DAREarts and Junior Rangers: Spirit of the North

Written by DAREarts Artist-Educator, Glenn Marais.
We are guided by our own inner wisdom and our values system that is our inner compass. Our greatest guide is our heart and that pure wisdom that has grown fertile in our souls from birth. We may have been blessed by good education and mentors and, in this recognition, understand that others have not shared the same bounty.

It was a stormy night and we had a long way to go, but for DAREarts founder, Marilyn Field, and myself, DAREarts artist Glenn Marais, it wasn’t a question of if – only when and how. We were on our way into a forecast of 90 KM hour winds, thunderstorms and possible hailstorms. Our destination: Meaford, ON to speak to a group of Junior Rangers, First Nations youth from all over northern Ontario. Outside of Stayner, it hit us hard: wind so strong the rains were sideways, hail so loud on my van we couldn’t talk over it.  Lightning flashed around us and we held on, drove slow with faith that it would blow over and we would be okay.  It did and we made it to a roomful of hope:  eager, resilient, ambitious, young men and women, training to make a difference in their community.

Marilyn told me we were going for a reason.  I believe wholeheartedly in this philosophy.  It’s a DAREarts philosophy. You show up with an open heart and mind and you embrace the possible in impossible situations.  For these First Nations youth, nothing in life is easy and people let them down all the time. We need to show up. We need to reach out. We need to understand that these young people have had their culture taken away and they are rebuilding their cultural legacy for their own children. That is powerful.

Marilyn was right; something magical happened. We sang ‘Spirit of the North’; a song written in honor of Jordan Wabasse, a youth from Webequie who died tragically young at the age of 15 while attending school in Thunder Bay. They asked us to sing it again and again and again and again. Each time they joined in with more confidence and their voices rose as one. They sensed the power and beauty of this song. Because it is their song:

“I want to see myself, proud,
I want to see myself strong,
I want to be who I am,
I’ve had enough of being wrong.
Love can make you do anything.”

Indeed it can and we love our youth like they are our own, because that is how we see them. As family. It resonated in the room tonight and we left as one people who shared something bigger than ourselves, love.

As we prepared to leave, a young man named Jaren approached me and told me of his grandmother who was in a Residential School. He said, “They took away everything from her.” He thanked me and said that I had changed him. That he believed he could get back what they had lost. In my years of working in the north and with the thousands of students I have had the privilege of working with, this has been the most humbling and beautiful thing anyone has ever said to me. Jaren, you have strengthened my resolve and giving me a great gift. I am eternally grateful. From this storm we emerged into a beautiful sky, burning red, streaked with black clouds, as if hope had burned through and shone its glorious light on us all.

Meegwitch my new friends, we will see you again.

DAREarts 1-888-540-2787 | info@darearts.com

DAREarts is a children’s charity that uses the arts to empower at-risk young people to become leaders. Our lead supporters are Northbridge Insurance, Scotiabank, TD Bank Groupand the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.

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