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Discipline, Action, Responsibility, Excellence

Guest Post–Cathy Elliott–A Day of Reflection and Music (Attawapiskat)

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A month ago, DAREarts artist-as-teacher Cathy Elliott travelled to the Aboriginal community of Attawapiskat, Ontario, to empower the children and the community through the arts. The following post is her written report from day four of her DAREarts journey:

DAREday four…my head is spinning!

11:14pm

Today was a day off from school.  For the kids and staff.  But not for me.  I spent today going over all the notes and brainstorming and words and information and Cree and, using the conversations I had with the students, formed everything into…songs.

VP Wayne Potts, his wife and our grade 8 teacher Rhonda and I had a lovely afternoon talking about music.  This couple, as I mentioned before, are bound together by a love of music.  Wayne played on his Mac (yes, another Mac-off) some of his favorite songs.  He has a great voice.  He filled me in on all sorts of historical contexts of this area.  We talked about language, first contact, treaties and stuff until around supper time. That’s why I’m talking to you now.  I’ve been writing melodies all morning and night.

There was a memorial for a little boy who’d been killed in a tragic car accident here in town.  That’s why there was no school.  There’ll be a special Pow Wow on the weekend for him and his family.  It was especially quiet in town today.

I hope the kids’ songs will help lift some spirits here tomorrow night.

Water, Fire, Fish and Geese
Oh, and just hanging with my friends…

The stuff that these kids threw out at me is made up of what kids everywhere want and enjoy in their young lives.  A good joke, watching tv together, video games and music.  One of the kids introduced me to a song by BoB, “Ghost in the Machine”, thereby sending me down another rabbit hole of information and esoteric ruminations.  But they also have a very different experience from kids in the south.  Their relationship to the land is profound.  They have a real sense of who they are and where they belong.  I know, we all realise that watching tv and playing video games and facebooking and blogging are affecting our kids.  It’s not a new concept.  But it is nowhere more discernible than when you come to a place so isolated as this.  I learned so much from them this week.  A sampling of the themes these kids came up with:

The Cycle of the Year and Water
The Goose Hunt Argument
Agamiski Island Picnic
Muskego Land Fishing Song


At 3:30 this morning I was awakened by the doorbell.  We have a building full of Southern Ontario Cops on exchange with the NAPS.  Had a nice dinner-making chat with them. Right now I have to stop because the walls are paper thin and I don’t want to keep them awake.  Besides I’m going cross-eyed right now.

Cathy’s personal blog can be viewed at http://cathyelliottcom.blogspot.ca.

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