Putting Down First Roots across Aboriginal Canada
In 2007, a promising Webequie First Nation teen “went through the rope”.
He was going to high school. Making good grades. Had big plans for his future. What happened?
The suicide rate for Aboriginal Canadians is 5 to 7 times higher than non-Aboriginals. For kids living in fly-in communities, opportunities are limited, with in some cases, 90% unemployment. Housing is unbearably crowded and inadequate. The isolation is numbing. The boredom is, to be horribly blunt, deadly.
In 2007, DAREarts was asked by Bill Jacob, the suicide prevention councilor, to work with youth who were reeling from the shock of multiple suicides, poverty and bullying in Webequie. Mr. Jacob had lost his own daughter to suicide. DAREarts answered the call and the first DAREarts Aboriginal team flew north to help Webequie’s efforts to heal its young people and their families.
Six years of program provided creative outlets and through new channels of communication students strengthened their place in the community as leaders. Webequie Elder Ananias Spence gave us our name: Nee-tum-ochi-bek, or “First Roots.” More and more students are staying in school and graduating. Some of those first year students are in post secondary education. Now, they are parents, themselves. They have their own businesses. They are preparing for the wave of jobs that will come with the Ring of Fire mining prospects. They have found their passion, and Spirit of the North is their anthem: “I want to see myself proud…I want see myself strong.” They are creating positive images for themselves. They are dreaming a future. Any future. There has not been a teen suicide in Webequie since 2007.
First Roots Expands North, East and West
Based on the success of Webequie, more communities across Canada are asking DAREarts to work with them to ensure the safety, well-being and happiness of their kids. We’ve been to Vancouver West Side, Marten Falls FN, Attawapiskat FN and Indian Brook Nova Scotia FN. We’re planning on putting down roots in Fort Hope, Saskatchewan, Labrador, Manitoba, Quebec. We’re answering emergency calls from communities we already service. We are DAREarts, and we believe that kids can ignite change and become leaders in their communites.
Every cent goes towards the programs; flights, supplies and fees for local artists and community members who work with the children and teens. We work with Elders and parents and the students themselves to come up with projects that address immediate concerns in their communities and educational needs. We fly with aboriginal artists who bring with them a respect for Aboriginal values which are dovetailed with the DAREarts principles.
e We are honoured to be asked to do this. We need your help to answer the call. Visit http://www.darearts.com and hit the paypal button. Talk to your friends. Pass on this blog. Follow us on Twitter @dare_arts and keep up with us.
We’d love the company.
For more information, please contact Cathy Elliott, DAREarts Dir of Communications firstname.lastname@example.org