Aboriginal youth turn to film for identity

This month a group of aboriginal youth screened a nine-minute film for their elders and the Red Deer public at the Hub on Ross — that’s the synopsis.

From the left

From the left

This month a group of aboriginal youth screened a nine-minute film for their elders and the Red Deer public at the Hub on Ross — that’s the synopsis.

But the story behind this seemingly short burst of creativity reaches far deeper into the roots of the aboriginal community in Red Deer, and is the culmination of many hours of exploration by the Spirit Seekers Youth Theatre Project to better understand its identity.

“If you knew where these kids had come from, the gains we made were quite wonderful,” said Lucinda Sheardown, who has facilitated the theatre project from the beginning.

Since October 2010, Sheardown and her drop-in theatre group (usually consisting of a dozen or so youths) have been meeting at the Hub each Thursday, exploring concepts of identity and community using theatrical games and workshops.

“I really had to adapt the program as we went, and have no expectations; it had to be about the process, not the product,” said Sheardown.

The aboriginal youth group (ranging from ages 8 to 18) seemed tentative to express themselves at first, Sheardown said.

“I wasn’t really comfortable with it at the start, acting definitely was not one of my hobbies,” said Warren Simon, an 18-year-old member of the group.

Simon plans on graduating high school this year and becoming an electrician. He said his penchant to listen kept him showing up each Thursday night for the initially awkward theatre meetings. He came to enjoy the Spirit Seekers program and said it helped him learn plenty about his own identity as an aboriginal youth.

“The problems we all go through, we had a lot in common, experiencing racist comments and whatnot,” said Simon.

Simon’s transformation and is a shared experience the majority of the group now has in common as well. As the weeks turned into months, the project’s creativity grew beyond even Sheardown’s expectations, she said.

“Kids who never said a word at the start were getting up and doing live theatre by the end of the program,” she said.

Sheardown, who studied education with a major in theatre at the University of Alberta, used transformational techniques such as Augusto Boal’s (a revered Brazilian theatre practitioner) Theatre of the Oppressed methods to give her group a platform to express their feelings.

“The whole concept behind it is to take situations that would happen in real life, and rehearse ways to deal with them on stage,” said Sheardown.

Once the group reached a high level of comfort with Sheardown and each other, they started to explore concepts of discrimination openly — skits examined if the Spirit Seekers were being followed around stores by suspicious employees because they were aboriginal or because they were young, or both, Sheardown said. Using these real experiences as the basis for dramatic expression brought many pleasant and painful memories and feelings to the surface, Sheardown said.

As the process unfurled, Sheardown kept the group’s creative direction in its own hands, and when the young performers decided they wanted the theatre project to become a film, she happily obliged.

“That was the whole point of the project, to help them find their voices, and begin to use them, whether it was verbally or non-verbally,” Sheardown said.

Tanya Schur, executive director of the Red Deer Native Friendship Society, which operates the Spirit Seekers program, said the evolution of the project to include film was exactly what she’d hoped for.

“We had an idea of using theatre games to get our youth to express themselves, but in their work with Lucinda, they came up with the idea of doing a documentary,” Schur said.

“To me that is a success, to be able to stand up and say ‘This is who I am.’ is very significant in our culture.”

Schur said the volunteer effort of Kristopher Wedgwood, a film editor from Cast in Stone Productions in Red Deer, helped the Spirit Seekers learn many film production and editing techniques in a short period of time.

The rough-cut of Identity: A Perspective From Aboriginal Youth premiered recently at the Hub, and will hopefully grow to become a lasting extension of the oral story-telling traditions considered sacred in the First Nations community, Schur said.

“To capture some of the stories of our elders before they walk on would be a very important gift to leave the community.”

Schur also hopes the continually evolving Spirit Seekers program will become a more inclusive exploration of issues facing Red Deer’s youth.

“This has the potential to become a forum where aboriginal and non-aboriginal kids can come together and talk about what experiences they share being young in the 21st century.”

syoung@bprda.wpengine.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools Board of Trustees selected the name St. Lorenzo Ruiz Middle School to be built in the north end of Red Deer. (Photo Courtesy of  Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools)
Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools raises about $8,720 for Terry Fox Foundation

Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools raised about $8,720 for the Terry Fox… Continue reading

A nurse gets a swab ready at a temporary COVID-19 test clinic in Montreal, on Friday, May 15, 2020. Health Canada has reversed course on home test kits for COVID-19, saying it will now review applications for such devices. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Alberta declines Ontario’s request to send health-care workers

Alberta is “not in a position” to send health-care workers out of… Continue reading

The Red Deer Rebels allowed four straight goals from the Medicine Hat Tigers Friday night on the road. (Photo by Rob Wallator/ Red Deer Rebels)
Tigers hand Red Deer Rebels 10th straight loss

Tigers 4 Rebels 2 Through 17 games in the shortened WHL season,… Continue reading

Meghan Huizing has been selected by Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools as a finalist for the Alberta School Boards Association (ASBA) 2021 Edwin Parr Award. (Photo courtesy of Red Deer Regional Catholic Schools)
Red Deer Catholic names finalist for Edwin Parr Award

Meghan Huizing from St. Gregory the Great Catholic School in Blackfalds has… Continue reading

GrammaLink-Africa members are participating in the Stride to Turn the Tide campaign until June 30. (Contributed photo)
Red Deer group walking to raise money for African grandmothers

A group of central Albertans will be walking every day until the… Continue reading

Red Deer Public Schools will not pilot the new draft curriculum at its elementary schools. (File photo contributed by Red Deer Public Schools)
UPDATED: Red Deer Public Schools says no to piloting new curriculum

Alberta Teachers’ Association support school boards

A person walks past a COVID-19 mural designed by artist Emily May Rose on a rainy day during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Monday, April 12, 2021. Employment lawyers say flouting COVID-19 public health orders when off the job or coming into work while knowingly sick could warrant discipline in the workplace. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Risky pandemic behaviour off the clock could mean workplace discipline: lawyers

CALGARY — Employment lawyers say flouting COVID-19 public health orders when off… Continue reading

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa Tuesday, March 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau announces donation to Duke of Edinburgh’s award ahead of funeral

Canada will donate $200,000 to the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award as… Continue reading

Opinion
Opinion: Canada’s self-esteem needs Trump

Well, it was fun while it lasted. For four years, with Donald… Continue reading

Harley Hay
Harley Hay: Shenanigans on the links

It must be something about my Scottish heritage but I seem to… Continue reading

Muskrats can occupy any wetland that is shallow enough to permit the growth of their aquatic food.
Pearman: Muskrats numbers rebounding in central Alberta

I have spent many pleasant hours muskrat watching. Time spent in the… Continue reading

Letters
Letter: Go camping in B.C.

The news is reporting that a lot of people are threatening to… Continue reading

Montreal Canadiens' Tyler Toffoli celebrates his goal past Calgary Flames goaltender Jacob Markstrom during second-period NHL hockey action in Montreal on Friday, April 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Toffoli scores twice, Canadiens put some distance on Flames with 2-1 win

Toffoli scores twice, Canadiens put some distance on Flames with 2-1 win

Canadian prop Jake Ilnicki savouring life in Seattle, looks forward to facing Arrows

Canadian prop Jake Ilnicki savouring life in Seattle, looks forward to facing Arrows

Most Read