DAREarts Blog

Discipline, Action, Responsibility, Excellence

Leave a comment

DAREarts Atlantic Youth draw inspiration from Mi’kmaw Heroes

Written by DAREarts Atlantic Coordinator & Lead Teacher, Trish Gibbon.

DAREarts Atlantic participants gathered with families on Monday, June 19th for their Showcase at Alderney Landing that celebrated their accomplishments in DAREarts this year.  DAREarts is in its third year in Atlantic Canada. This year’s program was inspired by the life of Dr. Jerry Lonecloud, a Mi’kmaq Medicine Man who was a leader of many who shared stories, oral histories and artifacts of Mi’kmaw culture with local museums before his passing in 1930.  Dr. Lonecloud’s sharing is the reason we have access to so much history of the Mi’kmaq people today at the Museum of Natural History in Halifax.  It is this spirit of sharing stories that inspired our program this year.

In October 2016, students first considered their own lives and what their life story might be one day. They thought about their interests, talents and dreams. They then responded to questions about what the DARE values – Discipline, Action, Responsibility and Excellence – mean to them personally, and shared all of these responses in accordion-style books. This was the start of reflecting on and sharing their own personal stories with each other and then with the larger community on display at the showcase.

Renowned Mi’kmaw artist, author and musician Dr. Alan Syliboy worked with us again this year.  He shared his own passion for storytelling via his paintings, drawings, animations, music and published book. Alan was himself inspired by Dr. Lonecloud and had created a series of Lonecloud portrait prints. These in turn inspired the students to draw their own pencil portraits of Dr. Lonecloud! Alan spoke eloquently about his memories of Lonecloud and how his own band, called Lonecloud, was named after the famous medicine man.  Alan sees music as medicine. He believes wholeheartedly in the power of the arts as a healing tool. Dr. Syliboy shared some techniques with the students to help them create successful portraits and paintings. The students loved creating their incredibly creative visual art with Alan.

DAREarts’ drama team challenged the students to consider elements of a story and how we develop characters.  Ross Unger, Gina Thornhill and Dane Fader led them in a collaborative drawing activity that morphed into drama games that morphed into the students considering the myriad character traits that make up personality and how that impacts who a person is and what they do in their daily lives. Each student created their own ‘character’ inspired by the day’s events and shared these with one another in an interviewing game.  The students then reflected on their own “character traits” and recorded them in their accordion books.

Shalan Joudry is a Mi’kmaw poet, musician, storyteller, author and performer. The students learned a great deal as Shalan shared stories through music, dance and in the oral storytelling tradition. The Friendship Song will forever be on replay in our heads; our students enjoyed sharing this beautiful song alongside Shalan at their showcase.

On her second day with DAREarts, Shalan led a workshop in oral storytelling that involved having the students create their own stories using visualization. Shalan asked students to close their eyes and bring to mind a very bad day, then their favourite place, a helping animal, etc. She then helped the students connect these stories to the characters they had developed earlier; they envisioned overcoming their very bad day by receiving a helpful character trait “gift” from their character. This then linked to Dr. Jerry Lonecloud as a healer.  The students practiced their leadership by sharing their stories with one another and re-telling each other’s stories using words and actions.

Each student created an acrylic painting on raw canvas. They each chose an image to paint that had been part of our workshops: from storytelling with Shalan, character and drama work with our drama team, or visual arts with Alan. Their paintings were a way of reflecting on and then sharing a piece of their own DAREarts story with others.

Our time together culminated in the students adopting a leadership role and sharing all that they had learned and accomplished in DAREarts with younger children in their schools.  They brainstormed, created and presented with poise and confidence. We are so very proud of them.

Many thanks to our local Mi’kmaw heroes: Dr. Alan Syliboy, Shalan Joudry, and our team of talented artists: Ross Unger, Gina Thornhill and Dane Fader.

Also my deep and sincere thanks to our DAREarts school teachers Chelsea Pottinger, Sarah Englehutt and Paulette O’Connor who were keen to offer DAREarts to their students despite the political unrest in our provincial education system.

Thank you also to Katie McDonald who helped with setting up for our Showcase and took pictures and videos the night of the event.  Thanks to Alderney Landing for hosting us for our Showcase.

Artist Alan Syliboy says, “By exploring Mi’kmaw culture together, the children are building a lasting empathy for each other.  By creating together, they are becoming leaders who can themselves ignite change.”

