“I’m Marah, I’m Anishinabe, and I really like doing visual arts and dancing. I went with my parents to look into different camps because I wanted a new environment other than school where I could meet people. I first came to Ross Creek two years ago to be part of Teen Academies and I did the visual arts program there. I literally fell in love with Ross Creek and with everyone there and it just felt so inclusive. Ah I just love it. They just accept you for who you are.
This summer I started finding books in the library of Norval Morriseau and different Indigenous artists and during the Academies this year I was able to spend a lot of time with Sara Hartland-Rowe and just, like, explore those things. I definitely learned so much from the Academies, not only in terms of art but about how collaboration is such a big part of it. It just has really helped me especially in school and in other projects outside of school and in helping the community and at work. It’s just so useful. And creating those personal relationships with the artists and having those connections in the arts community is really cool. Before Ross Creek I never thought that was possible.
Being able to explore arts without judgment is a super big part of it. I know that I can play around with ideas without any judgment but I also get really good feedback. Working with the other teens in the Academies is super fun too. Oh and the leadership program! It’s helped me in so many things. It helped me to get my job because you get so much experience in all kinds of areas. It’s just such a safe place to learn and to make mistakes and then to grow as a person. My confidence has definitely grown so much being at Ross Creek and accepting myself and being myself. At Ross Creek you can just be whoever you want to be.
I belong to a reserve called Timiskaming First Nation. I basically grew up there and am really passionate about the Anishinabe culture and think it’s very important. At Ross Creek, they made me even more proud to be Native American and to express myself.
There was a week this summer when I got a bit sick so I had a lot of time on my hands. During that time I put together a call-and-response land acknowledgement for the camp. I think that it’s important that everyone has that education about where they are and on whose territory. It was super interesting to me because I’ve never been able to write and lead something like that. It felt very empowering. It actually made me pretty emotional because I’ve never had a place where I could bring that out of me and express it and share it with other people. Everyone was super accepting and very encouraging. It made me want to dive more into those kinds of things.
After that I was looking through the library and I found this book, it’s like a comic on Indigenous culture, and I was in a workshop with the juniors (4-7 year olds) so I read it to them. I was kind of scared because I didn’t want them to be uninterested but they were so into it and they wanted to read it every single day! I was able to teach them my own understandings and words and different parts of the culture and it was just super nice to get even the small kids interested and learning. And then they started going to tuck and saying “miigwetch” when they got their snacks. It was so...I almost cried.
I’d like to keep working at Ross Creek and make it to a counselor position eventually. I want to become a teacher because I just really enjoy interacting with kids all day and being able to educate them on new things. Seeing how curious and open minded they are is just so cool. Ross Creek has really helped me figure that out. I also want to learn even more about my Indigenous culture. Even though I’ve already made progress there’s always room to grow.”