Written by Glenn Marais, DAREarts Musician-Educator
The week in Marten Falls started slowly with students reluctant to sit in our circle from a combination of shyness coupled with an unfamiliarity with our program. Discipline, Action, Respect and Excellence blended with Traditional Teachings are the corner posts of DAREarts and we center all of our arts activities and leadership skills around these core values. As we became familiar with the community and students, our level of understanding increased exponentially and our relationship with the students deepened as they bought in more and more every day. Together, we worked incredibly hard on a challenging art project, constructing a bear out of water bottles and tubing that was massive in size and dimension. So big it took three people to get it to move, two in the body and one for the head, which was independent of the body. In addition, community members and students painted a large canvas of bears, all done in First Nations style. Several tracks of music were created, as well as a rap song and an original song titled “Makwa Obwoo Momun”. All this work created a common purpose amongst the teachers, community members, students and us. Some of the students have incredibly difficult lives and are dealing with residual effects of abuse and neglect. The community show was incidental to the experience of creating it; the measurable pride the kids showed in performing for their community was tremendously gratifying and our collective memories will live with us forever.
Early on Monday, after this exhilarating, incredibly emotional week in Marten Falls, we arrived exhausted in Webequie. We were picked up by Morris, the school caretaker, who dropped our supplies at the school and took us to our lodging for the week. We were all short of bedding and I was missing a bed; however this community can pull together and get things done fast, so by the afternoon, we had bedding and I had a bed! Unlike Marten Falls where we all stayed together at a Bed and Breakfast, here we would be staying at different teacher’s homes. The weather was very rainy and cold and the roads were a muddy bog. The environment, coupled with our fatigue and separation, put us all into a funk of fatigue and low energy. After a hearty meal, we all felt better and went to bed early to get ready for our first day.
We noticed right away on the first day that the students here, Gr 7/8, were more animated and quicker to join in for drama games and movement. The week here has been incredibly emotional. Webequie is home in so many ways and DAREarts is like a brand name up here. All you have to do is mention DAREarts and you are greeted by knowing nods and smiles. Re-connecting with former students, elders and friends has elevated everyone’s spirits to a euphoric level. On Wednesday, Laura, Kaitlyn and I participated in a sweat lodge ceremony run by Bob Wabasse. We all felt that there was a purpose and a need for us to attend the sweat. Bob took his time and explained it all to us and we did two rounds of healing prayer and songs in the dark and steam-driven heat of the lodge. It was incredible. We all felt renewed, cleansed and invigorated. Our emotions are open and we feel deeply connected to this land, these people we call friends who feel like family and our sense of purpose and dreams for our students.
As Bob told us, when you live with honesty, truth and share your life, you will be connected to the creator and the universe. This is how we feel at this moment. Very connected to a special light and love that can only come from good hearted people, coming together.
Our song is called Mashkwe Seewin Maa Moe
We understand it more now than ever.
Sunday is the community show. 40 youths showed up last night! There is much work to do, but our hearts feel lightened and carried by many hands. We know that whatever happens in the show is only a small part of our journey. The realizations and shared experiences we have had are beyond measure. They exist between the stars, under the moon and across the Albany River, over Lake Winisk and down the same road that we choose to walk in harmony with our First Nations Family. We are blessed with so much love.
To our First Nations brothers and sisters
Thank you for your gifts
– Glenn for the DAREarts team
DAREarts is a charity that empowers young at-risk Canadians aged 9 to 19 to ignite change as leaders. Visit darearts.com to learn more. DAREarts ‘First Roots’ program partners with First Nations to work alongside youths, local artists and elders and, together, address challenges such as school absenteeism, hopelessness and suicide.
DAREarts’ “Spirit Bear” project’s education partner is The Stratford Festival. PROJECT SUPPORTERS: Province of Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture & Sport; Ontario150; Northbridge Insurance; Anne Livingston; David & Teresa Thomas; Noront Resources; The Paul Semple Award; Allan Drive Middle School; Streetsville Secondary School