Topic: SLIDE

Passing On Indigenous Knowledge With The Drum

by Xavier Kataquapit

photo by Xavier Kataquapit The Traditional Drum is featured at many Indigenous events and Pow Wows across Canada. These traditional teachings surrounding the drum are being passed onto Indigenous youth. Here we see the Wabun Youth Gathering in northeastern Ontario that brings together Indigenous youth to learn about traditional teachings such as the drum.

When you take part in a traditional Pow Wow, the first thing you notice is the rhythmic beat of the drum.   It is difficult to miss the deep resounding pulse of the drumbeat.  When it is played, it fills the air with an energy that attracts people to move closer to the sound.  It quiets the noise of everyday life and takes over the environment and demands that everyone listen.  When a traditional group of performers are playing this ancient instrument, the beat is almost hypnotic.  It clears your mind instantly of any thoughts, worries and anxieties.  

    Traditional people describe the drum as representing Mother Earth and it is her heartbeat that is heard when the drum is played.  The traditional drum is also symbolic as the mother, as when we are infants inside a womb, the heartbeat of the mother is the first sound we hear.  The drum is a sacred object that is represented and respected as if it were alive.  It is described as having its own unique voice or sound and it is believed to have its own spirit.  As part of this belief, there are many types of ceremonies performed by different Native groups to ‘awaken’ the drum before it is played.  When the drum is used there are ceremonies and prayers that are given by the drum-keeper and the drummers before an event.  When the drum is not in use it is stored in a respectful manner and it is not treated as an object of admiration or status but rather as a symbol of spirituality.  

    The shape of the drum is also thought to hold great symbolism to traditional people.  The circle is believed to represent a great deal of spirituality as it is seen as a perfect shape.  The circle is represented through numerous traditional teachings such as the circle of life, the cycle of the seasons and the shape of heavenly objects such as the sun and moon.  

    The drum in human history is thought to be one of the oldest musical instruments that has ever been created by man.  This instrument is common in many traditional cultures and it is often one that is rooted in deep history when societies were once closely connected to the land and the elements.  

    In many early cultures the drum was used as a tool of war.  The drum was used a means to drive fear into the enemy and to excite and give energy to a marching army.  It was also thought to be a way of spreading communications in the midst of a noisy battle.  A drum could be heard by everyone and it was used to direct forces to move forward, retreat or conduct other maneuvers.  Through the culture of war and its use as a military weapon, the drum was turned into an instrument of competition and so it developed into newer forms where it could be represented in many different ways.  The English, Scottish, Irish and other European countries developed many types of organized music based on the sound of the marching drum.  

    In other cultures all over the world, the rhythmic sound of the drum or the beating of a percussion instrument is the basis for just about every type of music.  Whenever someone is singing or a group of people are playing several instruments, they are following a single beat in the background that is guiding their playing.  The beat may change or vary but is always there to lead the other instruments.  

    In recent years, the basic drumbeat seems to finding its way back to people from all sorts of backgrounds.  In cities and towns all over, I see groups of people coming together to hold communal drumming sessions in parks or public places.  These sessions are great stress relievers and events that allow people to come together to perform a simple task that is self-satisfying and easy to do.  Physically, the energy that is felt when drumming actually activates natural biochemicals that provide many positive effects to the body and mind of a person.  

    There is nothing like the feeling you get when you are standing near a drum played by a group of traditional First Nation drummers.  When an experienced group is playing, they can move and direct your feelings in so many ways.  At first, it captivates you, then it may surprise you or bring a simple calm to your soul but all the while it leaves you mesmerized and relaxed as the rest of the world diminishes.  

    Sometimes as I fall to sleep, I can hear the pulse of my heart in the silent dark.  It reminds me of the drum and it makes me realize how such an instrument has become so powerful in our lives.  What better way to represent music than by imitating the sound of our own hearts.  It is a sound and an idea we can all relate to.  It is a beat we can all dance to.  In that way it brings us all together.

Vancouver Canucks celebrate First Nations Night

By Kelly Many Guns

This week the Vancouver Canucks celebrated the 4th Annual First Nations Night at the Rogers Arena when the Canucks hosted the St,Louis Blues. Although it was a close 4-3 loss to the Blues the night was a special evening highlighting the Orange Shirt Society and remembering the survivors of the residential school survivors and those who did not survive. 

The evening also honored Indigenous business and services in Vancouver and recognized the traditional territories of three Local First Nations: the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh. 

