Spring in Attawapiskat – Flying with the Geese – Cathy Elliott


Wing Still by Cathy ElliottATTAWAPISKAT – Special to NNL – I can’t believe that only three months ago I wrote a song about Attawapiskat called “Cup of Kindness”. Just before Christmas. I said then, when I first sang it, “I hope this song becomes old real fast.” At that time, Attawapiskat was all over the news. The poster child of shame, poverty, charity, the little guy against the big government. Charlie Angus hammered away at the injustice of the education system’s inequality of funding for Aboriginal Education. Then the Gathering in Ottawa happened, with our Aboriginal Leaders saying one after the other that profound changes need to be made to help Attawapiskat and so many other communities like it.


And now, DAREarts, a wonderful organization that ignites change through the arts is sending me there to work with the teachers and community members to write songs with the kids. These are pretty amazing kids. They’re fighters. They’re adamant about having a say in the outcome of their future. They’ve been under a lot of stress lately.

Today, as the sun spills through my window, I am hopeful that the Attawapiskat I see will be somewhat improved from the one I saw in the media. That those much celebrated houses from New Brunswick will have a place to take root. The school that has been promised is still waiting for the financial go-ahead. Maybe, while I’m there, history will again be made in Attawapiskat as the funding starts to flow, closing that gap we’ve all been hearing about down south but don’t really understand.

Spring is in the air. The temperature should be above zero for most of the time I’m there. There will be rain. If I remember from Webequie properly, (DAREarts has been visiting that community for five years now) that means the roads will be mud. The geese must be close to arriving if not already. The kids will probably have spring on their minds.

I can’t wait to hear what they have to sing about. I am so excited about sharing ideas with them. What kind of songs they’ll come up with. I’ve been already receiving warm greetings from folks who want to introduce me to their musical siblings. I feel already like I’m going to be taken care of. I like this place already.

I just love that when people ask me, “Where’s that? What are you doing there?” I get to tell them where it is, why I’m going, and what we’re going to come up with at the end of a crazy week. On top of writing the song, the kids will take turns documenting their process on video and still photography. Those images will accompany their songs in a Karaoke film we’ll put up on YouTube when I get back. That way, other kids get to see what they’ve done, and they get to see what other kids have done. People respond with enthusiasm. That’s good. That gives me hope for this country, for these kids. Aboriginal and non. Because, when we bring those kids up to the standards that other Canadian kids enjoy, they’re going to be such an amazing resource. A force to be reckoned with. Just you wait and see.

Well, gotta see how much I can cram in one carry on suitcase and computer bag. And my guitar case. Yes, I’m packing food in my guitar case along with my instrument. I have one hour to get off one plane in Timmins and on another tiny plane to Att. Wish me bon voyage! I’m flying with the geese!

Cathy Elliot

Cathy Elliott will be sharing her stories and thoughts from Attawapiskat as she spends a week in Attawapiskat with DAREarts.

About Cathy: Cathy Elliott is an Actor, Writer, Visual Artist, Composer/Lyricist. Non-linear creation is my thing. Aboriginal, Acadian, Irish. In love with life. Daughter, sister, friend and playmate. I’d love to learn to speak Mi’Kmaq. I’m learning a lot about my Mi’Kmaq heritage, and I’ll be tackling the Acadian and Irish in the next twenty years.

But for now, just create. Because Art Is.

Cathy Elliott CBC Music


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Cathy Elliott is a multi-disciplined Mi’kmaq artist and a proud member of the Indian Brook, Shubenacadie Band. Her screenplay for the documentary “Fill My Hollow Bones” was narrated by her hero, Graham Green. She wrote and directed The Talking Stick, the first all-aboriginal musical in the 47-year history of the Charlottetown Festival. The finale of The Talking Stick was featured at Will and Kate’s Royal Visit to PEI in 2011. A concert version of The Talking Stick was presented at the TRC Halifax. In 2012, She was the Aboriginal Liaison for New World Theatre Project’s The Tempest in Cupids, Newfoundland. She portrayed Ariel as a Beothuk Grandmother, and translated portions of the script into Beothuk and Mi’kmaq. “Fireweeds” her Yukon musical premiered at the Red Barn Theatre and had several productions. Moving Day, her one woman musical, premiered at Talk is Free Theatre and had productions in the inaugural Next Stage Festival, Halifax and Orillia. She is now the Director of Communications for DAREarts, a children's arts organization and the head of their Aboriginal Program.