May 7, 2018

But first, a story

The CBC/Alexis Media Mentoring and Training program was born out of consultation with Indigenous communities from northern Alberta. Community leaders told us that they wanted to empower youths to share their own stories.

They asked CBC how we could help them do that.

Partnering with Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation an hour northwest of Edmonton, CBC Edmonton created a course that would earn students a high school credit by sharing a story. Over the course of four weeks, students connected with Indigenous mentors from CBC, the media industry, the education sector and their own community. 

CBC Edmonton hopes to grow and expand the project to include more Indigenous communities in the future.

Here are the stories from the high school students of Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation, slightly edited for clarity, as told by them.

Tanisha Alexis, 17

Personally, I believe that keeping our Stoney language alive is very, very important. A lot of Indigenous languages are on the verge of disappearing and that includes ours as well. For our community to remain a nation legally we are to have three things and that includes land, language and culture. If the language disappears then we won’t be able to continue being a nation.

One of the ways we can prevent the disappearance of the language is to continue our Stoney language program held in our school. The Stoney program is very beneficial because there are a bunch of youths within the school who are able to speak some of the language, and even be able to say the Our Father prayer which has been translated into Stoney.

One of the many problems is that the language is not encouraged enough to kids at home. If the parents were to enforce it more then I think that it would help too.

Another problem is that there are also many distractions in and around our community and that causes many of the youths to not want to learn anything about our culture and language.

The reason I chose reinvigorating the language is because my grandparents are always telling me that when they were about my age everyone could speak the language fluently.

It made me realize how important it is and that one day it could vanish completely. There are people who say that it is part of our identity, and that it is a relationship between Wakȃ and our spirit.

To me, losing the language would mean losing part of who we are as First Nations people.

Zella Kootenay, 16

Jeremiah Alexis, 16

The Sioux people have had traditional foods in their culture since civilization began. The traditional foods I’m going to talk about are the following: bannock, lily tea, kapami and raisin soup. There are more foods in the Nakota Sioux culture but I’m just going to talk about what the Aboriginal people eat and drink on a daily basis.

Bannock wasn’t always like the bannock you see Aboriginals eat today.  Wanigash (long time ago) people didn’t have flour or yeast so don’t imagine it being puffy. I was told by my wagaushin (grandma) and mitaushin (grandpa) that bannock looked like a crispy flat bun. 

Now it’s time to talk about lily tea. First I gotta tell you about what the lily plant is. Somewhere in the moist vegetation lays a plant that has an orange bottom and a light green, fuzzy top. I heard an elder talking about this tea so I asked my wagaushin about it and I remember being told that the plant resides in a swampy ecosystem and is prepared by picking it, washing it and boiling the plant. You know, the normal way to make tea.

Now, on to kapami. Kapami is pounded meat, but there is another variation of it. I helped my wagaushin make kapami with berries and lard when I was but a young lad back in the early 2000s.

The last traditional food on my list is raisin soup. This soup has been used in feasts for ceremonies and celebrations and it’s prepared using moose meat, raisins and wild rice. They boil the ingredients and serve it, but nowadays, to save time and money, they use steak meat and regular rice to make raisin soup. 

This concludes my story on the traditional foods of the Nakota Sioux Tribe.

Tony Kootenay, 14

Anonymous, 15

Alexis in My Eyes

Some ask where I stay,
others ask about my home,
but how would I know?
It’s true that I’m not perfect,
there are times I don’t even try.
It’s true that I am hurting, yet,
there are times even I don’t know why.
I have hurt and cried,
I have been kicked to the curb
also forgotten.
Darkness was my home for so long
but I had yet to see I was wrong.
I thought this dark tunnel would never end
but the sunlight came in the form of not only family,
but also my friend.
I feel so happy
and here I thought tears were sad.
Now, I’m accepted
There’s no more hiding and pretending
Over here I feel whole
That’s why …
Alexis will forever be my home.

Jerrison Alexis, 16

What excites you?

Powwows, competition, consisting of traditional food, dancing, the arts and tradition of self-preservation, make your kids experience the fun of powwow. You, the reader, can make a profit from all this. With great culinary skills, you can bring a food truck and sell your food. While delighting your taste buds with foods of many varieties, a bannock burger being of the highest quality dish, it would be wise not to put condiments on them. The fact is that the ingredients alone will make you full while also indulging your tongue with lettuce, tomato, ground beef, cheese and bannock.

Among other things, what makes us proud as a nation would be the gathering of our people. It allows us to know who we are, how far we've come to get where we are today. To our understanding, the traditions and beliefs that were set before us will never die out. As long as the sun shines, the grass grows and the rivers flow, our treaties are sacred. As well as the fierce competition among others, how we dance, how enduring we are to keep going and not give up shows the strength we carry within ourselves. 

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. 

It may seem a little unreasonable that we spend countless hours on decorations, shingles, headwear, dresses and other things, but that's who we are. 

That's what we are — it describes how we wanna be seen and known representing ourselves as well as those who helped us get to where we are — courage and pride. 

