MGBHLM FIRST NATION - Major themes at MGBHLM's first-ever Uplifting Gala included community healing, lifting up Indigenous voices, and togetherness.
The first-of-its-kind event was held to both honour and remember Anita Moosimin's nephew, Young Boady, uplift other budding First Nation talents in the community, and raise funds to support their guest of honour, Kynyon Starchief-Walkingbear and his family, as he fights cancer.
The event included budding First Nation talent such as,
Cheyenna (Shy) Sapp, a stand-up comedian from Little Pine First Nation currently finishing a degree at USask in the arts, Dakota (Dekoy) Shepherd, a grass dancer, musician, and motivational speaker, and various musicians and dancers from the area.
"We are second-generation residential school survivors, so there's a lot of trauma that my family members still deal with to this day, and they're still stuck in this life..." Shepherd said, speaking about his wife and himself, both six years sober.
But Shepherd believes that if it wasn't for his brother's passing in 2017, he might never have decided to turn his life around.
"For a long time, I would choose drugs and alcohol as a way to cope, as a way to try and mask that pain, as a way to deal with my issues, and it wasn't until I went to a powwow and heard the power of the drum ... I just wanted to start crying because I was so hurt, I was dealing with so much pain," Shepherd said, becoming emotional.
"...but I heard the power of that drum, and it was right then and there that I decided ... I wanted to be a grass dancer."
Growing up in the inner city of Saskatoon without a father and with an alcoholic mother was a struggle for Shepherd, noting that his mother was never there for emotional support. This led to Shepherd acting out and taking his anger out on his mother.
"Everybody in this room can relate to this because we go through the same issues, the same struggles," Shepherd said, adding that a lack of support from his mother led him to try and find love through gangs, drugs and alcohol. "But it wasn't until I lost my brother that I tried to turn my life around ... and find a more positive way of healing."
But Shepherd thinks that there is a way forward, which comes from finding more positive influences to look up to and begin healing people's mindsets.
"I believe in stuff like the law of attraction. I believe in how to use your mind, how to manifest, synchronicities, and the universe. I believe in the creator. If you study a lot of religions, they're kinda all the same, they all have this basic concept ... you realize that you have to relearn everything that you thought you already knew ... relearning how to program your mind for abundance, success and love.
"I used to look in the mirror, and the thing that I would say to myself all the time is, 'you're a piece of s**t. You'll never be anything, never go anywhere, nobody loves you' ... You have to love yourself. You have to believe in yourself. You have to believe that you're worthy of the love that people are giving you ... .you gotta accept it.
"I am powerful. I am loved. I am deadly," Shepherd said, asking the crowd to repeat after him.
"You can choose not to let that [negativity] affect you. You can choose to see life in a positive light. You can choose to be thankful and grateful to be alive," Shepherd said, adding that he's thankful for everything from the fact that he has furniture and that he has dishes. He also wishes three people he doesn't like good luck, success and happiness every day.
"It doesn't matter if anybody else doesn't support me or doesn't support my music. I believe in my music, I support my music. I love my music." He said to applause.
After his speech, Moosomin shared a message about her recently passed nephew, Young Boady, before playing one of his first music videos, which can be found on YouTube.
Afterwards, they welcomed dancers from Thunderchild, MGBHLM, Poundmaker, and other First Nations. Then, played an honour song Saralee Walkingbear and her son, guest of honour Kynyon Starchief-Walkingbear while Jenny Spyglass prayed for healing and donations were collected for the family.
"Kynyon loves all the support and prayers from everyone ... and [is] excited to travel to as many places as he can and spend time with his family," reads a Facebook post from Moosimin.
Moosimin said to the News-Optimist/SASKTODAY.ca that she was pleased with the turnout and is looking at more events in the future to help raise funds for Starchief-Walkingbear.
"I think it was a great turnout ... we had less than expected, but we still had a full house. Tons of community support," Moosomin said.
The event ended with music from various artists and performers, which included Samuel Lilwolfe, B. Rose, Preston Spyglass, and V.I.P.
More information about upcoming events will be announced at a later date.