Thursday, 03 December 2015 17:55

ONYAT'A:KA Oneida Pride!


Oneida Pride


Oneida Pride – Students Celebrate Their Creativity & Culture

I just had an incredible week full of Oneida Pride as I worked with students at Standing Stone School at Oneida Nation of the Thames. Four classes were interested in songwriting, one wanted to do filmmaking and another did slam poetry. On Friday afternoon I commandeered the school PA system and started playing this song we’d written together over the intercom. The students all poured out of their classrooms and we had this impromptu rock show moment in the hallway!

When I walked into the Grade 2 classroom I asked what type of song they’d like to write. “A Christmas song!” one little girl exclaimed. I asked what we should call it. “Christmas Town” another chimed in. By the time I could grab a marker and make my way to the white board the kids were off and running, calling out lyrics as I scrambled to write them down.

I grabbed my guitar and started to find a melody that would work with the lyrics, as well as be in a good key for them to be able to sing. In four days we wrote the music, lyrics and melody together and recorded it. And honestly…it’s an amazing song!


At the beginning of the week, I had an opportunity to get together with L:ao Antone, the Oneida language teacher, who graciously helped me work out some Oneida words that could be incorporated into the song I was writing with the kids. Creative and cultural literacy projects are an incredible opportunity to work together collaboratively to create something bigger than anyone person who is involved. This video is where we started on Monday…by Friday we were chanting at the top of our lungs in the hallway like we were at a rock concert!


If you’re interested in booking creative or cultural literacy projects for your school contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or call 250-896-2572

Published in Tour Stories
Thursday, 10 January 2013 22:49

Producing A Great Event!


If you’re planning a special event what you’re really doing is telling a story. Doesn’t matter if it’s a protest march or if you’re celebrating or commemorating something or someone…you’re telling a story. Telling a great story is an art form, and so is producing a great event.

What’s the Point? What is the most important thing you want to say or see happen? Keep it simple and concise. Do you want to educate people? Do you want to call them to action? What action? Figuring out what you want to say will help you figure out how to best say it.

Who is your Audience?
Is it the ‘Choir?’ If the choir is your target audience then preaching the ABC’s of your message is a waste of your time and effort cause the choir is already converted. This is a classic storytelling blunder because you feel like you’re really accomplishing something. People are screaming their agreement as you recite your ABCs, but ultimately everyone goes away with nothing more than what they arrived with. How can you take your core audience deeper and really engage their talents, gifts and abilities, or add levels of engagement to what they’re already doing?
Is your audience the uninformed or unengaged viewer listening to the radio or watching on TV? If so you need to grab their attention and make them see and feel how they are part of the story you’re telling.
Are you ultimately focused on a politician, political party or corporation? In my humble opinion, it is criminally bad storytelling and ultimately a gigantic waste of everyone’s time to gather outside the Legislature and preach the ABCs to the choir and hope it’s going to affect change at the political level. Know who you’re trying to reach and tell your story accordingly.

Who is the protagonist? What is the quest? What are the obstacles the protagonist will need to overcome? Who is the antagonist standing in the way? Asking these fundamental questions will lead to a great event because you will have a framework that serves your storytelling.

Producing a great event means telling a great story. Asking the right questions will ensure that you engage, empower or entertain your target audience and accomplish the goals you initially set out to achieve.

Rik Leaf is a Producer/Performer specializing in multi cultural artist extravaganzas. He has worked on numerous productions including Beauty and the Beast, Rent, Whose Line is it Anyway, Aerosmith, Shania Twain, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Tribe of One.

Published in Tour Stories
Thursday, 15 November 2012 05:33

A Journey of Discovery

The Journey of Discovery is an opportunity for Aboriginal and non Aboriginal students to come together in an exciting, creative environment that encourages risk taking and mutual respect. The facilitators enjoy working with community services to tailor the material to target key issues and existing programs.