DAREarts Atlantic thanks its key supporters for making this program possible: The McCain Foundation, Northbridge Insurance, Scotiabank, RBC Foundation, and TD Bank Group.


Leave a comment

DAREarts Atlantic 2015: Mi’kmaq Culture Empowers Youth Achievement

Alan Syliboy with the students of St. Joseph’s A. McKay ES. Photo by Trish Gibbon.

Thanks to our supporters The McCain Foundation, Northbridge Insurance, Scotiabank, and RBC Foundation, October has been an inspiring Mi’kmaq Heritage Month for nearly 100 grade six children from three Nova Scotian schools; they’ve been “dared” to step out of their comfort zones and to entrench themselves in a world of arts and culture.

The students from Astral Drive ES, Riverside EC, and St. Joseph’s A. McKay ES each spent a week with DAREarts’ Atlantic Team, consisting of Lead Teachers Laura MacKinnon and Trish Gibbon, plus artist-educators Alan Syliboy, Henri Gielis, Alexis Milligan, and June Zinck.

Every workshop was filled to the brim with team-building, inspiration, connection and reflection. Each class started their week by meeting renowned local Mi’kmaq artist Alan Syliboy, who introduced the children to his animation Little Thunder, inspired by Mi’kmaq legends and petroglyphs. He emphasized the importance of storytelling and learning from one’s elders, a theme that was woven throughout the week. Afterward, the classes began the inward journey of creating their very own characters, guided by the DARE values of Discipline, Action, Responsibility, and Excellence.

DAREarts Atlantic Lead Teacher, Trish Gibbon, instructed the students in the use of acrylic paint on canvas as they created their own petroglyphic-style characters – personal “superheroes” that embodied an important life lesson. School staff and our team were astounded by the final pieces, as vivid colours and unique characters boldly leapt from each canvas. Prior to DAREarts these students had minimal access to the arts at school.

Once the paintings were completed, the students formed groups and were asked to consider the following question: If you had discovered these paintings in a cave, what story would they tell? What life lessons can be learned?

The grade sixes at Riverside EC proudly showcase their paintings. Photo by Trish Gibbon.

The grade sixes at Riverside EC proudly showcase their paintings. Photo by Trish Gibbon.

Story creation led to drama, as each group was asked to project their ideas into tableaux, transforming concepts into motions and gestures. This was an incredible accomplishment for many of the students, as focus was difficult at times. However, within minutes the whole class was eager to demonstrate their carefully crafted tableaux stories. Artist-educators Henri Gielis, Alexis Milligan and June Zinck used their theatrical knowledge to guide the students through the creative process with great energy and enthusiasm.

The workshops invited the students to explore culture and identity, as well as find positive means to express themselves and interact through their creative works.   For one of our schools, the camaraderie and improved behaviour of the students allowed them to share their art and tableaux in their first school-wide assembly of the year, previously not possible due to the amount of violence in the school.

The students from Astral Drive ES. Photo by Laura MacKinnon.

The students from Astral Drive ES. Photo by Laura MacKinnon.

Using the arts as a positive outlet has already improved the lives of these students dramatically, and will continue to help them achieve success in their growth as young leaders.

Students from St. Joseph's A. McKay celebrate their hard work at the DAREarts Atlantic Showcase. Photo by Michelle Doucette.

Students from St. Joseph’s A. McKay celebrate their hard work at the DAREarts Atlantic Showcase. Photo by Michelle Doucette.

On Wednesday, October 28th, the DAREarts Atlantic Showcase took place at the Alderney Landing Centre to celebrate the achievements of these dedicated young artists. It was fitting that the reception space was circular, as we welcomed close to 100 teachers, parents, community members and media into the room to celebrate as a newly-formed DAREarts community. Every guest that arrived paused in the doorway, looking in awe at the impressive, colourful collection of work. If the talent, potential and commitment of these young artists and leaders was in doubt before, it vanished as each guest entered the room. For the students, seeing their artwork hung with care in a space outside of school for celebration and public recognition was transformative. Their confidence and pride soared – qualities that will stay with them long after the event is over.

Mi’kmaq artist and mentor Alan Syliboy was present and spoke with the students and their families, emphasizing how impressed he was with the quality of the paintings and with the students’ commitment. In his public remarks, he spoke about the importance of the arts in nourishing young lives and how glad he is to be part of DAREarts Atlantic. The students were overjoyed that Alan was there to celebrate their achievements alongside them, as his artwork and encouraging presence was a constant source of inspiration throughout the project. His recently published book, The Thundermaker, was also on display and many students went home with this treasured reminder of the power of the arts, storytelling and leadership.