Performer included headliners The Halluci Nation (previously known as A Tribe Called Red), Michelle Heyoka, Coastal Wolf Pack, DJ Kookum, Faith Sparrow-Crawford (Musqueam) and Teshawna Sihata (Spuzzum)

Look for complete coverage in the upcoming April 2022 issue of First Nations Drum

Living with third world water conditions in Canada

By Kelly Many Guns

The majority of Canadians get up every morning and turn the water tap on to make coffee, jump in the shower, brush their teeth or even to quickly splash their face before starting the day and most don’t give it a second thought.  Unfortunately, there are over 140,000 First Nations people in Canada that don’t have the basic luxury most Canadians take for granted, clean drinking water.

The First Nations Drinking Water Settlement was created to compensate First Nations who have been without safe cleaning drinking water for a year or more. Courts have approved the Settlement between Canada and certain First Nations and their members who were subject to a drinking water advisory that lasted one year between November 20, 1995 and June 2021.

Alana Robert, class counsel for the First Nations Drinking Water Settlements says this historic settlement agreement recognizes the First Nation’s right to clean water. It captures over 250 First Nations and over 140,000 members on reserve. The settlement agreement aims to ensure that long-term drinking water advisories on reserve do not become the norm ever again. 

“It provides binding legal commitments to bring clean water home to First Nations across the country and keep it there – now, and for future generations,” said Robert. This presents a critical opportunity to transform access to clean water and it signifies a new era – one that many First Nations have long been waiting for.”

Darian Baskatawang, also working as class counsel for the First Nations Drinking Water Settlement says that not having access to clean, safe drinking water for over a year in almost half of the First Nations across Canada is a stain on Canada’s identity. 

“We are glad to have come to this agreement and work with Canada to begin to wash away this stain using the clean, safe drinking water this settlement provides.”

Baskatawang shared with First Nations Drum one of the worst drinking water advisories they are aware of in Canada.

“One of the representative plaintiffs, Neskantaga First Nation in what is now (briefly) known as northern Ontario, has had the longest drinking water advisory in Canada, lasting about 27 years and counting. But what makes it the worst is its impact, whether human impact, cultural impact, or otherwise. Neskantaga has been evacuated three times due to its water issues. Children and youth have committed suicide, and long-lasting diseases exacerbated by the simple fact of not having regular access to clean, safe drinking water. This settlement agreement seeks to change that.”

Robert added that Tataskweyak Cree Nation, a representative plaintiff in this case, has been under a long-term drinking water advisory since May 2017.  “In Tataskweyak, it is common for children to develop severe full-body rashes from bathing in the treated tap water. This is just one of the consequences of a lack of access to clean water. The horrific realities of long-term drinking water advisories on reserve is a situation that never should have happened in Canada. The settlement agreement aims to eliminate all existing long-term drinking water advisories on reserve, and ensure that this crisis never repeats itself in the future.”

The settlement agreement provides nearly $2 billion in compensation to individuals and First Nations for the harms of having to live under a long-term drinking water advisory. Individuals can receive compensation for every year that they lived on a reserve that was subject to a long-term drinking water advisory. Individuals who experienced certain specified injuries may also be eligible for additional compensation. Any impacted First Nation that accepts the settlement agreement will receive a minimum of $500,000 in compensation, plus an additional 50% of the amount paid to its individual members. But the most transformative aspects of the settlement agreement are the significant forward-looking measures which seek to eliminate long-term drinking water advisories and ensure that access to clean water becomes the new norm on reserve. 

This will be made possible by the requirement that Canada spend at least $6 billion by 2030 on water and wastewater infrastructure. The settlement agreement also contains a heightened standard for water on reserve, which requires Canada to take all reasonable efforts to ensure that there is regular access to clean drinking water on reserve. If Canada does not meet the standards set out in the settlement agreement, a new dispute resolution process is available to bring Canada and First Nations together to craft the plan forward. This process includes Indigenous legal traditions and protocols of the impacted First Nation. All of this makes a better future possible, where First Nations can have access to the basic necessity of clean drinking water, like all other Canadians.

Baskatawang says out of the roughly 8 billion dollar settlement, roughly 2 billion is for compensation. 

“The other 6 billion is to power the legal commitment to make sure this never happens again. First Nations and Individuals do not have to opt in or worry about not having regular access to clean, safe drinking water again. So while only roughly half of the communities get compensation for living under a drinking water advisory, everyone benefits by the commitment.”

