A New Legacy Project
The year 2021 has been quite a turbulent and extraordinary year for us as Indigenous peoples across Turtle Island (North America). The 'In Plain Sight Report' was released in November 2020 uncovering a massive amount of anti-Indigenous racism in the healthcare system, something we as Indigenous folx have known since the beginning of the healthcare system. In May 2021, 215 missing children in mass unmarked graves were recovered at the Kamloops Indian Residential School. This recovery shocked Canada and the world to a hidden and often unspoken truth we have been living with for far too long. Now that I look back at it, it was quite triggering and traumatizing of our Residential School Survivors and people who identify as inter-generational survivors. I also honour and recognize how traumatizing this was for non-Indigenous friends and allies who had no idea the extent of the this hidden story. By the way, to-date we have recovered well over 8,000 children in mass unmarked graves at Residential Schools and boarding schools across North America. And of course, September 30th 2021 marked the inaugural National Truth and Reconciliation Day (NTRD) in Canada. While a tremendous step in the right direction, the first NTRD proved to be a tremendous day of emotional labour for my fellow Indigenous consultants, educators, leaders, Knowledge Keepers, etc.
Upon reflecting about how momentous and really serious this past year has been, I felt it in my heart that we did not celebrate enough of ourselves, our existence, our resistance, the utter fact we are still here thriving. I thought to myself one day late at night that someone or some organization ought to have a project or media campaign to celebrate ourselves and our strength. Then it dawned on me that it probably should be me! After further thought, I could think of no better title for this new project than 'New Legacy'. With all due respect to my relatives for having survived the infamous Residential Schools Legacy, as widely known as it is still becoming, I wanted to show the world and our own people, we are actively building our own new legacy, and have been for quite some time! So I reached out to my business partners with this abstract idea that we should celebrate a New Legacy, and thus the idea came into action.
Our project team put together a list of 18 Indigenous individuals we knew were shaking things up, paving the way for others, being badass Indigenous moms and dads, grandmothers, practicing culture and tradition, reclaiming language, fighting racism, and saving our communities against wildfires. Each model had a private photoshoot and video interview in this project, which was held at the Kwantlen First Nation Longhouse. The entire project was rooted in culture with smudging, drumming, cedar, medicine, regalia, and tonnes of laughter and story sharing.
Each model was asked these 4 questions during their interview (video clips will be posted at a later date):
Where do you get your strength from to be able to do the work that you do?
What words of advice do you have for someone who is looking to follow in your footsteps?
What does 'New Legacy' mean to you?
What are three things you cannot live without?
This was by far the most emotional and heartfelt portion of the project. Models shared their stories with our project team and we felt such a deep gratitude and admiration for each of them and the work they do! What stood out to me with almost every single model is that we are all (as Indigenous people) driven by a desire to contribute to something. To leave the world a better place than we found it, to give our children a better world than our parents gave us. I also found family and friends to be the driving force to keep us all going. One of the most beautiful pieces of advice that came from everyone who want to do something, some goal, some aspiration, was "just go out and do it" whereby all models expressed fears, hesitancy, or challenges, the magic comes from believing in yourself to do the work.
Anyway, that is the New Legacy project. More will follow in future posts with a behind the scenes feature with the models and other stories that emerged from this amazing project I have been so honoured to be part of. A huge thank you to the project team Karla Parker who is my business partner and photographer in partnership with her company La Casa De Lala, Dusty Yurkin who is also a business partner with her company Dusty Anna Design & Consulting, and Malissa Smith (my partner in love and life) who took on the project coordination, logistics, and event planning.
Without further ado, it is my honour to present to you the models for the New Legacy project:
1. Inez Louis, Registered Nurse and Health Director from Skowkale First Nation
2. Jennette Pierre, MBA Student (SFU) from Sema:th First Nation
3. Miranda Kelly, Doula & Health Leader from Soowahlie First Nation
4. Jenn Smith, Indigenous Cultural Safety Consultant from Tlowitsis Nation
5. Salia Joseph, Language Advocate & Consultant from Squamish and Nanaimo First Nation
6. Marissa McIntyre, Indigenous Cultural Safety Educator & Consultant from Nlaka'pamux First Nation
7. Chelsea Waterbeek, Entrepreneur and Chef from Katzie First Nation
8. Joseph Thorpe, Labour Relations Consultant, Cree-Metis
9. Jordan White, Registered Counsellor and Indigenous Health Consultant from the Metis Nation
10. Amei-lee Laboucan, Journalist & Student, Cree-Metis
12. Samantha Jack, Scholar, Activist, Consultant, Facilitator, and Youth Leader from Nuu-Cha-Nuth and Yale First Nation
13. Lainie Leon, Entrepreneur, Jewelry from Katzie First Nation
14. Terrance Pierre, Wildland Firefighter and Health Leader from Katzie First Nation
15. Tawahum Bige, Hip Hop Poet and Land Protector, Dene-Cree
16. Andrew Bird, Motivational & TEDx Speaker
17. Michael Gabriel, Traditional Leader and Knowledge Keeper from Kwantlen First Nation
18. Cheyenne Cunningham, Language Keeper & Scholar (PhD, UBC) from Katzie First Nation