Jesse Thistle Joins The Artist Ambassador Program As Our First Author

In 2016 Jesse Thistle, a Metis-Cree bestselling author, had the honour of meeting Gord Downie by chance one night in Toronto. Jesse was able to share with Gord the wonderful work he was doing at the time around intergenerational trauma.

He remembers talking to Gord, “I thanked him for the work that he was doing on reconciliation and for making the nation aware of residential schools and Indigenous history, and that these issues now had more focus because of his efforts. He thanked me for the work that I was doing on intergenerational trauma and Métis History. He also said he was doing his best and he knows he might get some things wrong, but he’s trying and that’s what counts.”

Jesse, a Vanier and Pierre Elliot Trudeau Scholar and PhD candidate, continues his work in Indigenous homelessness, addiction and inter-generational trauma. His latest book From the Ashes was voted as one of the best books of 2019.

We are honoured to have Jesse join our Artist Ambassador program, visiting schools and continuing Gord’s work calling on all of us to “Do Something”. The Legacy Schools High School Artist Ambassador program brings Indigenous and non-Indigenous musicians and other artists like Jesse into high schools across Canada to inspire student leadership and forward the journey of reconciliation in school communities.

Artists share their art, music and stories through workshops and/or performances, and engage students in learning and conversations about reconciliation. High schools hosting Artist Ambassadors are also encouraged to have students share their own stories, art, and reconciliACTIONs with their guests.

 

This year we will be organizing 17 visits with schools throughout Canada. Last year seven schools took part in our pilot program and enjoyed visits from:

Adrian Sutherland of Midnight Shine – Humberside C.I. – Toronto, ON

Angela Miracle Gladue (Dancer, A Tribe Called Red) – Peterborough Alternative Education Centre (PACE) – Peterborough, ON

Arkells – St. Francis Xavier Catholic School – Ottawa

DJ KooKum – G.P. Vanier Secondary School in Courtenay, British Columbia

Josh Finlayson of Skydiggers – Montessori School – Dundas, ON

July Talk, North Vancouver District School Board, Vancouver, B.C.

Tyler Shaw – Sir Fredrick Banting Secondary School – London, ON

Above: The Arkells are given a tour of St. Francis Xavier Catholic School by student leaders in Ottawa during the pilot program in 2018-2019.  

If you are interested in having Jesse visit your school please sign up for the artist ambassador program here.

Classes that request a visit from an author will be required to read the author’s work prior to a visit. Jesse’s new book From the Ashes is available at bookstores everywhere! Legacy School educators receive a 10% discount from Goodminds.com.

Secret Path Week at Exploring by The Seat of Your Pants

We are happy to be able to provide you all with access to the in-class, interactive sessions that took place at Exploring by The Seat of Your Pants (EBTSOYP) for Secret Path Week. DWF would like to extend a very special thanks to Joe Grabowski at EBTSOYP for hosting all of the sessions and organizing the speakers.

This year for Secret Path Week, EBTSOYP held conversations to inspire Indigenous education and forward reconciliation. They featured live events for classrooms featuring Indigenous scientists, artists and leaders. This was a valuable way to engage Legacy School classes in reconciliation and encourage students and educators to “Do Something“!

On the first day, the initial four events had over 1,200 students join in live on camera – those numbers don’t even take into account the classrooms that viewed the events live on YouTube and the recorded versions afterwards! Thank you all for tuning in!

As Legacy Schools, you can still take advantage of these great sessions by watching the recorded sessions with your class. All speakers are listed below with a link to their session;

Secret Path Events

Mike Downie | Documentary Filmmaker & Co-founder of the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund
Mike Downie is a multi-award-winning documentary filmmaker and the co-founder of the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund. One story, in particular, has been life-changing for Mike was Chanie Wenjack, an Ojibway boy who died while running away from his residential school. Downie told the tragic tale to his brother Gord and the two vowed to find a way to share this story with the world. The result was the multi-media project Secret Path that has captured the hearts and minds of Canadians across the country. Mike is a writer, director, and producer of numerous award-winning documentaries including Secret Path, Invasion of the Brain Snatchers, One Ocean, and The Hockey Nomad.

Andrea Jane Reid | Indigenous Scientist and Conservation Biologist
Andrea Reid is an Indigenous fisheries scientist and conservation biologist based in Canada. In January 2021, she will be joining the University of British Columbia’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries as an Assistant Professor of Indigenous Fisheries Science. Andrea combines ecological and social science methodologies, adopting an integrative approach to complex fisheries questions. She belongs to the Nisga’a Nation on British Columbia’s North Coast and has significant experience with Indigenous fisheries communities, practices, perspectives and issues in British Columbia as well as around the world (East Africa, Oceania and Southeast Asia).

