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.
We are crossing the halfway mark of INDIGENizeUS, and we are approaching an impactful and reflective time for me. As well as working at YPT, I am a Prairie Chicken dancer, and have done many dance, and arts facilitation workshops and performances with Leslie McCue across Turtle Island (North America) for over 10 years. Leslie, amongst many things, is a Traditional and Jingle Dress dancer. We always have fun; we work well together; and we have been partners for over 14 years. Leslie has been my guiding light ever since I met her. She is kind-hearted, generous with her spirit and energy, knowledgeable and intuitive. I wouldn’t be where I am today without her and I can’t say enough about her. While I’m the one writing the blog, she has been my collaborative partner throughout the entire process of INDIGENizeUS.
Leslie McCue is a proud member of the Mississaugas of Curve Lake First Nation. Leslie is an arts administrator, artist, performer and educator who is dedicated to raising cultural awareness, while supporting community any way she can. Her work is driven by her past, passion to educate and the motivation to empower others. Leslie is the Administrator for Chocolate Woman Collective, the Coordinator for the Royal Ontario Museum Youth Cabinet, an Indigenous Knowledge Resource Teacher and both a Resident Artist Educator and Drama School Teacher for Young People’s Theatre. Recent projects include: Artistic Curation for the Indigenous Arts Festival at the Historic Fort York and The Children’s Garden for WeeFestival; General Manager for (The Association for Native Development in the Performing and Visual Arts) ANDPVA, Kaha:wi Dance Theatre and Paprika Festival; worked for Toronto’s Indigenous Fashion Week and Nuit Blanche, while always finding time for family and friends. Leslie has been asked to perform and speak at many venues across North America and Europe. Some highlights include: The Vancouver Winter Olympics Athletes Village and Pavillions (British Columbia), Museum of Civilization (Quebec), Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (Holland) and Juno Beach Museum (France).
Our long term goal has been to operate our own business that revolves around supporting youth and community in my hometown, Wiikwemkoong Unceeded First Nation, through an all-encompassing arts centre that infuses Indigenous knowledge at the heart of everything. Every project we have worked on during our time in Tkaronto (Toronto) has been to build experience and knowledge towards our final goal of moving to Wiikwemkoong to support community. I really wanted to take a big step in that direction and INDIGENizeUS is one of our business ideas for cultural sensitivity training, in a meaningful, impactful and integrated way. We were lucky enough to go from paper to practice. We are so grateful to have YPT’s continued support, not only for our ideas, but in providing a platform to allow true growth and learning.
Focusing back in on the series, we felt that a workshop on Honesty was a chance to show everyone’s true and most honest self. What better way than inviting the people who I have been getting to know so well — the staff — to take part in one of our favorite things to do together: dance. A handful of people have experienced Indigenous dancing or singing and drumming at other events, but may not always have had the opportunity to learn cultural context, personal intricacies in the art form, or get involved in the experience. Leslie and I designed a workshop that was an avenue for participants to immerse themselves in Indigenous dance while understanding the complex HERstory, in which less than 60 years ago it was illegal to speak our language, practice our customs or appear in any public dance, show, exhibition, stampede or pageant wearing ancestral regalia. During the workshop we shared the story of our dance and teachings the way we were told from our history, by our own people.
One of our favorite parts of the workshop is the interactive portion, where we invite everyone to join us to do some social dancing. Having that opportunity to connect with people on an individual level really fosters a connection with their learning throughout the series. It resonates with what they are experiencing, feeling and how it will affect them, moving forward. A lot of people are shy to try at first, but once we got them going, and as a group, everyone let loose and we saw what they were made of!
”I loved how there was such a sense of fun and play in this workshop. It was a nice complement to some of the other workshops that had more of a deeper feeling of reverence to them. Both are great, but [I] appreciated the balance.” – Participant
By the end of the workshop, there were no shy or timid people, only friends having a laugh and sharing a moment. The activity that carried throughout the workshop was asking some volunteers to hold onto a piece of paper with words from the Indian Act written on them. At the end, we asked those individuals to share the words again and how they felt, being so close to those words for a couple of hours. Some had forgotten about it; some had remembered in moments when they were having the most fun and it made them think. We wanted to remind people that this is our shared history, and sometimes it’s uncomfortable and we hide or forget about it, but it is always there, and only together can we move beyond it. So we asked our volunteers to rip up the paper, and we all freestyle danced over those words, together.
About Lindy Kinoshameg:
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.