The summer sky lights up and dry heat settles in, bringing with it spectacular thunderstorms and blazing sunsets. The autumn light angles itself, making long shadows. The sky is so blue it hurts. When you fly over this ground, you see the changes from above, the rivers and ponds are ringed with white, and creatures appear, like woodland paintings.
Light up here is a different animal from down south. It comes and goes quickly. When autumn starts sliding into winter, it’s like a lid closing on a trunk. The snow comes, the river freezes and the outdoor rink gets a facelift.
And then the northern lights appear. Wawate achek. Northern Light Spirit.
The Sacred Wheel is a perfect structure. It’s the hoop that makes a wigwam strong and stable. It’s the rounding of the seasons. It’s the shape of our planets and their orbits. It orients us as our compass and organizes the seeming chaos of Creation into something we can use as a guide.The Webequie DAREarts Grades 7/8 students tackled their stories using a structure which oriented them where they stood. East, South, West and North. They brainstormed words and phrases about the directions of the Sacred Wheel, with light being the focus. Their story began in the East and worked its way around the wheel, through the seasons, aspects and life stages.
We had a beautiful new song that had been created under the guidance of singer songwriter and music educator Glenn Marais.
Naked Trees, snowing nights
Walking under northern lights
White owl watching over us
During the cold dark, winter nights
We come and sing our lullaby
Another year and the lights will rest
Day or night, it’s beautiful
When the spirits touch your heart, it’s the best
Beautiful spirits in the sky at night
Watching over in the northern lights
Beautiful Spirits in the sky at night
They come to sing and dance for you
Eagles fly, wolves cry, see the geese flying in the northern sky
Beautiful spirits in the sky at night
Come to watch over you
Alas, at the end of week one, it was time for Glenn to go back south. We had a fare-well camp fire on Friday. He had brought an extra guitar (compliments of Long & McQuade Music Store Toronto) with him and we passed the guitars around and sang Neil Young and Johnny Cash songs. We roasted “Mushymellows” as Elder Beulah Wabasse joked. The kids spontaneously started practicing their song at the fire, and sang a song that their predecessors wrote, “Spirit of the North”. Glenn left us with an mp3 of “Wawate Achek” as we prepared for a busy second week.
A second shift of DAREartists flew in. Lee Pham, our B-boy choreographer began the work that would be the connecting tissue between the four stories. We had a fantastic dance crew that picked up the complicated moves with ease and enthusiasm.
The kids brought in the still cameras we lent over the weekend for Jeremy Proulx to download onto the computer. They went on a photo hunt for different kinds of light – reflective, radiating, whatever they could find. All of the images you see here were created by the students. Then the documentary team picked up the video cameras and videoed our production week. It was completed in time for the show on Friday. Two of the younger students even made a commercial to let the community know what was coming up. The group of over 30 kids broke up into prop/puppet and set construction teams and off we went.
The students started rendering their characters into three dimensional, glowing beings. They made the soundscapes with Cathy Elliott and Laura MacKinnon with a lot of help from local Elder Beulah Wabasse and Oji Cree artist and teacher Zoee Maxwell. Their foley was created with thumps, water and voices. The sounds of wolves, moose, loons, wind and whales came out of the mouths of the children. They came after school and continued to work. The sounds were edited together to make soundscapes that defined and underscored the stories. Each kid had a responsibility to honour his or her talent. To dance, to sing, to transform a gym into a magical place filled with the potent power of Story.
During the two weeks the DAREarts Team spent in Webequie, the temperature plummeted ten degrees and the snow began to fly. We went from a nice warm windbreaker day to a bone chilling -9C. And it wasn’t even Halloween yet.
The community of Webequie had no idea what was in store for them. When they came into the gym they saw a stage encased in garbage bags and black lights. Taped to the wall was the Sacred Wheel, with the storyboard circling around it. The four directions and seasons provided the students with the inspiration to explore light through different lenses: the Physical, the Chemical, Intellectual and, in the fourth gate, the Spiritual realm of Light.
