Attawapiskat: Spring comes early at four in the morning – Cathy Elliott


ATTAWAPISKAT – Aboriginal Now – Spring Equinox 3:56am: I can’t believe I’m awake, typing right now. I’ve got earplugs but the sound of my own heart-beat is keeping me awake. How can kids possibly stay alert when they can’t even keep out the sounds of other people walking up and down the hall or even just breathing next door? Of course, I’m in a new place and am very excited about the next few days…

Besides, it’s officially Spring Equinox. The Ladies Drumming Group at the Porcupine Lodge over in Shubie N.S. (thousands of K’s away) are singing in the spring with a Sacred Fire Ceremony. I swear I can hear them, too.

And the guy next to me is snoring. So. Might as well write.

In a few hours I’ll go out and take some dawn pictures of a new day. So much for catching up on my sleep.

James Bay Royalty…

Wapistan - James Bay Royalty

A few hours ago I was in the communal kitchen eating my dinner when Lawrence Martin came in and joined me. We got to talking about music and both pulled out our Macs and listened to each other’s music. He started telling me about concerts with Tom Jackson and Kashtin and Susan Aglukark and I realized I was jabbin’ with a Canadian Legend! Quick- Wikipedia: Not only is he the first Aboriginal Album of the Year winner, he was mayor of Sioux Lookout (I knew I really liked that place for a good reason) the first Aboriginal mayor of a municipality that wasn’t a Rez. I really hope he gets up and sings and plays with us on Friday. (No pressure, Lawrence!) I’m such a dope. I need an education about the fantastic Aboriginal people in this country. This province. And here I was all impressed with myself that I met Wills & Kate last summer! Jeez.

What do you all think about an album, with Nashville musicians, super star Aboriginal singers, filled with songs by our Aboriginal Youth? Hmmmm? Just putting it out there…


I was so excited about my first class with the grade 8’s. I went out into the foggy morning, noted how slippery the ground was, gingerly, with both hands occupied with guitar and computer and indoor shoes, stepped off the icy puddle and onto the solid snow bank. Then sank up to my knee in water. I had stepped into the ditch which was hiding under that snow and the water that poured into the top of my boot was bone numbing cold. I went back inside, and on a suggestion by the proprietress of the Inn, put grocery bags in my boots to keep my feet dry. I walked to the school with white plastic sticking out of my boots.

That’s how my day started.

I just met two classes full of youth who are quiet, direct and seemingly cautious. I like them a lot. We’ve been brainstorming this morning about stuff that makes them tick. What makes them prickly. What they want for the future. This afternoon I’ll meet up with the grade six’s again, and we’ll get started. Tomorrow I’ll meet the grade seven students.

I sang my song “Kitchen in Saint John” for those youth and their teachers. It was, as usual and emotional thing for me to open up to them. To expose my heart and show them what music has done for me as a youth. This is all a very personal experience for me, and creating art can sometimes be hard. But it does open up avenues of communication that speeches some times cannot. (I tip my toque to AFN B.C. Regional Chief Jody Wilson-Raybould, who spoke to my heart during the Crown and First Nations Gathering.) The voices of children can go straight to your heart, too.

Cathy Elliott

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.