– from the desk of Cathy Elliott, DAREarts First Roots Communications & Program Associate On November 26th, DAREarts was invited by the Chiefs of Ontario to showcase the artwork of Aboriginal youth at their ‘Honouring our Leaders’ Gala. Noront Resources generously donated “air-time” by flying the youths’ artwork from Webequie and Marten Falls for this honour. The artwork had been created in DAREarts workshops in the communities, guided by community teachers and Elders. DAREarts Founder, Marilyn Field, and DAREarts ‘First Roots’ Program Associate, Cathy Elliott, were there to answer questions. Marilyn Field offered, “We humbly appreciate this honour of the COO to represent their youths’ accomplishments at this event through DAREarts.” DAREarts First Roots proudly displayed dozens of paintings, art cards, mittens, earrings, moccasins and a drum to the Chiefs and other guests, including Susan Aklukark, Ontario Premier, Kathleen Wynne, Ontario Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, David Zimmer, and Keynote Speaker, John Ralston Saul. Too often, the arts are designated as either an extravagant perk or a waste of time and money. Sports are touted as the “savior” for kids in Canada’s Indigenous communities; but it is the arts that reconnect them with their own cultures, languages and inner spirit. DAREarts is grateful for the invitations from numerous First Nations to highlight arts education and FNMI cultures. Over the past seven years, DAREarts has been talking with educators, band members, parents and chiefs regarding our First Nations, Metis and Inuit children and youth. Much has been said about the lack of arts in the schools, and the disparity between on- reserve schools and mainstream urban schools. We talked a great deal about decolonizing our schools and communities. We as Canadians need to remember that there is a history that needs to be taught in all Canadian schools, one that involves everyone’s past. We are all Treaty people. We all owe gratitude to Turtle Island’s warriors, artists, leaders and mothers. Honouree Chief Charles Fox said, “…our achievement is a collective achievement.” We as Canadians need to remember that there is a relevance to our first cultures, and that relevance has a huge influence on how we all think, work and process as a nation in the world theatre. Honouree Chief Angus Toulouse said, “We must continue to ensure our languages remain strong and allows us to share the richness of our stories and our challenges.” We as Canadians need to remember that there is a different way of teaching besides the European model. It isn’t that long ago that kids learned by doing, that Elders and parents taught by working with their kids with their hands and hearts, and that process is heavily reliant on skills developed through the arts. Our chiefs reminded us that we’ve been burdened with the necessity to educate and produce Indigenous lawyers to fight for us. They sat with big business, provincial and federal governments, the media and their own people to fight for our people and land. There is a sea–change in the way the courts and government are working with us as sovereign nations. John Ralston Saul, in his keynote speech said, “Canada is defined by our Aboriginal artists around the world. Isn’t that a wonderful thing? … We now have enough lawyers. Where are all the doctors? It’s time to encourage our youth to pursue careers in other areas. Communication. Engineering. Sciences. Medicine. Areas where they can excel, become prosperous and lead the way for Canada’s future. It’s time to change the narrative … an astonishing victory of the imagination is that most ideas of who we [Canadians] are includes Aboriginal.” Chiefs Of Ontario honouree Chief Wally McKay quoted a Chinese proverb “May you live in changing times” and finished his speech with a prediction, “Yes, our future is bright.” Our future is bright. That future is being realized by the youth coming out of reserves and urban centres who envision how they want to create their world, and how to lead the way to that brighter future. But they need our support. We are ‘DAREing’ our young FNMI people to forge ahead and become leaders. They still have the weight of previous generations on their shoulders, asking them to heal their nations and fight the fight for sovereignty of Indigenous Peoples. They’re being asked to stand up for the Environment, their Treaty rights, their future. We know they can meet the challenge, but they need the tools to do so. How do the arts deliver those tools? DAREarts has been learning over almost two decades: long enough to observe and practice what works. We’ve understood from the beginning that a cultural link to children’s development and wellness is critical. Self-identity is expressed in positive and negative ways. We explore the positive. We remember that our Elders taught us how to think on our feet. We remember that we have Knowledge Keepers who must be honoured and invited to engaged with our children. We know that by ensuring that all Canadians understand our collective and individual histories, culture and teachings, we can create a good place to live. It’s not just building bridges, it’s recognizing that those bridges already exist, and learning how to strengthen them. We are heartened to see mainstream schools recognizing the contributions and sacrifices our parents, grandparents and ancestors made for Canada. Our schools are already experiencing that Chinese proverb. These are changing times, and they are exciting. Miigwetch, Meegwetch, Niá:wen, to the Chiefs Of Ontario for inviting DAREarts to this important event. For us, the honour of listening to the Chiefs, the First Nations Women’s Caucus and the youth is deeply appreciated.