Robert and Baskatawang invite impacted individuals and First Nations to learn more about the settlement agreement by visiting The claims period is now open. Individuals have until March 7, 2023 to submit their claim forms, and First Nations have until December 22, 2022 to accept the settlement agreement. Our team is here to assist individuals and First Nations every step of the way.

Working together and making space for Indigenous communities

Steve Stark considers it a compliment when business colleagues compare him to a Swiss Army® knife. “When I hear that in a meeting I laugh, but it’s true,” he says. Steve is the president and CEO of Delta-based Tsawwassen Shuttles Inc. (TSI), one of the 13 Indigenous-owned or -affiliated businesses working on our Pattullo Gas Line Replacement project in Burnaby. As the owner of a diversified company employing 35 people, Steve is proud to be compared to that versatile and iconic pocket knife. 

Steve launched TSI in 2011 as a charter shuttle bus service in Tsawwassen. He’s steadily grown his business to offer transportation, marine, street sweeping and watering services around the Lower Mainland. “TSI is known for diversification,” he says. “When someone is looking for help with something—whether or not it’s on my website—I’ll either be able to provide that resource, or I’ll refer them on to another successful business that can.” 

Raising the bar for others to follow

Steve has worked hard to develop a successful business and set an example for others to follow. 

“I’m driven to succeed,” Steve explains. “It’s important to me to set the bar high for community members and help them wherever I can.” 

Steve’s desire to help his Tsawwassen First Nation community by creating local jobs, offering equity to community members to help them start their own business and supporting the work of local organizations, such as Reach Child and Youth Development, caught the attention of the BC Achievement Foundation. In 2021, it awarded Steve and TSI with an Indigenous Business Award.

Steve credits the Tsawwassen First Nation community for his business success. “The award belongs to Chief Ken Baird and others like him in the community who are willing to give others the space they need to grow in a healthy, positive way,” says Steve. Steve received 20 letters of recommendation in support of his award nomination, many of them from companies TSI had worked for, including FortisBC.

Steve says his relationship with FortisBC started a number of years ago, and has continued to grow. “I’ve been crossing paths with people from FortisBC for quite some time and gotten to know them. At this point, our relationship is not really about business anymore,” he explains. “For me, it’s about the fact that FortisBC is willing to stand behind someone who is trying to change the trajectory for First Nations people on a variety of different levels.”

Sharing the benefits of our projects with Indigenous communities

Providing Indigenous communities with business development and employment opportunities is an important business priority for FortisBC and is identified in our Statement of Indigenous Principles

“We’re cognizant of the importance of Reconciliation,” says Greg Edgelow, Indigenous relations manager at FortisBC who is of Cree and mixed ancestry. “It’s important to be aware of the past, acknowledge what’s happened, look at ways to atone and take action on them—we need to ‘walk the talk’.”

We work closely with our construction contractors to share details about our projects – including employment, training and contracting opportunities – with local Indigenous communities and businesses. We start by actively engaging with the business development teams of Indigenous communities and requesting their business registries. These registries are then shared with our construction contractors, who communicate with the Indigenous businesses on the registries and make them aware of the contract opportunities that are available on our projects.
On the Pattullo project, our construction contractor, Peter Kiewit Sons ULC (Kiewit), oversaw the procurement process. Out of the more than 40 contract opportunities they awarded, 13 went to Indigenous-owned and -affiliated businesses. The contracts with Indigenous businesses are worth more than $10 million in business combined, including work such as tree trimming and clearing, traffic control,  paving, soil disposal, land leasing, site security, street lighting, fabrication, quality control and street sweeping.

“The open, competitive bidding process for the Pattullo Gas Line Replacement project revealed how important Indigenous businesses are to our projects,” says Greg. “Nearly one third of all subcontractor bids Kiewit received were from Indigenous-owned or -affiliated businesses. Plus, the significant number of contracts Kiewit awarded to Indigenous-owned or -affiliated businesses speaks to the quality and competitiveness of their bids.”

Sharing knowledge

Steve Stark, President & CEO, TSI and member of the Tsawwassen First Nation

TSI secured the contract to provide street sweeping services for the Pattullo project. “We appreciate having that business, but my relationship with FortisBC is about so much more than that,” notes Steve. In the spirit of finding ways to expand business opportunities for Indigenous communities in other parts of BC, FortisBC asked Steve to share his knowledge about business ownership with them. Steve was happy to help. “I’m starting to talk to other First Nation communities about entrepreneurship—strategizing ways they can start or grow a business,” says Steve. “I’m a huge proponent of opening doors and making space for others to succeed. FortisBC is actively doing that for Indigenous communities and businesses.” 