Our drummers show their skills and that shows who we are. No matter what we go through we will move past it and learn from it. We acknowledge the leader and how well we work together, keeping everyone in line but also drumming to the beat of our hearts.

Noah Alexis, 18

Nessa, 16

These are the powwow grounds.

There are many reasons as to why people attend powwows. One may be they love to dance or sing, but a powwow is a gathering between the different tribes and different communities. 

It's basically a way of connecting you to whoever you believe in spiritually. The powwow is another way for people meeting different people. 

I personally think an Alexis powwow is a big part of my life even though I don't dance. I do sing. I don't know what I would do if there were no more powwows.

Sunshine Potts, 15

Truly Beautiful.

I remember from Grade 3 to Grade 8 I was ashamed to be Native, let alone be from Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation. 

It started when I first moved from Alexis School to St. Augustine in Edmonton a few months before the school year was over. I was only in Grade 3 and I wasn’t comfortable being there, seeing as it was a completely new school and environment. One day, at the sharing circle, my teacher asked me where I was from. For a moment I was sitting there thinking about it until I started looking around on the carpet map and said, “There. It’s called, umm, Alexis.” At first they started looking at me weird and started giggling until I realized there was a girl in our class with the name Alexis. 

It was then I started to feel weird about being from there. I don’t really know why I started feeling like that but I did. That feeling started to grow more and more as the years went by. By the time I was in Grade 7, I was still really self-conscious about being Aboriginal. It didn’t matter if anyone else cared or not — I didn’t like my culture at all. It was so different from other people’s traditions. 

Even though I started learning about Aboriginal studies in Grade 4, I never really paid much attention to it as I didn’t want anything to do with that. Time went on with me feeling ashamed and growing up with other races I started to adapt to being materialistic, always listening to the newest music and always wanting to get the newest iPhone or pair of shoes that were out at the time. 

Hearing all these bad stereotypes about Natives just pushed my motivation more to hate myself and my people. Thinking about it now makes me sad because I couldn’t see the true beauty in my culture and our spiritual way of life. 

Halfway through Grade 8 one night I couldn't get this round dance melody out of my head that my older sister used to sing to me. I searched it up on YouTube and I started to learn the vocals and after that I fell in love with round dance music. From there on, I slowly started to fall back in love with my culture. 

Nowadays, the only word I can use to describe my Sioux culture is beautiful, truly beautiful. I feel so proud that my reservation gets the opportunity to have powwows, round dances and sundances and also classes that help us connect with our culture.

Abby Alexis, 16

Destiny Alexis, 17

Why our hair is sacred.

Our ancestors taught us that keeping our hair long makes us who we are and it's our spirit.

We were also told if we were to cut our hair, it would be cutting off a part of who we are as Indigenous people. When we do cut our hair, we were also told to keep our hair. As Indigenous people we are very proud of our long hair. 

The longer our hair grows, the stronger our spirit is.

Sebastian Cardinal, 17

Waheeba Letendre, 15

A while back, when I was a child, I would go to the Sundance and dance as a “tree girl.” Girls 15 or younger dance in a Sundance. Being able to dance was honestly so amazing and I felt better for my soul, life and mindset. 

I was able to think clearly because when I prayed while dancing everything felt fast and all of my sadness went away for a while. Watching a Sundance will change your way of what people think of Natives and they can finally see how we actually are. 

People will understand our traditions and beliefs.

Celeste Adams, 15

My whole family loves the powwow trail. My mom danced jingle and fancy, my sister dances jingle. I love fancy dancing and jingle and the rest of my cousins dance jingle.

The way it makes people feel … it’s like you’re free I guess. It’s just amazing the way it looks, it’s just beautiful.

The fancy outfit, dance etc. is the representation of the butterfly: graceful and fast. That’s why it’s so close to my heart.

I’ve been dancing in the powwow trail since I can remember. I did stop for a while but I hope I can do it for the rest of my life.

Shaylicia Courtoreille, 15

Honestly, my thoughts about Alexis are two completely different things.

There can be so much negativity but then there can also be so much positivity. It all depends on that path you choose. 

For me, at first I chose the wrong path, but I went and rolled the dice.

For my own good, I feel like we should take advantage of this [mentorship], because it's very rare for something like this to be actually happening. I think it's really cool.

Sage Letendre, 15

Wednesday afternoon, me, Tyrese and Denzel were going for a walk to the school. On the walk, we saw something horrific (I’ll get to that later). At the start, we wanted to go to the store, then we went to the school instead. We played basketball the entire time. 

“It’s getting dark out,” Denz said, so we finished up. 

On the walk back we cracked jokes and we were fooling around like we always do. 

Then, we saw some guy in the distance. All of us were like, “What the heck is that?” The figure was acting crazy. He was waving his hands around real crazy, and he was yelling and screaming weird things. It was freaky, and we ran away. THE END.

Denzel Potts, 15

Alexis is a great place. We have powwows here. Every summer, people from every reserve come here to participate or attend our powwow. 

We have a community hall here. We have round dances, ceremonies and other events.