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N.W.T. elementary students compose music about colonialism


Students at the Weledeh Catholic School in Yellowknife are using music to talk about what colonialism and residential schools did to their ancestors. 

“We are telling all the pain they’ve been through …  all those years,” said Lynasia Mantla-Crapeau. 

Students Hannah Lafferty, Zaharah Charlo and Mantla-Crapeau took part in Darkspark, a cross-Canada colonial history project where students compose songs with Indigenous perspectives about the country’s history. 

Mantla-Crapeau said their song retells the pain of their ancestors, to release the “voices that are trapped.”

“All the kids who might have went to residential school…their voices got taken away,” she said. 

“Again, and again,” added Lafferty. 

Students across the country are speaking, sometimes more frankly than adults, about colonialism in Canada, said Darkspark co founder D’Ari Lisle.

D’Ari Lisle is a cofounder of Darkspark, which is heading up the Four Directions Project to encourage Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth to discuss colonial history through music. (Avery Zingel/CBC)

The program started at Quinte Mohawk School in Tyendinaga Mohawk territory where students wrote a recorded songs like Roadblock

Then they urged Lisle and his co-founder, Melissa Larkin, to take the workshops on the road.

Across the country, kids are exploring similar themes, said Lisle. 

“You can kind of hear them processing this out loud. What’s beautiful about 12- and 13-year-olds is they have a very straightforward way of expressing themselves and they ask — in their songs — such powerful questions,” he said.

Lisle is convinced that even people with prejudice should have difficulty ignoring the students’ message when they showcase their songs.

“It’s hard to not feel something, and it’s hard to not see this beautiful example of people standing at the front of the room together in solidarity and friendship and allyship… talking about their ideas for the future,” he said.

Students in Yellowknife are making music about Canada’s colonial history. It’s part of a program called Dark Spark — which empowers youth through music. 1:53

Weledeh student Kaily Ongahak recorded a song about how people’s culture and lives were affected by residential school. 

“We were also thinking, ‘why did people do this to Indigenous people?’ They’re people too,” she said.

Ongahak wants other young people to know Indigenous peoples exist and have their own identity.

The students will present their songs this Sunday at Northern United Place at 4 p.m.

The Darkspark team will also present a short documentary about their time in Yellowknife.



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