A group of Lac La Croix youth were recognized for their N'we Jinan Artists - Firemakers video at the 15th annual Northwestern Ontario Aboriginal Youth Achievement and Recognition Awards.
“It’s been pretty cool — the support is quite amazing out here,” says Reo Walton, one of 10 Lac La Croix youth who were recognized with one of three Group Achievement awards during the May 1 awards ceremony at the Italian
Cultural Centre in Thunder Bay. “It’s amazing to know that people are finally starting to hear the message and understand the reality of the lives we live.”
The video was created by Walton and the other youth, including Anthony Boshey, Kierra Boshey-Martin, Ian Geyshick, Taison Geyshick, Cylie King, Kyson King, Kiera Ottertail, Madison Ottertail and Kaelyn Walton, with the assistance of the N'we Jinan Artists team.
“All of us pretty much threw out ideas,” Walton says. “It was quite cold that day (when we created the video), but the experience was pretty great.”
Madison Ottertail says it was a fun and amazing experience to work on the project.
“It took one day to write the song and one day to sing the song,” Ottertail says. “And then the last two days we filmed.”
Kiera Ottertail says everyone was “kind of shy” at the beginning of the project.
“But as we continued working, people started talking to each other,” Kiera says. “And we helped each other with the song and everything. It took a while but we got there.”
Taison Geyshick says it was an “amazing experience” working on the lyrics for the video.
“Also, filming the video was awesome,” Geyshick says. “We got to show the people the (video) locations on our reserve.”
Geyshick appreciated the reception that the video received when it was screened during the awards ceremony.
“It was so amazing when we went up on the stage and heard people cheering,” Geyshick says. “It was awesome.”
Kaelyn Walton enjoyed working on the project wth the other youth.
“I just liked coming together and working on it, sharing ideas,” Kaelyn says. “It was pretty cool meeting new people and making new friends.”
The Firemakers video is posted online at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=CANWLwrvt5g.
Andrew Kejick, a second-year Confederation College Native Child and Family Services Program student from Lac Seul, was recognized with one of five Sandra Kakeeway Cultural Awards during the awards ceremony.
“Sandra Kakeeway was a lady that actually helped me make my first regalia,” Kejick says. “When I found out that she had passed away, I put up my regalia for two years. Then eventually I started as a full-time drummer. Once we made our first CD in 2013, I got back into full-time dancing and I started to do contemporary dancing and I started to do competitions.”
Kejick says his first competition powwow was at Gull Bay about three years ago.
“I placed third,” Kejick says. “I (was) still learning though, at the time.”
Kejick says his path on the powwow trail was a “lifesaving experience.”
“It got me back into my schooling,” Kejick says. “I travelled to a lot of communities. It was a really good experience for me.”
Kejick appreciates being recognized with the Sandra Kakeeway Cultural Award.
“I’ve known her for so long, and I want to say thank you to her for what she has done for me,” Kejick says. “Because of her, that’s why I made my first regalia.”
The awards ceremony featured desserts made by Dennis Franklin Cromarty First Nations High School students and music by Earthling Collective.
“We try to speak about the problems that are going on in the community and kind of bridge the gap between what is happening here with the racial tensions and that nature,” says Benjamin Murray, a member of the Earthling Collective and a Sipekne’katik citizen. “I myself come from both sides of that spectrum, and I feel like if we kind of listen to each other we can get somewhere and hopefully rebuild the bridges.”
Jamie Labrador, another member of the Earthling Collective and an Eagle Lake citizen, says it was “awesome” to perform at the awards ceremony.
“I performed here a couple of times in the past when I was just trying to find my own sound as a solo artist,” Labrador says. “Now that I have this new group, this is kind of new for me. We touch on a lot of important community issues, usually (with) more of a hip-hop genre. It’s a really good way to get people listening because it is such a mainstream thing that people can really enjoy.”
Awards were presented to about 75 recipients in a range of categories, including Academic, Advocacy and Activism, Employment and Apprenticeship, Artistic, Athletic, Community Leadership and Volunteerism, Group Achievement, Heritage Keepers, Peer Mentorship, Personal Achievement, Recognition and Sandra Kakeeway Cultural Award categories.