Connecting Indigenous Peoples to Informed Choices with COVID-19 Vaccines

Author, Shelley Mantei

First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities across Canada are continuing their efforts in
responding to COVID-19. They are joining ancient and contemporary practices to change the
course of history by surviving and thriving during the pandemic.

As of January 25, 2022, over 86% of individuals aged 12 and older in First Nations, Inuit and
territorial communities have received a second dose of COVID-19 vaccine. Over 43% of youth
aged 5 to 11 have received at least one dose.

Beyond the pandemic’s effect on health, there is often a crisis within the crisis as unequal
distribution of vaccines extends the pandemic further. This is not the case in Canada, where
Indigenous Peoples are included among priority groups receiving the vaccine. This serves as a
way of addressing historical inequities making Indigenous Peoples disproportionately more
vulnerable to viruses.

First Nations, Inuit and Métis have access to vaccines through many clinics across the country.
Plus, if First Nations peoples and Inuit need to travel out of their community to get to their
vaccination or booster appointment, the applicable travel costs will be covered by non-insured
health benefits.

While access to the vaccine is not a barrier, many Indigenous people are still experiencing
vaccine hesitancy most commonly due to confusion with conflicting information. The Circle of
Eagles Lodge Society has created culturally-relevant resources to fully enable individuals to
make informed decisions regarding COVID-19 vaccines.

“We are not here to judge anyone’s choices. We’re here to work with our Indigenous community
to help everyone make informed choices that are right for them,” said Merv Thomas, CEO of
Circle of Eagles Lodge Society.

Circle of Eagles Lodge Society (COELS) operates Indigenous halfway homes in Vancouver, BC
on the Coast Salish territory to assist Indigenous Brothers and Sisters leaving Canadian federal
institutions and those dislocated from society. For over 50 years, COELS has provided supports
to reintegrate them into communities by providing men’s and women’s residences, pre-
employment programming, cultural healing, and life skills.

Their COVID-19 decision-making resources range from education on variants, vaccine
comparison charts, a review of side effects and likelihood, to tips on how to audit trusted
sources to avoid misinformation.

“People can make informed choices about their health and well-being by asking questions,
participating in fireside chats and expressing their feelings about COVID-19 vaccinations, and
leveraging science-driven experts.”

Thomas cautions, “Listen to scientists not social media. Do your own research with trusted
sources and make informed choices that blend education along with lifeways, customs, and
spirituality driven by the ancestral force.”

Some of the best ways to identify trusted sources are to go beyond the headlines, identify the
author, check the date, examine the supporting evidence, check your biases and turn to fact-
checkers.Health experts say Indigenous communities in Canada can be at greater risk than other groups
during a pandemic. Canada wide, Indigenous communities are taking actions such as using
masks, physically distancing, and vaccination to protect their community, Elders and family.
Circle of Eagles Lodge Society resources are available at

Cliff Cardinal Brings his Dark Humour and Challenging Spirit to Shakespeare at the PuSh Festival in 2022

Much like Trickster, who inhabits the folklore of many indigenous cultures, Cliff Cardinal is a complex, many-faceted artist, who enjoys entertaining, enlightening, and mischief in equal measure. Since his first play, Stitch, debuted while he was still at the National Theatre School, he’s had a huge impact on the Canadian theatre scene; writing, acting and directing works that delve deep into the most desolating subjects, using dark humour and unflinching honesty.  The CBC’s review of his smash hit play, Huff, details, “Cliff Cardinal’s Huff touches on solvent abuse, sexual abuse, suicide and the bleak despair of being poor, isolated and feeling irrelevant. It’s not breezy theatre, but it is riveting.”

The struggle of poverty, addiction and abuse experienced by three brothers on a northern reserve could be a grim and harrowing ordeal, but throughout, Trickster, embodied in the character of Wind, brings an element of fantasy that elevates the story to a magical realm of myth and hope. Huff has won the Buddies in Bad Times’ Vanguard Award for Risk and Innovation, two Dora Awards (Outstanding Performance and Outstanding New Play), RBC’s Emerging Playwright Award, The Lustrum Award (which recognizes the greatest moments at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival), and was shortlisted for Amnesty International’s Freedom of Expression Award. The Fringe Festival production garnered a five-star review in The Guardian Observer, calling it a “hard-hitting tour de force.” Huff has been published, translated into French, continues to tour, and has been released as a podcast by the CBC.
Born on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, Cardinal is the son of iconic Canadian actress Tantoo Cardinal. When interviewed by the CBC about how he keeps audiences guessing, Cardinal explained, “So the craft is to figure out a way to keep the audience’s imaginations engaged. One of the ways that’s done is with comedy, if you open up to something, if you laugh you open up and if you open up then we have a chance of dragging you along into this world now”. 

