DAREarts Blog

Discipline, Action, Responsibility, Excellence

Attawiskat Spring – posts from another place, another time

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This is a backgrounder of Cathy Elliott’s workshop with students in Attawapiskat two years ago, when she wrote six songs in four days with them. It was spring – exactly the same time slot as this coming year’s trip. She’ll we working with Peter Elliott and the students on creating a music video of one of those songs. What changes will we see when we go back up on March 18th, 2014?

Attawapiskat Spring, 2012 – Cathy Elliott for DAREarts

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

Attawapiskat Student in focus sm
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

Miss Corrina and Student

It was really interesting, going through all the words, thoughts, impressions, imagery and just plain kid world fun and distilling it all down to works of art.  The parents who came on the insistence of their children got a big surprise.  Six new songs.  All very different from each other.  All touching, funny, daring just like the kids.  I got to know Attawapiskat from a very personal viewpoint and a world view that was shared freely.

The grade six students will be the first class to graduate in the new school.  My hope, and I’m sure you hope, and the people in Attawapiskat and folks all over NDN country, that more and more kids graduate.  There will be a surge of young Aboriginal people out there, ready to work and improve their home towns.  To put in to the economy of this continent.  If, in my life time, I see a country that can sustain two distinct realities, two nations, I will see a miracle.  But, as I watch something come from nothing, I witness miracles.  Maybe this is one I’ll see.  Just sayin’.

If you visualise it, it might happen.  The tv in my room is like a magic mirror.  Channel 20. The blueprints of the school are there, waiting for the miracle to happen.

I wasn’t sure what I was going to see before I came here.  At the beginning of this blog series, I hoped that I would see a better picture than the ones I saw in the news. The town of Attawapiskat made a decision last fall to tell the world that they were in peril of a terribly deadly winter, to the detriment of their community’s image.  Chief Spence had a hard winter. When she put out the SOS she knew she was in for a cold reception.  I don’t think she was prepared for the good wishes and prayers her community got from sympathetic people around the world.

Spoke briefly with Rodrique Vezina outside the White Wolf about the weather, the Mi’kmaq People and our Cree Relations, music and language and the length of days.  He invited me to Saturday morning mass, but I think I’ll be catching a plane.  He said to come play my guitar and sing.  It isn’t a far walk.  I just might.  See thing is, there’s a mix of Christianity and Traditional going on here.  Been that way for a while.  He’s well respected because he honours both and dovetails the two.

The church itself is a beautiful structure.  Reminds me of Quebec steeples.  Quite ornate.  It rests down by the river, the doors facing the river, away from the town.  A statue of Mary, her face whiter than the rotting snow, holds her arms out to the Community.  Such a loving gesture.  Such a tortured  history.
A few hours ago I was in the communal kitchen eating my dinner when Lawrence Martin came in and joined me.  We got to talking about music and both pulled out our Macs and listened to each other’s music.  He started telling me about concerts with Tom Jackson and Kashtin and Susan Aglukark and I realized I was jabbin’ with a Canadian Legend!  Quick- Wikipedia: Not only is he the first Aboriginal Album of the Year winner, he was mayor of Sioux Lookout (I knew I really liked that place for a good reason) the first Aboriginal mayor of a municipality that wasn’t a Rez.  He’s currently the Mayor of Cochran?!   I’m such a dope.  I need an education about the fantastic Aboriginal people in this country. (Glad to know you, Lawrence. Hope to meet you again!)
-from Attawapiskat Spring, Cathy’s personal blog, “Because Art Is”
Come back for more on THIS YEAR’s trip to Attawapiskat, the new school, the song and the video the DAREarts Team will create along with community members and of course, the grade 8’s who were in grade six the last time. The song can be found here “Muskego Land”.
Wish us luck! We’re flying with the Niska (Canada Goose) – again! (thanks to the Ontario Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs.)
ontario logo

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