Calgary Aboriginal Youth Filmmakers go to Toronto for imagineNATIVE Film Festival!

Oki, Tansi!

The other night, I attended a screening for a new short film here in Calgary – that short film was Skateboarding Pants. This animation was created by 7-year-old Colton Willier (Cree/Blackfoot) and his friend Ethan Aspeslet-Asels (Dene Tha) with the help of their moms, Amy and Thalia. This short animation utilizes cut-outs and original music created by the group. The boys were successful in their application for the 17th annual imagineNATIVE Film Festival happening in Toronto, ON from October 19-23 this year; they will also be the youngest filmmakers in attendance for this event. What an exciting opportunity for two of our Calgary Aboriginal youth!

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The boys will have the opportunity to showcase their film to people from across Canada and also be exposed to other artists creating digital and audio works during the festival. imagineNATIVE Film Festival is “the world’s largest presenter of Indigenous screen content from around the world” and is “committed to creating a greater understanding of Indigenous peoples and cultures through the presentation of contemporary Indigenous-made media art (film, video, audio and digital media)”. To learn more about the festival and charity, or to purchase tickets, check out their website here; for more information on the artists attending this year and the events break down, see this link to their catalog.

Colton is a multi-artist who not only creates film, but also has a passion for drawing. His mother is also an artist and Colton has been surrounded by Native contemporary and traditional art since he was young; his mother runs an art gallery in Calgary with her mother and cousin, called Moonstone Creation. It is located in a quaint little house on a corner in Inglewood. Moonstone Creation also supports other Aboriginal artists through showcasing their items and also purchasing items from these artists for the gallery. Colton and Ethan were busy fundraising through selling leather bracelets at $2.00 each that Colton made; they still have a few left if you are interested! You can contact Amy at amy@moonstonecreation.ca or visit Moonstone Creation’s Facebook page here to see some of the beautiful items Amy has created for the boys to wear during the festival. You can also see Moonstone’s website here. Look out for a blog post on Moonstone Creation in the near future too, my dear readers.

Art has been an important part of Aboriginal business for many  decades and with the new technology available to us, we are expanding in our creations, getting our voice out there, re-claiming our identity, and telling our own stories through creating our own media. Organizations like imagineNATIVE also support this re-telling of our stories. Indigenous Busy-ness is looking forward to a Skateboarding Pants sequel and the other work that this duo will create as they grow as artists! Supporting our Aboriginal youth is important to creating healthy, resilient communities and this a great opportunity for these young artists to build their community of supports. The art world can be tough to enter, but the work that imagineNATIVE does is actively breaking down these barriers for many Indigenous artists, nationally and internationally, while also helping to break down old stereo-types by creating understanding between cultures through showcasing our experiences as Indigenous peoples as told by us. There is a hashtag that you can utilize – #in17 – to follow updates on the film festival on both Facebook and Twitter!

Indigenous Busy-ness wishes the best of luck to the boys during the festival and in all of their future endeavours. To catch a re-cap of some Q & A with the young filmmakers, check out this accompanying vlog on the Indigenous Busy-ness YouTube channel. Thank you to the boys and their mothers for welcoming Indigenous Busy-ness to the screening! It is really great to see Aboriginal youth creating their own paths and putting themselves out there! Just goes to show you that the entrepreneur spirit comes in all shapes, sizes, ages, and industries!

Cree8 Calgary

If you’ve ever been to a community event in Calgary, you’re likely to have seen Chantal Chagnon drumming and singing with the Sisters from Another Mother, working as a volunteer, or in the crowd. Chantal is the lady with the pink hair, something that has become her trademark during her journey and it makes her so noticeable in crowds. She is a tireless advocate for many issues affecting people in the Calgary community and works tirelessly for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous community members alike. She has been busy collaborating with the Union choir, opening up the new CKUA radio station in Calgary, working with the Arusha Centre, and attending other events including the opening of Abenaki filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin’s film, “We Can’t Make the Same Mistake Twice”, at the Calgary Film Festival this past week.

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Chantal is also the owner of Cree8 Calgary, a cultural endeavour of Chantal’s that “aims to create bridges between people, culture and within yourself”. Cree8 “offers performances, workshops and presentations to share traditional aboriginal culture, crafts and teachings” within Calgary. Chantal and her mother Cheryle have even brought these services to Edmonton, and other areas within Alberta. Currently, the workshops that Chantal offers are Drum and Stick Making, Métis Fingerweaving, Dreamcatcher and Rattle workshops. She also offers private events (including corporate events), public speaking within schools and for youth groups, and is always willing to offer her services for anyone needing a beautiful voice to lift up the spirits of the crowd.