Cardinal’s first multi-character play, Too Good to Be True, opened Video Cabaret’s 2019 season at The Busy St. Theatre in Toronto with Cardinal himself directing. NOW Magazine said, “This captivating tale of an off-grid mother and her desperate children solidifies Cardinal as one of the most talented and intriguing writers in the country.” On the music front, his band, Cliff Cardinal and the Skylarks’ are “hilarious and nefarious, Toronto-based, genre-flying, on beat and off-colour”. Their two albums: This Is Not A Mistake and Gonna Be Fine are available online. Cliff Cardinal’s CBC Special is not a CBC special, but an evening of words and music delivering original, dark and catchy folk songs; miraculous stories of familial resilience; legends of Turtle Island survival; and “new contributions to the ongoing mythology of the Canadian experience”.

Cardinal’s newest project is called William Shakespeare’s AS YOU LIKE IT; a radical retelling by Cliff Cardinal (produced by Crow’s Theatre), which is having its Western Canadian debut at the 2022 PuSh International Performing Arts Festival in February. The title of William Shakespeare’s As You Like It holds a double meaning that teasingly suggests the play can please all tastes. But is that possible? With his subversive updating of the Bard’s classic, Cardinal seeks to find out. The show exults in bawdy humour, difficult subject matter, and raw emotion; Cardinal is not one to hold back when it comes to challenging delicate sensibilities. Is Trickster at work here? See for yourself when William Shakespeare’s AS YOU LIKE IT: a radical retelling by Cliff Cardinal plays February 4-6 at the York Theatre. For tickets, go to

UNDER THE NORTHERN SKY – Happy New Year 2022

by Xavier Kataquapit

We are getting ready to wish each other a happy new year 2022. We have been through and are still going through an historic pandemic with Covid19. As a matter of fact right now, the Omicron variant is spreading like wildfire. So far, most of us have done well with following the rules from public health in getting vaccinated, wearing masks, socially distancing and washing hands often. 

    Nobody knows exactly how bad things can get with this new highly contagious Omicron variant. It could result in having to shut down things considerably again and place more restrictions on gatherings, retails stores and schools. 

    Hopefully, this pandemic will wane to a great degree and we might simply  have to get annual vaccinations to deal with it. In remembering the 1918 Spanish flu, it took several years for it to go away as it kept coming back again in waves on a regular basis and managed to kill some 50 million people world wide. 

    One thing for sure, is that we all know now what it feels like to have a crisis at our door, in our town, in our city, in our province and in our country. In the past, most of the terrible things we saw in the news were happening in some other country. We were one of the many countries that went to war for all kinds of reasons and ended up killing thousands of thousands of people and terrorizing them in other parts of the world. This time something called a virus decided to give us a little reminder that we are not immune to disaster and terror ourselves. There is no real safe place in this world right now from this pandemic. 

    For a lot of reasons, most of our world has ended up with capitalist, money based societies like we in the west have or authoritarian dictatorships like Russia or China. Happily here in Canada, we have what we refer to as a social democracy. We don’t just hail to the very wealthy and the money people but we also try to make life better for average person. We are lucky that we live in a country like this and although it is not perfect, it is worth protecting our democracy and a more fair way of life here. 

    Maybe this pandemic is a teaching for us. Perhaps that teaching has to do with we as people here on Mother Earth needing to figure out how to develop systems of government and economies that are more fair, just and kind. That means that each one of us has to raise our voice to make sure that we don’t end up living in a world where only the very rich and powerful make the choices that all of us have to live by. We need a democracy in place that provides public education at all levels, public health care in all its forms and care for the elderly, marginalized and disadvantaged. We could move forward on the basis of the teaching of this pandemic to provide society here in Canada, North America and globally that is more of a change for the better. 

    Let’s face it, our economy is suffering right now and may even come close to collapsing because of the power of a virus. That virus is making people sick and the result is an endangered economic system and general devastation of our society. That points out that the only thing that matters in this world in terms of economy, societal structure and government is the health and welfare of its human population. So the economy and money based system means nothing and can not survive without the active healthy participation of people. 

