Onkwehon:we Week in Review: April 6 2016

First spelling bee for First Nations kids held in Saskatchewan


On April 8, 2016, 148 Indigenous students from 21 different First Nations across Saskatchewan will be attending the first provincial spelling bee. This is the first such event held specifically for Indigenous students. Pauline Favel, teacher from Chief Poundmaker Cree First Nation located 190 kilometres north of Saskatoon said, “It’s been lots of hard work and fundraising but it is worth it!” The children have already been improving their spelling, comprehension and communication skills. Not only that, but their self esteem and confidence are increasing as well.  “If you look at socially disadvantaged backgrounds — some of our youth live with their grandparents, some may be in care — this is a time when they are going to shine,” continued Favel. The provincial spelling bee is happening as part of Spelling Bee Canada. The winning students will receive cash prizes and the opportunity to travel to Toronto for the national spelling bee competition on May 15, 2016. “We are doing something that’s positive for First Nations kids, positive for First Nations schools and we appreciate the support we are getting,” Favel said.


Inuit runners compete in Hawaiian marathon


A group of young adults from Salluit, Quebec have just returned from a life changing experience in Hilo, Hawaii. One of the runners, Luke Amamatuak, said, “I trained for like two months before the marathon, I just wanted to make my parents proud … I want to be a healthy young adult.” Amamatuak is 18 years old and is fluent in Inuktitut, English and French. As part of the Salluit Running Club, they trained in temperatures ranging from -40 C to -20 C. “Sometimes there were blizzards, sometimes there were sunny days. It didn’t matter to me because I wanted to do good in the marathon in Hawaii,” said fellow runner Larry Thomassiah. Thomassiah is also the Healthy Role Model for the Nunavik Regional Health Board. He travels and speaks to kids about how to eat healthy, the importance of staying active and not doing drugs. So far, they have run three half marathons, with their next goal being to run a full marathon. For the Salluit Running Club, training is important. They run four times a week up hills and around the village. They say that they are not afraid of running into polar bears on their runs because they rarely come near the village. “If I ever did, I think I would be fast enough to run away from him,” said Thomassiah.


Buffy Sainte Marie cleans up at pre-broadcast Juno Gala


Iconic singer and songwriter Buffy Sainte Marie won two of the three Juno awards that she was nominated for on April 3 in Calgary, Alberta. She won Aboriginal Album of the Year and Contemporary Roots Album of the Year for last year’s Polaris Prize winning album Power in the Blood. When asked if she had advice for aspiring artists, Buffy said that she didn’t get where she is today but pretending to be anyone other than who she is. “Embrace who and what you are, no matter where from ‘the boonies’ you are in Canada. Just copying whatever is popular at the moment doesn’t get you anywhere. I always tell people: ‘Try a different chord. Go out and listen to a different style of music.’ I always tell people to dig into their own originality, whatever it’s about, wherever it comes from. That’s what excites me most.”


For many years, Buffy Sainte Marie has written, sung and spoke about political and environmental issues. This year wasn’t any different. She called out the Canadian musical industry for the lack of female nominees. “Where are the women? Hello? There aren’t a whole lot of women there,” Sainte Marie said of the 2016 Juno awards. “The industry awards aren’t what the public thinks they are. They’re kind of the record companies giving each other awards and making shows that everyone loves. I’m not putting it down but you shouldn’t expect it to be fair, or free of influence.”


Roman Catholic Diocese wants to shut down Culture Camp in North West Territories


For eight years, the Deninu K’ue First Nation in the North West Territories have been building and using a Culture Camp on Mission Island to help revitalize their culture. Over the Easter weekend, some parishioners from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Mackenzie-Fort William attended the island to find cabins and smokehouses on the land which purportedly “belongs” to them. During the age of reconciliation, the church dug out old property records and when they saw that they “owned” the land, they sent letters to the territorial governments and the Deninu K’ue First Nation band office demanding that the community terminate all further development.


“I’m a little bit disturbed that the bishop has come forth and said that this is diocese land,” said Deninu K’ue First Nation Chief Louis Balsillie. “We’re trying to bring [the culture] back and every year, we have these functions on the island.” With help from funders, they built seven cabins and a smokehouse that they use for healing, wellness and revitalization. There they learn the importance of food sovereignty and their ways of living. The Culture Camp hosts over 200 people a day and has won the 2014 Minister’s Choice Award for it’s work in cultural revitalization. Chief Balsillie says there’s no way that he’s going to stop building and running this camp. “We’re going to move on and finish what we started,” said Chief Balsillie.



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