We would like to thank all of our supporters, volunteers, and the staff at each school who made this year’s program a resounding success.

The DAREarts Atlantic Team. Photo by Michelle Doucette.

The DAREarts Atlantic Team. Photo by Michelle Doucette.

Leave a comment

Excellence is Earned – a Lesson Learned


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.

Cathy’s note:

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.

Leave a comment

DAREarts Atlantic – 4Directions1Circle

Two communities create a body of work that inspires and teaches.


First off, we couldn’t have done this project without the financial support of our Lead Sponsor Northbridge Insurance, Atlantic Region Sponsor Scotiabank and Project Supporter RBC Foundation.

When we were planning this project, we asked Chief Rufus Copage who he thought would be a good collaborator with L’nu Sipuk Kina’muokuom (LSK) in  his community of Sipikne’katik (Shubenacadie First Nation). He told us about the Riverside Educational Centre in Milford. We contacted Principal Michael Topshee, who enthusiastically helped us with logistical challenges such as scheduling, location and student transportation.

This year, the Circle was LARGE! The 50+ students involved were from grade 4 to 8, Mi’kmaq and non-Aboriginal. They all wanted to be involved and they all found a special niche for themselves. Since they were exposed to multiple disciplines, they were able to find their own passion, whether it was building the puppets, painting their characters’ images, creating the stories and poems, blocking the scenes, singing on the sound tracks, photographing and filming. Some showed extra initiative, volunteering to narrate the show, direct the younger students, and help the younger ones with their puppets.

The story was structured around four directions, seven teachings and the DAREarts principals of Discipline, Action, Responsibility and Excellence. The younger students took on East and South, and the older students tackled West and North. In the Mi’kmaq “Wheel,” There are three additional Directions: Sky, Earth and Self. The entire group explored these additional directions through their paintings, their teamwork, self-expression and reflection.  The stories were complex, as were the characters, which looked eerily like Syliboy’s Petroglyph-inspired figures and lent themselves beautifully to the hose-construction shadow puppets. The resulting program took us through the seasons, from one direction to the next in a remarkably seamless story, given that the two schools were working independently of each other. To see a short video of the production, please visit 4Directions1Circle


The mix of cultures, ages and communities was a potent one, magical, dramatic and thoughtful. The audience loved the atmosphere, especially the visitors from the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board, First Nations Cultural Services and the IWK Health Centre for Pediatric Pain Research. What we were achieving with these kids may have a broader reach for purposes beyond traditional learning. It may also have healing properties. A very welcoming idea; proving once again that DAREarts and arts education enrich and, indeed, save lives.

IMG_3982.JPGAlan Syliboy’s contribution, as it was in year one of DAREarts in the Atlantic region, was stellar. He inspired the kids to look deep into themselves, out at the world and across cultural boundaries to find their stories and images. The students were charmed by his paintings, and the NFB video “Little Thunder,” influenced them greatly. And it wasn’t just the students who were star-struck. We had several visits by teachers, who wanted to see what we were doing and tell Alan how enamoured they were of his paintings and films.  If the children didn’t know how famous he is when they first met him, they surely do now, and rightly so. He is Nova Scotia’s artistic jewel. He is a Canadian treasure, and we are so grateful that we had the opportunity to work with him and learn from him.

IMG_3883.JPGAnother gift: newly appointed DAREarts Atlantic Teacher Trish Gibbon joined us for the first time this year. She helped with the organization of the two schools, provided activities and logistical solutions for the two schools. The students love her, and we do too.

We’d  like to acknowledge the donation of project supplies from Halifax Home Depot. The donation of Aeroplan Miles enabled DAREarts Aboriginal Lead and  Mi’kmaq Artist Cathy Elliott to fly to Nova Scotia. To donate your Aeoplan miles, hit the button below and follow the DAREarts Goose!


 Our Lead Atlantic Sponsors: northbridge-insurance-horizontal-positive-BW






1 Comment

Melkikno’ti, Shubenacadie!