The inspiration for Cree8’s name is derived from Chantal and Cheryle’s Cree heritage, as well as the fact that both Chantal and her mother are “creative natives” that enjoy creating traditional crafts with traditional materials and teachings. The 8 in the name also has special meaning, as it represents the Métis infinity symbol presented on their flags; the infinity symbol has represented the joining of two cultures for the Métis peoples (as well as the existence of a culture forever) and is very fitting for the work that Chantal and her mother do. You can find more information on the Métis flag here.

In 2015, Chantal hosted the 8th Fire Gathering in Calgary, that was “three days of inspiring speakers, powerful performances, informative sessions, interactive workshops, and engaging activities”. Information was shared over the 3 days on information on “Idle No More, Human Rights Issues, Workers & Union Rights, Aboriginal Treaty Rights, Indigenous Sovereignty and Canadian Sovereignty, the Environment, Community Activism, Progressive Politics, and the future of Canada”. She will again be organizing the event, but this time will bring the gathering to Eastern Canada to the city of Ottawa, Ontario. To follow this gathering and keep up with all of the information on dates, check out the Facebook page here. This was a dynamic experience for Chantal, having planned the event, secured speakers, volunteers and space. Her favourite part was seeing the sharing of prayer in 8 different Indigenous languages from across Canada. Chantal is looking forward to again sharing this experience with others.

Attending Chantal’s July drum workshop, I could see Chantal’s passion for sharing culture in action.  During the workshop, we learned from one another and shared many stories; it was such a nice experience to be in a room full of people from all backgrounds wanting to learn more about Indigenous culture and customs. It was also refreshing to see Chantal in action, as I have previously seen the drums she and her mother created but hadn’t seen the process of creating one. It set the stage for me to uncover more of her story, as I have known Chantal for years, but after sitting down and picking her brain about her business, being an Aboriginal woman in her field, and the adversity she has faced, I feel that I know her so much better. Here are some more photos from the workshop:

Being in the activist community for years, Chantal has worked with a variety of organizations, corporations, and other activists on a number of projects. Oftentimes, Chantal gives her time for free. When there are events in Calgary, Chantal is often doing media relations, offering her voice and presence at events, or finding other ways to be of assistance. Chantal never expects money nor does she expect any special treatment in return for her service. This speaks to her integrity, as Chantal is truly doing it for the cause and not for any recognition or gratitude. Sadly, Chantal has also had to work alongside with those that seek only payment or acknowledgment during events. Walking your talk is so important, especially in business, but it also important to do so in your everyday life. Saying that you believe in a cause and giving your time and effort without expecting payment or gratitude is one way that one can show integrity.

Chantal believes staying true to yourself is probably the most important thing you can do as a woman in business. Being unafraid to speak out against injustice is also very important; unfortunately, this may come in the form of defending yourself and your work against discrimination or prejudice. The issue of the value of work in our society done by women can often hinder us when we attempt to branch out into business and Chantal has felt this misogyny from people before, even in her own communities. Chantal hopes to see a day when the same work that a woman does is not seen as less to comparable work done by a man, whatever the work may be.

Uplifting the youth is one way Chantal sees this happening; she believes that our youth are the future and they can start to fix the mistakes we have made, given the right teachings. This belief is reflected in her volunteer work with organizations that work with at-risk youth and her work at the K-12 level students; Chantal offers her workshops, as well as music therapy and speaking engagements for youth that get them talking about culture and identity. With Cree8, she was also able to recently donate 120 rattles to Alberta Foster Care Adoption for children and caregivers to utilize. Chantal’s compassion is evident in the types of events and organizations she supports; her tireless advocacy for human rights is something we can all learn from and try to emulate in advancing our society.

Check out Cree8’s Facebook page  to sign up for upcoming drum, dreamcatcher, fingerweaving and rattle workshops in October. Also, be sure to attend the 12th Annual Sisters in Spirit Vigil if you are in the Calgary Area on October 4th! Chantal will be leading the march, singing and speaking. You can find full information on the day’s events here. Indigenous Busy-ness wishes Chantal success with her upcoming workshops, an artist’s residency she landed for November in Lac La Biche, the 8th fire gathering in Ottawa, and all the other events she will assist with. Look out for an update later next year on Cree8!

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