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Indigenous youth find voice in music video
Performing in front of an audience is becoming a regular occurrence for ten youth from the Kawacatoose First Nation.
“I like being on stage because it’s fun and it makes me feel good about myself,” said Rhiannon Dustyhorn.
“It was a little scary but you know I got into it,” added Xander Geddes.
Call it a chance of a lifetime. Youth from Kawacatoose were given the opportunity to write, produce, record and perform their very own song.
“Our school was put in a draw and we were picked at a conference at Treaty 4 Alliance last May,” said Brenda Favel, an educator of Asiniw-Kisik Education Complex.
“It was a long process and it took them a weekend to put their song together, 8 to 10 hours a day, the students worked here at the school to develop their own song. It talks about their own experiences, their own lives. They did a very good job and I’m so very proud of them.”
They were mentored by N’we Jinan, a non-profit organization that brings a mobile recording studio and gives youths a chance to express themselves through music, under the guidance of a professional music producer.
“We did our lyrics the first day, the second day we did the recording, the third day we did the video and the fourth day was when the school and all the kids got to be in the video,” said Dakota Whiteman.
“It was fun and a dream come true. I always wanted to be in a music video. I got my wish answered and I’m glad it happened,” added Kellie Littletent.
Their song, “Many Paths,” is personal and it explains the challenges of living on a First Nation: bullying, drugs and alcohol, lack of opportunities on reserve and growing up without culture. While they are tough topics to talk about, the song also provides messages of hope and healing through culture and ceremony.
“Our young ones feel so unheard because like the older people talk over our young people. I think other youth feel the same way,” added Arika Littletent.
“When we heard the song for the first time I think we just about cried, all of us, all the staff, the song really touches your heart. A lot of students are dealing with personal issues and we made it possible for them to talk to an elder or a councilor just to deal with the things they talked about in the song,” added Favel.
The music video on YouTube has been viewed more than 11,000 times and their song is resonating with the country, as the youth have now done eight public performances with more in the future, including one in Vancouver.
David Hodges is the executive director of N’we Jinan and says music programs helped him get through high school and all youth should have that same opportunity. He says many First Nations across the country have limited resources for education and music programs are usually the first to be cut.
“There are a lot of kids and youth that don’t feel that kind of support and they’re feeling stuck so this is allowing them to kind of express themselves they want to express themselves and that’s usually why these N'we Jinan music videos speak to people specifically,” said Hodges.
Favel was one of many educators who helped organize the first ever Asiniw-Kisik Education Complex youth expo. She says its important to recognize the youth for their many gifts in arts, sports and education.
“I don’t want anybody saying we have bad kids. I wanted to prove that we have great kids in our community. We have a lot of talent. I just love working with kids and I’m so proud of them,” added Favel.
The N’we Jinan youth all said they want to continue their education and continue being a role model for youth on the First Nation. Their message to other youth is one that many can relate to.
“Never stop, follow your dreams,” said Nathaniel Poorman.
“Stay in school, keep your head up,” added Emery Desjarlais.
“Many Paths” is just one of more than 30 songs N’we Jinan has produced with First Nations across the country.