Indian Brook DAREarts Students Pass the Torch of Courage

girl dancing, drummers copy Last year, DAREarts visited the village of Indian Brook in the Shubenacadie First Nation, Nova Scotia. As I fly through turbulence on my way back from our yearly second visit, I am revisited by memories of that  first visit.  It’s my own Rez.  There is a need there. For arts.  Shubenacadie, like the other Aboriginal communities I’ve flown to, loves her children.  There are issues to address; poverty, isolation, limited job opportunities and the lingering effects of the Residential School System, which ravaged generational relationships and cause so much pain and misery. These communities have been working very hard to overcome those effects and heal themselves, primarily for the good of their children and the next seven generations.  I personally have a stake in this community.  I didn’t grow up there.  I didn’t have to deal with the racism and added struggles that my grandfather and mother did.  I had a pretty good go at life, and it’s such a gift to be able to give back through DAREarts. That gratitude goes to the people I work with, and to the teachers and parents who have invited DAREarts into their lives.  They’ve trusted us with their precious children, and we are so honoured to have had this opportunity. I know, cue the violins. No. Cue the guitars. And drums. And voices. And cameras.

kids in class bw These kids have a school of their own, in their own community.  Indian Brook saw the need for a culturally sensitive and nurturing learning environment for their kids.  Someday, we won’t need that.  Some day, in generations to come, we will see a stronger bridging between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal kids, and classrooms will reflect the contributions that First Nations have made to the fabric of Canada. I had asked the students last year, do you want to write something that’s reflective or instructive? They unanimously declared they wanted to teach.

We wrote a song called Melkikno’ti, which means, Courage and Strength.

Okay. So we started with our “word tree” and started nurturing a root ball that would support their idea.  They were prolific with their words and images.  The branches grew and the phrases started to form. In a few days we had a song, which was accompanied by the Millbrook based award winning band, Lone Cloud, with world renowned visual artist and band leader Alan Syliboy. Two grade 7 girls, (shy shy shy) recorded the lead along with me on a track and, after a record breaking learning curve, agreed to sing the song on stage. The recording was “Karaoke’d” and now anyone can sing along with them. Some of the kids who wrote that song were with us this year.

“This is the song WE wrote!”

It takes courage just to stand, for the Warrior to dance.

In our opening Circle, Elder Sack joined us and conducted a Smudge Ceremony to send us on in a good way. I explained to them that the students the year before had lit a flame, and they were the torch-bearers for future generations and the community at large.  The rally cry, “Pass the Torch!” greeted me every day.  They took the DARE and ran with it. In four days, the grades four, five and six classes memorized the song, They had the online karaoke to help them. They storyboarded and shot the video for their song.

The teachers, having worked with us last year, started the warm up themselves. Linda Carson had introduced “zip,zap,zop!” and the kids showed each other how the game went. Thanks, Linda! We were joined by free-lance journalist and videographer Trina Roache, who brought her experience as camera person and documentary maker with CBC radio and APTN.

We broke up in four teams and they filled in the shot list on a beautiful, sunny day.  The kids listened to our instructions and carried them through. They treated each other and the cameras with respect. They called up their inner responsibility to work in an efficient manner. Shot of a graveyard – check!  Shot of a boy grass dancing in a field and a girl watching him – check! They kept asking, “Can we sing the song again?” and we sang it.  Each pass became more assured.Their favorite line was, “Melkikno’ti, you can see it in your Mama’s eyes!”

It takes courage just to be.


Mi’kmaw legend has it that Kluskap (the man made from nothing) was given the gift of fire by gathering the sparks left from his creation by lightning, when he was formed out of the earth of Eastern Canada.  He carried that flame with him all over Turtle Island and gave that gift to the other creatures. Inspiration. Progress. Healing. That sacred torch has a significant meaning here in Mi’kmaqi. The kids from last year passed our kids the torch of music.  This year, they passed it on to the younger kids in the school and their parents and teachers through their singing and video images.

LSK Video Creators copy

It was great to see Chief Rufus Copage take time out of his crazy schedule to come to the school and support the students on their Friday afternoon offering to their peers and parents.  He would love to have a full time arts program in his community, but other priorities take precedence over paint and music lessons.  He saw the value of the critical thinking, collaboration and self esteem building of our program.  He asked for a copy of the video to be shown at his Chief’s gathering, to spread the word to other communities. He also saw how empowering the video could be for the adults in Indian Brook. How the pride in the children’s’ accomplishments would inspire them.  Where there are pressing infrastructural challenges, the arts tend to get lost in the shuffle.  He talked to me about priorities and treaties and shifts in constitutional law.  He spoke about economic changes that are going on in Indian Brook.  When he found out what we were doing, he changed an appointment and came to the school to see for himself. This is a man who reads to the kindergarten kids as often as he can.  He represents the desire of the community for change that affects its children.

