Attawapiskat First Nation is located at the mouth of the Attawapiskat River on James Bay in Northern Ontario and is home to about 2,000 people. In the fall of 2015 suicide became epidemic. Jackie Hookimaw lost her great-niece Sheridan, who took her life that October. She was 13 years old. Suicide and self-inflicted injuries are among the leading causes of death among First Nations, Métis and Inuit people. Waves of suicides like the one in Attawapiskat are not new. Unemployment, lack of access to education and substandard infrastructure are factors contributing to the depression that besets indigenous communities.
Jackie’s path and Singing For Love’s crossed in April of 2017, when Rosy Cervantes and Richard Fouchaux were asked to play at an event that culminated with the Toronto debut of Jackie’s documentary on the crisis in her home community. Jackie and her husband, Norbert Witt, attended the fundraising concert for Singing For Love 2017 and soon the idea for a musical intervention was born.
Each of the 5 days will consist of two 90 minute sessions of listening to, learning about and writing music within an indigenous context. Kids will know the indigenous musicians who influenced rock & country music from the earliest times these styles appeared. We’ll hear players whose hearts overflow with music that touches the hearts of others—and write some heartfelt music of our own.
When you’ve been living your entire life in poverty it comes with many issues. They will range from mental health, to inadequate housing, to not having enough to eat because you have to share the food with everyone in the household…—Chelsea Jane Edwards,
Attawapiskat youth need inspiration to overcome barriers, resident says CBC, Apr 12, 2016
We’ll hear indigenous people speak of the healing power of music in their own words. This guided discussion will set the stage for the young people to write songs of their own. Depending on the number of participants, we’ll form 1 or more groups. As the week progresses there will be growing opportunities to learn and practice an instrument. The groups will choose a topic of their own, express it musically and write lyrics. They may choose to write in any language, or a mixture of languages. The sessions will be documented with photographs and video. The music educators will work with local mentors and the group to expose a connection to the land, and a video will be produced to summarize and celebrate the learning.
We leave in 3 weeks. We still need help getting instruments to the far north and with the high cost of food and accommodation. Please consider making a donation either through the GoFundMe page shown here or the donation button in the side panel.
Photos are from Kiskenamahagewin (The Way of Learning), a 30 minute video created by Jackie Hookimaw-Witt and Norbert Witt that promotes Aboriginal education inspired by Aboriginal culture and the land.