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Relearning the language PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mervin Brass   
Wednesday, 25 November 2015 16:47

Gyasi Ross lives on the Port Madison Indian Reservation near Seattle, Washington. Photo by Mervin BrassWhen Gyasi Ross left the reserve for the city he left behind his traditional Blackfeet language.

It wasn’t until he started working on songs with his powwow-singing cousin that he started to learn how to speak Blackfeet again.

Ross was the keynote speaker at the annual Language Keepers Conference in Saskatoon on Wednesday.

After his speech, people gathered around the charismatic storyteller, requesting autographs and thanking him for his message.

“We need each other for languages we have to work together,” Ross said following his speech. “People who speak our languages have a super power and that super power has to be communicated to those` of us that don’t, who have been disconnected from our culture. It has to be for the survival of our communities and our languages.”


The conference continues on Thursday with keynote speaker Zoe Hopkins, a fluent Mohawk language speaker.

Saskatchewan’s north embraces information technology PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mervin Brass   
Wednesday, 25 November 2015 16:42

Sean Devin, President of SaskTel International, says a lot more First Nation people enter the IT industry for employment opportunities than they did three years ago. Photo by Mervin Brass

First Nations have become more comfortable with information technology in the last few years.

A conference at the University of Saskatchewan focused on the use of information technology to improve employment outcomes, community development and health care.

SaskTel’s Sean Devin says he’s really seen the IT industry grow in First Nation communities.

“One of the ones that’s actively on the go right now sponsored by eHealth is tele health. So it’s really providing video conferencing equipment in the First Nation communities and across all northern communities, this allows residents in the north to have access to physicians in major centres like Saskatoon and Regina.”

Devin says there are about 50 different northern communities that use tele-health.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 November 2015 16:46
Patuanak-area youth collaborate on new music video and album PDF Print E-mail
Written by Chelsea Laskowski   
Wednesday, 25 November 2015 14:20

A still shot from the music video Caught in the Storm. Photo courtesy David Hodges.

A group of young people from English River First Nation and surrounding reserves have a freshly-released music video that the whole community is proud of.

Some of their original songs are featured on the album “N’we Jinan The Gathering Volume II.” The album and music video for their song Caught in the Storm were officially released on Friday by the N'we Jinan music initiative.

The content all originated from English River’s youth leadership camp over the summer of 2014. English River, Beauval, and Flying Dust members took part in writing and performing the original song Caught in the Storm.

While the Montreal-based music mentors N’we Jinan were there to guide the creative process, it took the initiative of young people like Kacie Opekokew stepping up to write and perform the song.

The outspoken Opekokew, now 19, enjoys singing as a hobby.

"I decided to just go up there and have fun with it because it's a new experience and I'm always open to new things and after that everybody else just kind of joined in and I guess you could say we kind of just opened up after somebody took the first step,” she said.

Music mentor, David Hodges, said N’we Jinan started doing workshops about five years ago and has focused in on aboriginal youths for about two years.

“It sets up an environment where the youth are kind of, they’re actually eliminating these barriers in terms of creating environments for self-expression and building confidence,” he said.

He sets up a mobile studio and shows youths, like those at Patuanak in 2014, examples of the kind of work they’ll be producing by the end of the workshop.

One personal transformation at the three-day Patuanak workshop really stood out to Hodges. He said rapper Thomas Maurice, a 21-year-old from English River First Nation, came into his own.

“He really believed that he was always meant to do (it) and the fact that the opportunity was right there for him in that moment was so much for him to take, that just that in itself was already a challenge. And him performing in front of the microphone he was literally in tears doing it because he was just so overwhelmed with it,” Hodges said.

The song Caught in the Storm covers some pretty dark topics like alcoholism, but Hodges points out that storms are temporary and the song ended up putting a positive spin on life's struggles. The word “resilience” was a theme in the song.

"A lot of the times, words are the best way to really define emotions and define what kids are going through and then when you give them these songs once they're complete they realize they just came up with these ideas and they're all sort of ideas that came within then that that they've always had they just didn't realize it was there," Hodges said.

Opekekow said her family was impressed with the music video that was released on Friday, saying it's been a point of pride for her grandma.

"She was like, 'when I saw your video,’ she's like, ‘my mouth just dropped' and my grandpa said the same thing, and I'm just like 'really?' that kind of just gave me a little confidence boost,” Opekokow said.

Opekokew says it's easier to pursue life goals after doing projects like this.

She plans to get a degree to become a heart surgeon, and is currently in school.

To see more from the ERFN Leadership Camp, check out N'we Jinan's video here.

To see the full music video, follow this link.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 November 2015 14:28
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