Singing for peace: music video gives Attawapiskat youth a positive voice

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Despite the challenges Attawapiskat youth have faced recently, one group of teens has managed to rise up from the dust and, with the help of the DAREarts charity, has produced a music video that speaks to both their frustrations and hope for their isolated James Bay community.

Called Walking for Peace, the video is the creation of Vezina High School students and a few recent grads who teamed up to write, sing, act, edit and produce the 5:20-minute video ( Released on National Aboriginal Day, the lyrics describe the conflicting emotions of young people who see the problems of their community, but who also see home, and hope.

Take a look at the media, but not everything is as it seems

You see crisis after crisis, but you don’t see what we see

In this community we are fighting for equality and peace

Increase, decrease, deceased, something here needs to be done

Attawapiskat youth council member Karis Linklater, who helped write the lyrics, told the Nation that the young people involved in the project didn’t “want it to be about what the media is telling everybody. We wanted it to be about our home. The media is just telling us what is bad – and it’s not all bad. A lot of people call it home.”

She lists hunting, camping, getting out on the land and the strong sense of community as some of the positives of living in Attawapiskat.

However, a lack of activities for young people in any community can produce an environment where the desire to escape boredom or troubles at home leads to experimentation with drugs, alcohol and sex. It’s a breeding ground for depression, addiction, violence and suicide. In the cities and suburbs of the south, teens complain of boredom, but they are surrounded by parks, organized social and sports activities and are often just a bus ride away from any diversion imaginable.

Kids in Attawapiskat have none of that. The village on mouth of the Attawapiskat River suffers, like many Indigenous communities in the north, from a severe shortage of basics from housing to affordable food, never mind the luxury of a youth centre or the personnel to staff it.

So Linklater, 20, was a surprised during a recent visit to the high school to find that a team from DAREarts was there to providing guidance to help kids create their own music video. “There haven’t been any youth activities for a long time,” she said.

Children in Attawapiskat 2

young kids on a playground in Attawapiskat

Musician Glenn Marais was leading the songwriting/recording workshop. Before long, he had Linklater helping write the lyrics, shoot the scenes and edit the rough cuts with about 15 other youths. “It was amazing,” she enthused. “I never really did anything like that before!”

Has it made a difference? “Seeing youth come together and really get into stuff like this makes me happy; it must make other people happy, too,” Linklater said. “I think it really helps youth feel uplifted when there’s such good things going on around the community.”

Friends really like the video, she adds. “I guess they never thought they would see something like that made here.” Her parents, of course, were proud, too. “They were really surprised at how good it came out,” she laughed.

How about youth in the community? Has the national attention focused on Attawapiskat produced any changes? “I can’t speak for each and every youth,” Linklater said.

“But I’m pretty sure it got better because there hasn’t been many attempted suicides lately. And we’re trying to get activities going and getting them involved in stuff – other than drinking and drugs and all that negative stuff. I know what it’s like to struggle with happens in the community. I just want them to know that there’s positive things that can go around, too.”

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