“I didn’t know you could grass dance like that…”

I stood with twenty-five little artists who sang their hearts out as their voices reached the grade eight students who came to see what their little brothers and sisters were doing. In their final circle, after I passed out our certificates of participation, I asked them what they learned about each other. “I didn’t know he could grass dance like that.” “I didn’t know we could learn a song that fast.” “I didn’t know she could sing like that.” The teachers spoke to them: “This is something you’ll have for the rest of your lives.  You really didn’t know each other this well before.  Now, you’re going to have a strong tie to each other.  You’ve shown each other so much respect, and years from now, you’ll remember this. What a great way to start off your camping trip next week!” They gave me a cake.  A beautiful, white cake.

Cathy takes the cake Later that day, I packed up the car, said my “see you laters” to the office staff and teachers, and remembered I had left my cake up in the class room.  I went back up and peeked through the window in the door.  They had moved on.  I was forgotten.  I felt a little pang of pain, thinking, “well, that’s that then.” I knocked on the door and they saw me come in.  “You need your cake!”  Then, as if struck by a bolt of lightning, they moved en masse and gave me the best group hug ever.  Twenty-five kids crowded me and almost knocked me off my feet. The tears welled up in me.  They got me! I’ve seen those tears in my teachers’ eyes, long ago.  When, in class, we surprised our teacher with a song, or a gift or just a thank you.  Now I know how that feels, and I guess I’ve had it all. Wela’lin, L’nu Si’puk Kina’muokuom for this wonderful gift!

See the video on YouTube! 

Airport office

Cathy Elliott, Dir of Communications and DAREarts First Roots Aboriginal Program Leader. celliott@darearts.com

Leave a comment

A Guest Post from Aboriginal Artist Cathy Elliott…

On Songs and Voices
Reflections on Shubenacadie by Cathy Elliott

I’ve always prided myself on being a good songwriter since I was thirteen.

My experience of being shown a good way to use my energy and creativity to change my future isn’t unlike that of the kids I meet in places like Ogoki Post, Webequie, Pelican Falls, Indian Brook and the reservations on Prince Edward Island.

Teens need to feel they’re making a difference in their lives. They need to explore how the world works, and some times that exploration can take them down roads that are unhealthy and dangerous. Whenever we show them that they have a voice, a way to empower themselves and others through the arts, they’re so surprised.

When I was a kid, I was always the new kid in school. A little odd. I could draw, and instead of that being something that brought me closer to the other girls in school, it isolated me and alienated them. “you think you’re so smart”. The teachers loved me but the bullies did not.

Thing was, one day, an older student saw this happening, and stepped up.

She simply said to me, “Come to my place for supper. I know what you’re going through. I was teased because of my height.” At her place, she handed me a guitar, showed me three chords and left me alone with it.

That guitar opened up a whole new world for me. At last I had a way to empower myself and others! I started writing about love, life and peace.

I tell you this story because it’s the one I told the kids in Indian Brook. They were afraid to sing. One of the girls said she loves to sing but never never never in front of other people. I also told them that the first song I was ASKED to write I sang on the intercom to the entire school.

I felt safe because I couldn’t see the people out there. But when I walked out of the Principal’s office, those same bullies came up to me and said they loved my voice and my song.

After that, my life changed. Really changed. I sang in concerts, on tv, in plays, in front of the students I love.

The girls said, okay. We’ll sing behind the shadow screen. That was the plan.

The day came, and the song we all wrote was called “Courage”. ( in Mi’kmaq. It’s Melkiko’ti) When we were brainstorming, I asked the class what point of view they wanted, and if this was a song to sing to themselves or to others. The class chose to empower others with their song instead of reassuring themselves.

These two young ladies were just about to prove how courageous they could be.

We all did the Shadow Puppet play called “The Nothing Man”, about a brave boy and his friendship with a Big Foot from the Yukon called Nuk- Luk. That went over beautifully, and as Alan Syliboy and his band waited, we got ready to sing our song. The girls complained that they

couldn’t hear their voices over the system. I told them there were

two live mics in FRONT of the screen, and after a few seconds, they took a big breath and said, “Okay. Let’s do it. But can we just stay off to the side?”