    This should remind us of the power we have as individual human beings. As an Indigenous man, I can say that my culture does not put money first and never has. We are seen as being poor money organizers and managers but in fact Indigenous cultures are based more on human values and a respect for Mother Earth. Maybe its time for all of us to question this enslavement to the almighty dollar and the very wealthy billionaires on this planet that control most of our world’s wealth. We absolutely need a more democratic, fair and just society in order for our species to survive. That is a very powerful lesson that this pandemic is teaching us. 

    So heading into 2022, it is up to each one of us to make sure that our voice is heard in directing our human civilization to the choice for democracy rather than fascism or authoritarianism. Happy New Year 2022.

Advance Costs and Indigenous Rights at the Supreme Court

Last week we had the privilege of representing the Treaty 8 First Nations of Alberta in their intervention in the Beaver Lake advance costs appeal at the Supreme Court of Canada.  

As we outlined in our earlier post, Beaver Lake will clarify when and under what circumstances courts will require federal and provincial governments to provide funding to First Nations for litigation to protect and enforce their rights under section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.

Below is a summary of the points raised in our submissions at the Supreme Court. The full hearing can be viewed here. 


Submissions of the Treaty 8 First Nations of Alberta  

First Nations should not have to demonstrate exceptional financial hardship to qualify for advance costs for their publicly important section 35 litigation.  

  • Advance costs orders benefit the public as a whole. They ensure that in exceptional cases, an applicant’s financial status will not prevent the court from determining an issue of national importance. 
  • Advance costs are particularly important in the context of section 35 litigation, where the public has a recognized, vested interest in advancing the process of reconciliation.
  • The fact that a First Nation chooses to allocate its limited funds to address the needs of its community – including for cultural survival and to fund basic services that most other Canadians take for granted – should not be used as a basis to disqualify the First Nation from advance costs for litigation to protect its section 35 rights.  
  • If this approach was adopted, cases which raise issues of significant public importance would not proceed simply because the First Nation is unable to demonstrate an exceptional level of poverty.  
  • The result would be that issues which go to the heart of section 35 and the objective of reconciliation would not be heard.
  • This is not and should not be part of the test for advance costs.
  • Instead, the Court should reaffirm the importance of advance costs for the determination of section 35 claims, and reject an approach which would require First Nations to choose between protecting their rights and meeting the needs of their communities.

Advance costs should support the resolution of section 35 claims through both negotiation and litigation. 

  • Advance costs orders play a critical role in the resolution of section 35 claims by enabling First Nations to obtain guidance from the courts prior to and during negotiations regarding the interpretation of their section 35 rights, and to enforce their rights when and if negotiations fail.
  • Courts have been clear that negotiation is the preferred means of resolving section 35 claims. 
  • However, negotiated resolutions can only be achieved when both First Nations and the Crown have the opportunity to seek recourse to the courts to clarify and enforce their positions.
  • This is because, as this Court recently recognized in R. v. Desautel, it is the duty of the courts to provide the “authoritative interpretation” of section 35. 
  • Ultimately, reconciliation is achieved through good faith negotiations guided and reinforced by decisions of the courts. 
  • Requiring a First Nation to exhaust all available funds in order to qualify for advance costs would unnecessarily hinder First Nations from obtaining guidance from the courts.
  • It would also impair the courts’ ability to provide input on the nature and scope of Indigenous peoples’ rights and the Crown’s obligations under section 35.
  • The financial means branch of the Okanagan test should be applied in a way that preserves First Nations’ ability to seek guidance from the courts on the interpretation of their section 35 rights, and in turn, supports the process of reconciliation through negotiated agreements between First Nations and the Crown. 

UNDER THE NORTHERN SKY – Opening Up With Art And Music

by Xavier Kataquapit

    There is hope that life is getting back to normal and the pandemic is being managed to a great degree here in Canada. With this new normal, things are opening up. It has been a hard road for anyone involved in the creative arts and our artists, musicians, actors and dancers have all had to deal with little opportunity to entertain and stage their art. 

