New Credit First Nations invited the DAREarts Nee-tum-ochi-bek Program to create “Four Legends” with the grades five and six students of Lloyd S. King Primary School –The four day workshop culminated in a Teaching video about being a good human being which had its world premiere on lucky Friday 13th.
The first thing you notice when you walk through the front doors of Lloyd S. King Elementary School isn’t the vaulted ceilings or the natural wood pillars and rafters. It isn’t the artwork and posters covering the walls. It’s the smell of burning sage.
Last June, DAREarts was invited to participate in a year-end workshop that celebrated the students’ knowledge of their own culture, their own world view and how they could convey those gifts to people outside of their school and community. Former Marten Falls First Nation teacher Caitland Harding, who had been with us during the creation of spoken word poem “The Land Speaks,” and now was working in Southern Ontario, recommended DAREarts to Karl King, the school’s Cultural Coordinator. The Grade five and six students enthusiastically wrote, story boarded, filmed and musically scored the fifteen minute video about the Four Directions, Seven Sacred Teachings and the DAREarts Values (Discipline, Action, Responsibility and Excellence)
Karl King: “I thought the week was a fantastic experience for the students. I especially enjoyed seeing their creativity, artistry, hard work, vision, and sense of adventure as the project unfolded. I saw great leadership from several children and although I had seen glimpses of these qualities before, they were magnified and majestically put on display through the process. The World Premiere was incredible. I can honestly say that it was one of the proudest moments of my 16 year career. I am convinced that all 21 students will remember this for the rest of their lives.”
Peter Elliott, videographer, editor and documentary maker (Brebeuf, The Hermit of White Otter Lake, Fill My Hollow Bones, Save My Pet, Cold Water Cowboys) had produced a camera angle tutorial video that incorporates the works of students from Attawapiskat and Webequie First Nations. throughout the week, the Anishnaabe students from Southern Ontario sampled the video projects that previous kids had made, and observed differenced and similarities between themselves and “distant cousins” from up North (Webequie, Attawapiskat and Marten Falls First Nations) and the Atlantic Region (Shubenacadie First Nation, Nova Scotia).
Cathy Elliott, multi-disciplined artist and educator, led the students through the process of creating a film script to support their poems, exploring camera acting techniques and recorded sound effects for the original score for the film. “This was a wonderful experience for me, too. These kids are ready and hungry for ways to express themselves in a positive way. They greeted DAREarts with open arms, and they will be with me in my heart forever.”
Four Legends emerged from the short week’s explorations. They incorporated Anishnaabe teachings and legends, which were mixed with the children’s own contemporary interpretation of their world view. The result is a beautiful, funny and touching film that speaks with the children’s voices throughout and incorporates four stories that rests on Anisnaabewin world views and lessons about being a DAREarts Leader.
This school asked us to join them, and the minute we walked in the door, smelled that sage and met the children, we knew we were in for a terrific time. The kids are open, polite, curious, talkative and energetic. We didn’t ever feel a lag in the day, which offered a generous amount of time. The school gave us the entire day, which meant that we didn’t have to rush things and could complete tasks without sacrificing excellence and learning. We had an opening Circle with the entire school on the Monday. Our private smudge and Circle, was filled with questions, ideas, reflections and projections every morning following. We never ever doubted that this would be a successful week. The teachers supported and trusted us enthusiastically, even when it looked like “controlled chaos” was becoming the norm.
Peter and I want to thank the community of New Credit for this welcoming. We laughed with the kids and teachers a lot this week, and we hope to enjoy another visit, soon. The project was paid for by the community and the budget took up almost a third of the school’s entire fiscal year. It’s heartening to note that culture and art are so valued by a school, even in these hard times. When other First Nation schools are held together by little more than sheer will and limited financial support, with few resources to teach their kids about their culture and arts, schools like Lloyd S. King are, sadly, anomalies. With New Credit is stepping up, DAREarts is allowed to use precious resources to help finance other FNMI schools for arts and empowerment programs.
I can’t stress enough how these programs change lives. The kids, their teachers, parents, elders and siblings are all impacted positively by hope and empowerment through the arts. Gitchi Miigwetch to teachers Karl, Catherine and Caitland for giving us this opportunity.