I said sure, but you have to hold my mic for me. We arranged ourselves and got started. They started singing with the band and me, and inched further and further out on the stage. They had such a great time, I said “Let’s do it again!” The audience had the lyric sheets in their hands, and in a leap of faith, the girls grabbed the mic stands and moved even FARTHER on stage! They asked if they could sing it alone. This time I didn’t sing at all. They led the audience!

I’m so happy this was all caught on video by one of our other

students from the audience. That moment will live with me forever.

After the show, the girls and I went to an activity room along with Alan, and recorded the song with them singing. They will, I hope, continue to persue singing and making their own music.

Keetra and Skye’s voices will be heard over the ShubieFM network and on Youtube. Their faces, as they concentrated, are caught on video and will be part of a short documentary. I have all the faith in the world that they will never forget their first time on the stage, in FRONT of their entire school. And that they’ll want that experience again.

And that some day, they’ll continue to empower themselves and others with their beautiful voices.

Leave a comment

DAREarts Expansion Program… to Indian Brook First Nation!

For the first time, DAREarts’ First Roots (“Nee-Tum-Ochi-Bek”) Program has expanded to the Maritimes! The students of LSK Indian Brook School in Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia, dedicated a week to working with the DAREarts team consisting of aboriginal artists Alan Syliboy, Cathy Elliott, and artist-teacher Linda Carson.


Photo courtesy Alan Syliboy

Working primarily with students from grades 7, 8, and 9, the focus of the week was Courage. The students quickly took up the DAREarts principles of Discipline, Action, Respect/Responsibility, and Excellence, along with the Seven Grandfather Teachings. With strong dedication and hard work, the students were very accomplished by the end of the week. In only five short days, two of which were snow days, the children started and finished their own paintings, made their own puppets, brainstormed their own collaborative story titled “The Nothing Man”, and wrote their own song, “MelKiknoti, Courage”. All of this was done on top of preparing for their own showcase performance at the end of the week.


Photo courtesy Alan Syliboy

Linda describes the shining moments of the children’s performance of “The Nothing Man”: “The actors and puppeteers took to the stage with total focus and concentration. Suddenly, all their hard work and the concept of what disciplined work can bring all made sense to them. With only one and a half hours of rehearsal under their belts, the students were amazing. Cathy’s narration set just the right tone for the audience to completely enjoy watching not only the shadows, but the students as they improvised and jumped into the action of the story. Everyone, including the students, was amazed at how fun the play was to watch and do. Linda was on the floor directing the students through their parts and she looked up to see 15 faces lit up by the projectors. Each face was full of life, excitement, surprise at the audience’s reaction to their work. Each student was fully aware of each other and their faces reflected the delight they were experiencing working together. It was a magical moment. The light shining towards the screen to make our shadows picking up faces full of delight along the way. The audience loved every minute of the play.”


Photo courtesy Alan Syliboy

Click here to read the story created by the students, “The Nothing Man”.


Photo courtesy Alan Syliboy

After the performance, the students and their teachers gathered for a final circle meeting with DAREarts. During this circle, one of their teachers stated “This week really opened up my eyes to the value of using the arts to help the students to learn. It also let me see my students in a whole new light and from a new perspective. I was really surprised at what some of my students could do and who they were.” Precious, a quiet student, gathered her Courage and approached Linda after the circle meeting to say “Thank you. Thank you for not giving up on us. Thank you for being here today. I really loved this whole week.”

LSK work with Alan Syliboy

Photo courtesy Alan Syliboy

MelKiknoti, Courage (Mell-giggin-oh-dee)

Sometimes it can be hard
Just to stand alone and sing
If you’re running for your life
And you’re scared of everything
Afraid to raise your voice
And afraid to take a chance
It takes courage just to stand
For the warrior to dance

Doesn’t matter if you’re strong
If you’re white or black or brown
It takes guts to face your fears
To raise your voice and stare them down
You’re not alone, you’re just like me
You can find it in your family
You can see it in your Mama’s eyes
Take a tiny step and realize
It takes Courage just to be.

Sometimes it can be rough
Just to tough it out and cope
When you’re running out of time
And you’re running out of hope
Afraid to make the leap
And afraid to say hello
It takes courage just to stand
For the child in you to grow


Snakes and spiders
Sticks and stones
Fear of hunger
Buried bones
Darkened houses
Basement floors
Open sewers
Slamming doors
Bats and bullies
Birds and heights
Leaving home and
Lonely nights


It takes Courage
Courage, Courage
It takes Courage just to be.


Photo courtesy Alan Syliboy