    Recently Adrian Sutherland, a childhood friend of mine from Attawapiskat released on September 17, a debut solo album titled ‘When The Magic Hits’. He has been hard at work in making and producing his music from his northern studio in Attawapiskat. In addition to his musical career, he is involved in many creative projects. You can view his latest music and creative projects at his website at  

    Wabimeguil, an indigenous artist from Northern Ontario continues, even during the pandemic, to produce her work and market it across the country. She is a great inspiration to many in the north as she continues the spirit of creativity handed down from her late father Lindy Louttit who is originally from Attawapiskat. Wabimeguil, which translates as ‘White Feather’ has been active as an artist for decades now and is well known for her traditional and cultural themes. You can view her work and more information about her at 

    A creative pair of non-Native friends of mine, Alana Pierini and her partner Lee Holmes have been involved in producing music and visual arts for decades here in northern Ontario and they have been featured in venues across the province and in Europe. 

    They have been working right through the challenges presented by the pandemic and over the past two years have had to cancel showings and performances as a result of Covid19 and the lockdowns we have experienced. The creative duo collaborate on visual arts and music. They have a rich and vibrant history as creative influencers. Lee has a long career that connects him to the music industry as a blues musician who has produced numerous albums and singles. Alana is a well known visual artist from Iroquois Falls who has inspired and taught many young people as a teacher and instructor and as an independent visual artist she has produced many works of art in various mediums over the years.  She also writes the lyrics for Lee’s music productions. In turn he contributes to the production of her art. 

    If you want to see some interesting art being featured right here in the north you can do so by attending the Pierini Art Crawl at the Temiskaming Art Gallery (TAG) in New Liskeard on November 6. The event will feature Alana’s art work and performances by Lee Holmes and the Beautitones. You can find out more information about this latest art exhibit from the Temiskaming Art Gallery Facebook page. In addition, Lee and the Beautitones are also performing at various venues in the north in the upcoming month. You can find out more information at his website at:

    Music and the arts are an important part of our lives and we have all looked to art, music and the movie world to help get us through this pandemic. Art in any form entertains us, makes us think, calms us and serves to mark special moments in time. 

    I was reminded of the power of art and music when a friend on my social media shared a memorable Youtube music video of John Rodrique performing ‘Pretty Girl’ at the Moosonee arena in 1991 during the Jammin’ On The Bay music event. At the time, this simple original pop song from that regional concert made us feel like we had our own star and our own music. John and his band were all from the James Bay coast and we were proud to call them our own. We bought the cassettes they produced and we played them over and over again until they wore out. Myself, my siblings and my teen friends at the time were experiencing those intense coming of age years and we were all on fire with our hopes and dreams. These many decades later I look back on that trail of early life and see so many gone now, moved on to other realities and some having become parents and grandparents. Still our own rock star John Rodrique, who passed at a young age, gave us a way to recall the joyful, energetic life so full of wonder back in 1991. 

    The power of art and music has always given us cause for reflection and hope. 

Indigenous Education For Future Healing

Simon Paul Dene shares his Life and Wisdom

by Danny Beaton Mohawk

In Memory of Alicja Rozanska

Thank you for the opportunity for allowing me to talk to you. In our langue we say Be Still. Every morning we wake up we have to learn to be still. In that moment we learn to open up slowly with your mind and slowly with your heart, we learn to communicate with the one who lives up there, the Creator of Mother Earth and we learn to be still with Mother Earth from a very early age. This comes in handy later on: once we become hunters or you become a seeker, you have to learn to be still. You learn to look around using your senses, you learn to touch each of your senses. What you hear, what you see, everything is motion, everything is in motion.

What you hear from other people when they talk to you. You learn to discern  what is good and what is bad for the intake of your mind and onto your heart. That is why we say be still and then you go and see what it is that needs to be done today. It has all been done for you. The Creator means ahead of time what you’re gonna say, what you’re gonna do, where you’re gonna go. That is what is called being a Human Being, what you need to be a Human Being. To be a Human Being you need to learn to dance, to dance the day. Be Still, Be Still and then you learn how to sing, how to sing songs, to sing joyful songs for yourself and for others. So you share that. Our circle of languages is all about sharing. So what you get is what you take. It’s give and take.That is the way things roll for us all the time. We learn to share in our language, hopefully the original language that we have stored in our heart and our mind. Hopefully, we can release it and release it to the Creator, ask for forgiveness.

In this world that we are living in now it seems to be unbalanced so much so that we all begin to neglect how to be still. You learn to look around, you learn to look around, you make a mistake, you hold back, you be still and then you learn from that mistake, you learn from mistakes. Take it easy. I want to take the opportunity to thank you, for talking to you from my heart. I am seventy-four. Revolutions are on Mother Earth now and I am very thankful. I am very thankful for everything, I am very thankful that I even hurt. I am very thankful for everything, every which way. Thank you, Danny, for the opportunity, but I have a sore shoulder that prevents me from saying too much.