Angela Miracle Gladue | Dancer and Beadwork Artist
Angela Miracle Gladue aka Lunacee, is a Cree/Greek Mother, Dancer and Beadwork Artist from Frog Lake First Nation, who started cultural dancing (metis & powwow) at age 6 and continued her dance career as a hip hop artist since 2003. She has been invited to perform, teach and speak to countless countries throughout out the world and now tours as one of the lead dancers for A Tribe Called Red. A few of Angela’s major accomplishments include: Choreographing and performing at the 2017 Juno Awards, First Place at the Canadian Hip Hop Championships and World Hip-Hop Championship Bronze Medalist with her crew the FlyGirlz, and recipient of the 2015 Chief David Crowchild Memorial Youth Award for demonstrating outstanding community leadership through hip hop and Powwow dance. She has also opened up for major recording artists such as TLC, Sean Paul, Lil’Kim, Maestro, Grand Master Flash and Busta Rhymes to name a few.

Aaron Yazzie | Mechanical Engineer at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
He designs, builds, and tests robotic systems to acquire samples of rocks and soil from other planets so that we can study them for science. He has had roles on the Mars Science Laboratory Rover Mission and the InSight Mars Lander. Currently, he is developing the drill bits that will be used on the Mars 2020 Rover. Aaron is Navajo, originally from a small town near the border of the Navajo Nation.

Chantal Pronteau | Guardian Watchman and Steward
Chantal has been a Kitasoo/Xai’xais Guardian Watchman since 2015. Her jurisdiction encompasses about 1,500 square miles of inlets, which cut through a folding screen of gunpowder-grey mountains speckled with trees, and which provide habitat for bears, seals, and whales. She gets to spend most of her time outdoors in the Great Bear Rainforest—doing everything from compliance monitoring on local waterways to collecting hair samples from grizzly bears in the region. In addition to her work as a Guardian Watchman, she was one of 14 students to graduate from the Stewardship Technicians Training Program, a training initiative co-led by Coastal First Nations and Vancouver Island University. As a Guardian Watchman, Chantal likes to focus on building bridges between people and communities.

Theland Kicknosway | Singer, Drummer and Grass Hoop Dancer
Theland Kicknosway is a strong Indigenous Youth, he is Wolf Clan, Potawatami/Cree Nation, a registered member of Walpole Island -Bkejwanong Territory in Southern Ontario. He is a singer, a grass & hoop dancer, and helps in ceremonies in many places. He is in High School in the Ottawa Region where he is a part of many sports teams. He enjoys offering his gifts of song/dance/voice for all. He is known as the Cree Drummer when he sang and hand drummed an honor song for the incoming Prime Minister of Canada and his new cabinet members swearing in ceremony in Nov 2015. He helped drum in the Indian Residential School Survivors In the Ottawa region in 2008 and in the closing of the TRC June 1st, 2015. In spring 2018 he completed his 4th annual run in partnership with Families of Sisters in Spirit-134 km per run- raising awareness to the children left behind of MMIWG2S. In 2018 he became the youngest Indspire Award Recipient under Culture, Heritage & Spirituality of the 25 yr History of the Inspire and Achievement Awards.

Adrian Sutherland | Midnight Shine
Adrian Sutherland is from the Mushkegowuk Cree community of Attawapiskat, situated on the coast of the James Bay in Northern Ontario. He is a singer/songwriter and frontman for the band Midnight Shine, making ‘radio-friendly’ music that draws upon his own personal experiences, while reflecting universal themes like family, home, love and loss. In addition to making contemporary rock music, Sutherland – who is fluent in Cree – is a traditional knowledge keeper. He takes part in ceremonies, participates in spring and fall harvests, sings pow wow, and is a genuine example of someone who lives authentically and pays homage to his culture. He is a father, grandfather, and hard-working husband, proud of who he is, and where he comes from.

