridge Insurance, Scotiabank, TD Bank Groupand the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.


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DAREarts Youths Experience Cirque du Soleil’s Luzia

On July 27th, 50 DAREarts children and families rushed to Cirque du Soleil‘s Grand Chapiteau through the pouring rain.  The show, Luzia, described as “a waking dream of Mexico” was a feast for the eyes.  Our attendees, almost all of whom had never seen a Cirque show were totally in awe of the incredible, superhuman feats of the Cirque artists, of the gorgeous music and sets and overall air of magic created under that tent.

Everyone was buzzing with energy and excitement after the show – they loved it!  It was the kind of beautiful, inspiring experience that will stick with them as a shining beacon of the power of human creativity.

DAREarts Thanks Cirque du Soleil“Thanks so much for a great night!!! It was beautiful.” – Sabrina

“This is an amazing opportunity.” – Shannon

“Thank you so so much. I was so fortunate to see the show with my girls. It was incredible. Very much appreciate it.” – Dee


DAREarts is a children’s charity that uses the arts to empower at-risk young people to become leaders. Our lead sponsors are Northbridge Insurance, Scotiabank, TD Bank Groupand the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.