You know, I was born on a reservation. They call it a reservation, I guess, and our land up in northern Saskatchewan, in a place called Knee Lake. It was my grandfather’s trap line and he lived there among other relatives as well. So I lived there till around the age of seven years old. Then I was taken to the Indian residential school in Beauval in Northern Saskatchewan. I remember the first time my father led me up the hill up to that brick building, took me by the hand to go up that hill. I was only seven years old. I didn’t know what I was getting into. He let me go with a bunch of nuns from around that place. They looked like a bunch of penguins, they were pretty weird dressed in black and white. Seven years old and I’m looking at all this black and white. Later on during that day I thought what in the world did I get myself into. So I cried a little and I wanted to see my sister and my sister was only next door. She was five years older than me and she had already been there in Beauval, so they let me see my sister and it was a relief to see my relative and later on I got used to going to school. They teach you how to speak English by way of Dick and Jane, but it was funny learning English ah oh ah ah oh stuttering our way through English. Anyway, I was there for nine years in that Indian Residential School. After grade eight they put me in Saint Thomas College in Northern Saskatchewan for two years, two years in the seminary going to church five o’clock in the morning and being on my knees in the evening before bedtime, but they were focused on education with the priests. I lasted two years but I couldn’t take it any more. Then I decided to live with my brother in Ontario at a place called Pick River Indian Day School. That was the first time I was ever left in the open; man, it was really different from being in a Residential School and Boarding School, seeing all these open rivers and streams. Here we were free, not locked up or boarded up in Residential School. First time in my life I ever felt so free. I lasted one year there in grade eleven, then I went to Saskatoon. There I joined the military and spent a couple of tours in West Germany. That was my first time out of the country, to go and see something that I never have experienced, Germany. When I sit back now and think about how my life has changed by my Indigenous roots to where my mind is now, what a phase I went through! I am spiritually inclined with what I have been through. I say wow, amazing.

When I arrived back home from Germany, there was a Uranium Company  called  Amok around 1977 from France that came up to Northern Saskatchewan. They were looking at our territory, we didn’t know at that time. Finally, it became known that they would open a Uranium Mine in Cluck Lake, Saskatchewan. I was the editor of a local newspaper called Natotawin, which means “Listen To Me” in Cree. I started giving people in Norther Saskatchewan information about the Uranium mining operations and what it does to people and I did that for two years. Then all of a sudden the government shut me down: no more paper and I realized these people want me out of there. Around that time I met some people from The American Indian Movement and my life changed again for the better, because what they offered was the Sacred Teachings of The Sweatlodge and The Pipe and John Trudell. John Trudell traveled with me to meetings and we informed the people of the danger of Uranium Mining. Afterwards the whole world learned about it and I came to Toronto because I was blackballed from Saskatchewan for my activism. I took some classes in social work and began working for native organizations, Street Patrol and Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto. After that, I took up a paint brush and started my art work for our Indian people and native crafts beading to offer all these nice things to people and make a living by trading and selling them. To this day I still have some paintings that I’m working on.

We are all on this long journey, Danny, and we hope we are helping each other. One thing for sure: we need education to learn how we survived after all these years of colonization and genocide, because we are still strong and we all need to learn from the past. We need to be as gentle as we can, because we all make mistakes and we are all different. We need our Traditional Education because we need to know who we are as Indigenous People and where we come form physically, mentally, spiritually and culturally.

Something that is important about education is  to learn that our people returned from the war in Europe fighting for a country that turned around on them and mistreated our warriors once they came home. Our soldiers need to be respected for standing up for Canada and not forgotten, because we are Indians living on our own territories. Our warriors need to encourage one another to stand tall and that is what our life is about. We all need to learn how to defend ourselves, so we can defend our families and our own nations too. Don’t think of yourself first; think about our people and the nation. That’s how we need to move forward, always the people first. In the Sun Dance they always say the people first. We Sun Dance For The People; in Lakota they say: OyaTay. We need to attend traditional ceremonies to be really educated. Our ceremonies have been with us for centuries. We all need to see and be face to face with the Creator. The way to do that is To Be Still. The American Indian Movement was my first real education, Danny. Going into the Sweatlodge during the winter time in Northern Saskatchewan was really really cool out there back in the seventies. Now when I look back  at our life everything has changed.