Jessica Perritt | Scientist from the Nuclear Waste Management Organization
Jessica is the Sr. Advisor of Indigenous Knowledge at the NWMO and has been instrumental in creating the NWMO’s Indigenous Knowledge policy, upcoming Reconciliation Policy, and liaising with the Council of Elders and Youth. She is member of the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation and a proud Anishnawbekwe (Ojibway women). Her formal education is within western science majoring in Physics and Mathematics and has also received Indigenous education from Elders and knowledge keepers throughout her life. Jessica has brought respect for Indigenous knowledge and worldview to life at the NWMO and her next big project is helping the NWMO take further steps towards its journey in reconciliation, a true example for the rest of Canada.

Micheal Vegh | Central Coast Indigenous Resource Alliance
Q̓án̓ístisḷa (Michael Vegh) is a Heiltsuk environmental steward. He works at Central Coast Indigenous Resource Alliance, where he provides technical support for the Marine Planning Partnership, as well as Indigenous Laws coordination. Michael is passionate about working towards greater Indigenous-led management, especially in the form of Indigenous Protected Areas. Michael has also received ministerial appointment to the Traditional Ecological Knowledge Expert Group at the Commission for Environmental Cooperation. Michael truly believes that indigenous philosophies and ways of knowing are paramount to finding a more sustainable paradigm in our era of climate change.

Phyllis Webstad | Orange Shirt Day
Every year on September 30th, we wear orange shirts to honour residential school survivors. Orange Shirt Day grew out of Phyllis Webstad’s story of having her shiny new orange shirt taken away on her first day of school at residential school, told for the first time in May 2013. It has become an opportunity to keep the discussion on all aspects of residential schools happening annually. Orange Shirt Day is also an opportunity for First Nations, local governments, schools and communities to come together in the spirit of reconciliation and hope for generations of children to come. Phyllis published her first children’s book called “The Orange Shirt Story” which aims to bring communities together.

Mair Greenfield | Rumie Initiative
Mair Greenfield was born and raised in North Bay, Ontario. She is a member of Kebaowek First Nation. Mair has worked alongside Indigenous families and communities for more than a decade in different areas, such as corrections, elementary, secondary, and post-secondary schools, Community Service-Learning, mentorship, and volunteer initiatives. Mair began her work with The Rumie Initiative in 2016 and is now the Director of Indigenous Programs. Rumie is a not-for-profit tech start-up with a vision of a world where everyone has access to quality learning. Rumie consists of a small team who build their own software and hardware and also host a no-cost digital learning repository called the LearnCloud which is accessible to anyone. Rumie partners with Indigenous communities and resource creators to reach remote areas and schools that have little to no Internet access or digital learning resources. Rumie supports communities to create custom made digital libraries that they can access completely offline through Rumie technology and suit Indigenous learners and community programs. Mair volunteers with communities on a personal level to support Indigenous language preservation efforts.

Chrisann Hessing | Filmmaker
Chrisann is a documentary filmmaker based in Toronto. She has combined her love of travel and storytelling to produce award-winning short films that have screened around the world. Her work reflects themes of identity and community and generally challenges common perceptions, especially relating to underrepresented groups and minorities. Her most recent film, TURNING TABLES, premiered at Hot Docs in 2018 and won Best Documentary Short at the 43rd American Indian Film Festival.

Brad Baker & Sarah Mazzei | Educator
Brad is a proud member of the Squamish Nation and carries the ancestral name Tsnomot, which he shares with his late grandfather and father. Brad has been an educator for 27 years in the North Vancouver School District. For the last 8 years, his position has been District Principal with the portfolios of Indigenous Education, Careers, and Safe and Caring Schools. Brad was recently selected to the 2017 Governor General of Canada’s Leadership Council. He was 1 of 250 leaders from across Canada that came together to develop strategies on how to move Canada forward in the next 150 years. Brad was the recipient of the Indspire Guiding the Journey National Award for Leadership in Indigenous Education in 2014. One of Brad’s mottos is for all of us to understand “Truth Before Reconciliation” and to “Go Forward With Courage.” We will focus on how  Secret Path can be used as a tool to enhance the learning environment for all learners when it comes to understanding the role of Indian Residential Schools in Canada’s history.

Rena Priest | Writer and Explorer
Rena Priest is a 2019 National Geographic Explorer, a Writer, and a member of the Lhaq’temish (Lummi) Nation. Her debut book, Patriarchy Blues, garnered a 2018 American Book Award and her most recent collection, Sublime Subliminal, was selected as the finalist for the Floating Bridge Press Chapbook Award. Her current project follows regional efforts to restore health and habitability to the Salish Sea for the benefit of critically endangered Southern Resident Qwel Lhol Mech Ten (Killer Whales) and wild chinook salmon. Priest’s work can be found in literary journals and anthologies including For Love of Orcas, Cosmonauts Avenue, and Collateral Journal.

