By Lindy Kinoshameg, YPT Community Engagement Facilitator

About INDIGENizeUS:  During YPT’s 2017/18 Season, the entire staff participated in INDIGENizeUS workshops created by Lindy Kinoshameg and Leslie McCue that focused on Indigenous relations, raising cultural awareness, and exploring individual reconciliation. Learning began around the seven sacred teachings of Respect, Bravery, Humility, Love, Honesty, Wisdom, and Truth. The intention behind the workshop series is to hear stories from Indigenous artists/elders and participate in traditions first-hand. It is our hope that programs such as this will begin building a bridge between nations and help take the first steps toward reconciliation. To read INDIGENizeUS – Part 1, click here.

I started each workshop with an introduction in my language, Ojibway:  Boozhoo, Aanii, Lindy Kinoshameg diishinikaaz, Wiikwemikoong, minwaa doganning doonjibaa, Ginozhe dodem [Greetings, Hello, my name is Lindy Kinoshameg from South Bay on Wikwemikong First Nation, and I’m from the Pike Clan] – followed by a personal land acknowledgment that came from the heart each time. I then gave an overview of the program, but more so on how to accept the information being given to them and to let it become a part of their personal knowledge. One thing I didn’t want people to feel was that they were forced into being there or being told ‘what you learn here on this date must be enacted henceforth by order of your majesty…’. No. That model has been done (residential school) and I’m not going that route. These workshops were an opportunity for each participant to take a personal journey, to listen as an individual, and not as an employee of the oldest professional theatre company in Canada.

Veronica Johnny shows how to care for the spirit of the drums.

What made it easy for YPT staff to share was the fact that the workshop facilitators were so open and willing to share themselves, their culture, their passion and their energy with the participants. Veronica Johnny really brought them together as a group during the Bravery workshop, through explaining the power of the drum, the heartbeat of mother earth, the connection with our ancestors and the sacredness of bringing water to where there was none before (tears). Veronica reached out to all of us in the workshop, and to the ancestors of our past. She encouraged us to reach within ourselves for that bravery, allowing each one of us to use and hold the drums, to explore different songs together and share our voices as a group.

Veronica carefully explained that every step in her process has a purpose, how these are not just drums to be banged on, but that each one has a spirit to be respected and loved each time it is unwrapped. It is her inclusive practice, her nurturing attitude and her strong spirit that really come alive when she works with what she loves doing — music.

Veronica Johnny:
Muskose’wukaw pussa’w Iskwao (Meadow Valley Woman) is a two-spirit artist of mixed origins and a member of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. She is a contemporary Indigenous hand drummer of Cree, Dene, French and Scottish descent from Fort Smith, NWT. Veronica facilitates arts-education workshops including self-esteem, music and cultural teachings. She’s a writer, singer, songwriter and front woman and manager of The Johnnys, a high-energy rock band she founded with husband Dave Johnny. Ms. Johnny is an artist entrepreneur and the founder of IndigenEd – Indigenous Education for all“creating understanding between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.”

I was so happy when Veronica said she was available to run these workshops. Now that the series is done, I could not imagine anyone else in that role and it going so well. I have worked with all of the facilitators, artists and elders in some capacity before, some more than others, and so I was familiar with everyone’s style and workshop strengths. Curating these workshops was very easy, as all my first choices said yes, and were very happy with what teaching they were focusing on and what type of workshop they were going to be giving.

Like it was meant to be.

“I really appreciated that Veronica created a safe space that allowed us to connect to one another and also to maintain that connection in remembrance of others that are no longer with us. Her music was a very powerful tool that was joyful and hopeful but also deeply moving.”

Bravery workshop group photo.

INDIGENizeUS : Part 1

INDIGENizeUS : Part 2

INDIGENizeUS : Part 3

About Lindy Kinoshameg:

Lindy Kinoshameg, as a child.

A proud Odawa from the Pike clan, Lindy was raised in Wiikwemkoong Unceeded First Nation on Manitoulin Island. Lindy has spent the last 10 years in Toronto, focusing his energy on Indigenous cultural awareness and breaking stereotypes through the arts. Always striving to practice new art-forms, this has led to a multitude of experiences: Visual arts projects, Healthy Living Program Coordinator, and Indigenous Radio Program Host, working his way up to Production Tour Manager and Event Coordinator, Indigenous Dance and cultural workshop facilitation. Lindy is now involved with Young People’s Theatre as Community Engagement Facilitator, in part to his strong belief and push towards incorporating Indigenous values and teachings into his practice, and sharing his knowledge with others.