Then, the lights went out, and Percy Suganaqueb’s voice filled the gymnasium with the beautiful words of the children.
“Sun sets on the elders on the boat ride to Kitchikeeshikong (the Spirit World)
Moonlight catches the silver tears we cry
Change can be beautiful, just like the leaves in fall
Whose vibrant colours catch my eye,
Like all the stars in the northern sky”
“Wanan kaminasakach kachinak nishkeyshk tanokan nakoshak
Kapichiimanatak kechewanak ashpimik kachiikiwanck”
The stage was transformed into a magical rendering of the stories they wrote together. The egg cracked and a baby Eagle emerged. The sound of the Eastern Ocean washed over us as the baby Eagle began to discover the world. Then, a crazy rabid Squirrel attacked the Eagle in an epic Godzilla-tinged fight that ended with a tidal wave. The Eagle saved the squirrel and flew away, leaving the squirrel in his nest as the bioluminescent fish swam in the flood below. The dancers formed a neon pink spider web like a human cat-in-the-cradle, which captured a blue jay. A huge spider was about to eat it when a Sasquatch rescued it only to be buried in an avalanche. A Thunderbird comes and with a single lightning bolt, blasts away the rubble. The blue jay flies away and Eagle takes us into the West Gate, where mosquitos torture a Moose until it hides underwater. A cow moose calls the mosquitos and a squadron of fireflies eats the mosquitos. In the North Gate, an Elder Rabbit takes shelter in what he discovers is a Wolf’s den. The Wolf chases the Rabbit out onto an ice flow, which cracks. They fall into the water, and a giant Whale rescues them. Sadly, the Wolf dies but turns into the Wawate. The story ends with Elder Rabbit watching the lights dance in the Northern sky. Dixon Wabasse volunteered to play original guitar music in the transitions, or “gates”.
The reviews and messages flew in to the Webequie Facebook community:
Erica Suganaqueb, mother Thank you DAREarts for lifting up our children’s spirits! I saw the difference in them yesterday. It was truly amazing! I cannot wait until next year.
M Suzanne Spence, mother Even my son was dancing away with the rabbit. I hope he keeps dancing.
Aaron Alloverit meegwetch for your time on the kids of Webequie
David A Donner, Grade 7 teacher Awesome! It was really amazing working with you and the DAREarts team! The kids are still talking about it and Paula (Bird, Grade 8 teacher) and I are talking about doing a black light performance for the Christmas Concert in December…really inspiring and creative stuff! Thanks again!
Erica Suganaqueb, mother This afternoon I went to the DAREarts show. Two weeks, it took for them to get all that done. It was absolutely amazing! I am so proud of my daughter Judith. When she dances, she dances like it’s her last dance. Very enthusiastic. Just like her momma! I noticed that the kids weren’t acting up that much while the DAREarts crew were here….does it make you think? There’s your answer & probably the proof we needed. Our kids are bored and have nowhere to go and hang out in the evenings after school. I wish something could be done about the boredom the kids face these days. At least for them to have a little drop in centre or something….just my thought for tonight. Wonderful job to the grade 7/8s for the spectacular entertainment!!
We want to thank so many people for their work with the children. This was a great collaboration between community members, former DAREarts students, Elders, parents. Bob Wabasse, your words of wisdom and encouragement in the opening Circle were much appreciated. Meegwetch to Margaret Spence, Maggie Wabasse and Agnes Whitehead for the amazing Feast. Beulah Wabasse, thank you for your guidance and big smile during and after school. Glen Suganaqueb for the translation of the poem, DAREarts Leadership recipient Percy Suganaqueb, for reading the words in Oji-cree so beautifully.
Children and youth of Webequie, you are wonderful. Never forget this. You have inspired the young and old with your work. You must have noticed your brothers and sisters, mothers and dads, grandparents and friends beaming with pride. Enjoy it all. Because you’ve earned it. This is a good Circle. It reflects a light like no other. It’s an honour for DAREarts to be a part of this creation.
For more information, contact DAREarts Director of Communications and DAREarts Head of First Roots Aboriginal Program firstname.lastname@example.org
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