What is Exploring by The Seat of Your Pants (EBTSOYP)? 
Each month during the school year, EBTSOYP hosts 25+ live video events for classrooms.
They regularly host full-day, week and month events covering themes like oceans, biodiversity, women in science, space exploration, ocean plastics, and climate change.

EBTSOYP sends textbook-sized satellite BGAN units around the world with scientists and explorers so that they can video broadcast into classrooms from the most remote regions of the planet. This gives schools the opportunity to follow and connect with exciting expeditions around the world.

Over 100 Students and Educators Provided With Opportunity to Attend Secret Path Live

Secret Path Live was an incredibly moving and impactful night for so many people, made even more special thanks to the generous support of the Buy One, Give One (BOGO) ticket purchasers. The BOGO ticket included one complimentary ticket for a Legacy School student or Indigenous youth who could not otherwise afford to attend the show. Through their generous support over 100 students and educators were able to attend, with five groups travelling over 1000km to attend.

Students came from:

  • Dennis Franklin Cromarty – Thunder Bay, Ontario (1345 KM to Toronto)
  • Fort McLeod – Blackfoot First Nation, Fort McLead, Alberta (3648 KM from Toronto)
  • Kapapamahchakwew – Wandering Spirit School, Toronto, Ontario
  • Kitchener-Waterloo Collegiate and Vocational School, Kitchener, Ontario
  • North Spirit Lake First Nation – Ontario (1392 kilometers from Toronto)
  • Pictou First Nation – Nova Scotia (1,610.8 km to Toronto)
  • Saugeen First Nation – Ontario (226.5 KM from Toronto)
  • Venina Secondary School – Attawapiskat, Ontario (1,054 km from Toronto)

When the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund (DWF) realized how many people were willing to travel great distances to bring students to the show, we knew we needed to provide an opportunity for the students to meet one another. A student “meet and greet” took place prior to the show across the street from Roy Thomson Hall. Students played games, ate pizza, and shared their stories. Students also took turns pinning their names to a map of Canada to show just how far everyone had travelled to attend this special night. For many students attending this was not only their first concert but also their first night away from home. In some cases, it was their first night to ever leave their community.

Some of the artists performing later that evening surprised the students, taking the opportunity to visit and connect with them. Kevin Drew (Broken Social Scene/Secret Path Band), Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fay (July Talk) and Johnny Fay (The Tragically Hip) all stopped by to welcome the youth to Toronto and to the Secret Path Live concert.

The original Secret Path band; Kevin Hearn (Barenaked Ladies), Kevin Drew (Broken Social Scene), Josh Finlayson (Skydiggers), Dave Hamelin (The Stills), and Charles Spearin (Do Make Say Think) performed Secret Path with special guests Buffy Sainte-Marie, Tanya Tagaq, Serena Ryder, July Talk, William Prince, Whitehorse, Sam Roberts, Tom Wilson, Sarah Harmer, and Andy Maize. The concert was a moving tribute to Chanie Wenjack, Gord Downie and to the thousands of children who were taken from their homes and forced to attend residential schools.

The evening and the experience would not have been possible without the support of our sponsors and BOGO ticket holders. Miigwech, thank you to everyone who made this night a reality!

Student and educator testimonials;

We attended the concert yesterday and for us, it was amazing. It was not just the music – it also left a few questions and curiosity in our mind. We are trying to gather as much information as possible about Gord Downie and his life, the reconciliation efforts, albums & more importantly about Chanie Wenjack, the little boy who have lost his life in order to go back to his family.

The kids and I want to thank you for providing a meaningful event for everyone. It is a night we will never forget. The kids had fun at the meet and greet and were deeply moved by the live performance. I was even more humbled to be a part of this amazing organization and am fired up to make a difference. We extend our gratitude to you and DWF for a memorable and powerful evening where we came together to reflect on why reconciliation is so important. Chanie and Gord’s lives have indeed inspired us to “Do Something”.

I found Secret Path Live to be a magical experience, where love and truth found its way from well-known and wonderful musicians to an audience ready for what it brought them  – hope for the future.

We enjoyed the concert and how engaged they were with the crowd. Our students enjoyed the message that was shared and loved seeing the information shared down in the lobby.

The energy at the event was nothing short of magical.

Very well done! A powerful story that should be told to as many children and youth as possible – Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike.