DAREarts in Marten Falls FN
It’s been quite the journey from our first year in Ogoki Post (Marten Falls FN). The community is changing in small degrees, building infrastructure, building a healthier environment for its citizens.
We witnessed the first 18 wheeler in Ogoki’s history to come in on the ice road.
A new school bus was on it.
The hockey arena has a refrigeration system; they no longer skate on brown river ice.
One of the biggest changes is in the Henry Coaster School. A new principal and new teachers are making big changes of their own. Teacher’s assistants, who have remained in the community over a number of years are providing a stability that allows the students security. Our time in the school was well spent. Here are a few highlights.
The attendance was much higher this year. Now, if you consider that in a northern community where the temperatures average is around -30C, when southern schools close because it’s just too cold to send kids outside, it’s a miracle that any kids turn up. The absenteeism is very high in these communities. The new principal and teachers are making it fun for the kids to be there. They’ve also been setting boundaries and discipline in a firm but loving way.
Every step of the way, every hour, every game, workshop, word, gesture…they were there, supporting the DAREartists.
They kept everything up-beat, were respectful to the kids and the kids were responsive to them in exchange. We also appreciate the new principal, Ms. Louise Bailey, who was there at every turn, when a funeral was being planned in the community for an Elder and the entire community shut down (remember, Day 1? We mentioned that might happen), she helped us with the co-ordination of a weekend day for rehearsal and we were able to have our black-light show.
The music component was a soundscape beat provided by the students in a free-form recording session with Cathy. They had made vocalizations, thumps, snaps and clicks that were edited into a musical piece. One for the spoken word, one for the “drumming up the love” section. The students’ beats inspired the words for their poem.
Our theme was Love. What came out of their brainstorming was a beautiful spoken word piece about their land:
The Great Storm (spoken word)
Moose crashing through the woods, Branches breaking
Rivers snaking, Rain and Rabbits Marten snares and Owls eat Snakes from branches
Wolves howling in the woods, Water and Roots under the surface of
Trees. Muskeg, Heartbeat,
Can bedrock break? Can it be broken? Can they break it with the diamond pick-axes?
Splash in the water
Sturgeon, pickerel, trout, pike, Beavers and Geese,
That mouse is jumping, Rabbit fox jumping
Birds chirping, Thunder and lightning
It’s rocky underneath
That Mouse is jumping in the Grey Wolf’s mouth
That Mouse is jumping in the Grey Wolf’s mouth
That Mouse is jumping in the Grey Wolf’s mouth!
The story around that poem starts with two cousins, Leo and his younger cousin Sierra. They’re camping with their families in Kekabeca Falls Provincial Park.
There is an Entity called “Shooshee” who, fed up with the way humans have been stinking up the earth, starts a great flood that oozes out of the muskeg in the north and turns into a tidal wave that will destroy them all. Suddenly, out of the garbage dump, rises a ship that looks like garbage, and out of it emerges Garbagy Looking Space People. They ask, do you love this planet? The answer is in the children’s hands. They start drumming. The adults join them. Soon the drumming is heard all over the world as the GLSP gather the songs, wishes and love into their ship and beam it all over the world.
What seems like a simple story is made more poignant by the fact that Leo initially merely tolerates his little cousin Sierra, but the events bring a whole new love and respect into their relationship. They become good friends instead of just being related to each other.
This story was realized through the amazing work of Linda Carson (who broke everything down to props, puppet and set pieces), Lee Pham (who choreographed transformations and imaginative movement) and the teachers who helped the students create the puppets and props.
The kids put together a Valentine’s Day Shout Out to the World in this little VIDEO . Linda and Lee put together an amazing display, with the screen up in the hallway, and the artwork from previous years hung from the ceiling. The room was blocked with garbage bags, (to be re-used, no waste!) and the black lights were set up to create the theatre space. The students worked very hard. Although many of the older ones had to leave for the long weekend, the younger ones stepped up and did a wonderful show. Lee narrated the story and the kids provided Foley, special effects and puppetry. And, of course, the Teachers were never far off.
The Feast that followed was a huge success. There were a few delivery problems-the food didn’t arrive until the next day. Those challenges of living in the North, we’re used to it by now. But with the community throwing its support behind Linda and Lee, (Linda got a lesson, too. She learned how to make bannock!) There was plenty of food and celebration for all.
We can’t wait to come back next year!
Editor’s note: Sadly, Cathy had to interrupt her work with the students and teachers to leave on Thursday and fly to New Brunswick. Her mother’s health was quickly failing during this week, and she was able to see a little of what the show was going to look like, by the pictures Linda and Lee sent her. She got the news that her mother died when she checked her email, between planes, on Valentine’s Day. The DAREarts Team and the people of Ogoki Post enveloped her with love, prayers and sympathy. A reminder that although we may be geographically distant friends, we are also all related.
For press information about the DAREarts’ Nee-tum-ochi-bek program and how you can help, contact Cathy Elliott firstname.lastname@example.org