A Journey of Discovery
is presented by a collective of indigenous artists from across Canada who lead students through a series of creative and cultural workshops. Combining traditional songs, stories, dance and regalia with modern forms of artistic expression students explore our shared past and the common ground we can build on as we face the future together.

Students can experience,

  • singing around a pow wow drum
  • beading and regalia making
  • learning traditional dances
  • discovering the meaning behind the traditions, stories and songs the excitement of taking creative risks
  • exploring forms of artistic expression and cultural heritage (slam poetry and song writing)
  • working collectively to produce a short film

The Journey of Discovery explores self-confidence, courage, healthy choices, creativity, community and risk taking and can be presented as a one day cultural performance workshop series, ideally suited as a multi cultural component for conferences, seminars and assemblies. We also offer the series of workshops and presentations over several days leading up to a mini pow wow, where the visual art created decorates the space, dancers wear the regalia they made as they perform with drummers and singers. This can be an incredible investment into the creativity of a community.

About the Facilitators:

Rob Spade is an Anishinabe artist-educator from Fort Hope First Nation. Rob brings years of experience delivering cultural education, counseling and support, cultural sensitivity training, cultural-arts-based therapy and guidance to Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children, youth, and adults. He is a gifted and accomplished storyteller, dancer, drummer, singer, and visual artist influenced by the Ojibwe Woodlands Style.

Celeste Pedri is a proud Anishinabe-qwe from Lac Des Mille Lacs First Nation. Celeste is currently an active member of the indigenous academic community as she is completing her PhD of Philosophy (Anthropology) at the University of Victoria. She is an accomplished Ojibwe artist (beadwork, regalia, drummer) and is currently the artist-in-residence at the University of Victoria’s Centre for Religion and Spirituality in Society.

Rik Leaf is from the Red River Valley region of southern Manitoba. He is a professional recording artist, TV producer, author and the founder of the Canadian performance collective, Tribe of One, featuring French, English, First Nations and Métis musicians, dancers, painters and poets. Rik has drafted pilot projects for the Foreign Affairs Department, traveled to war-torn countries with the United Nations and provided cultural educational programming to over 20 First Nations communities from coast to coast across Canada.

Published in Tour Stories

This isn’t just ‘based’ on a true story, this is the real thing, I know...I was there.

It was winter 2008, and not just any old winter, but a Canadian prairie winter; nothing between the howling wind and Winnipeg but two bare ass trees just north of Regina. Marie-Josée and I were wheeling our way north, waaaaaayyyyy north, all the way up to Fort St. John, B.C. where the tour was starting. We had four great shows in Fort St. John before heading down to Grande Prairie, Alberta for a double header at Better Than Fred’s.

I’m just speculating, but it seems entirely possible Jeff Foxworthy wrote a lot of his, ‘you might be a red neck’ jokes in Grande Prairie. You ain’t never seen so many 4x4’s and big screen TVs with sports of every size and colour in your life. Anyway…we load our gear into Fred’s while Toby the chef busted out some serious uptown sizzle and whipped us up a meal that will never be on the menu…off the chart cuisine.

About that time the owner volunteered to lead us back to his place, which is also the band house. We wound our way through Grande Prairies downtown following John’s big ass 4x4 and eventually pull up in front of his idyllic suburban home. John lives upstairs but tells us that we’ll get back from the gig before he does, and because it’s so f**ing cold out, he’ll let us park in his driveway so we can plug our Japanese import in. (I know this is supposed to be a slight…like the car I drive is supposed to say something about me, but in -40 all it means to me is that I get to park 30 feet closer to the door)

We chill out, we get ready, we go to Fred’s, play the show, have a couple drinks and head back to the band house. I’m driving and MJ’s chatting away (thankfully in English so I’m actually catching some of what she’s saying) we pull up in John’s driveway. Our plan is for MJ to grab the guitars and hightail it for the door while I plug the car in. As I’m scrambling around in the snowdrifts digging like a mole looking for an electric hole to plug the extension cord in, Marie-Josée is rattling away at the back door with the keys. Eventually I get the car plugged in and join her at the door. Together we’re pulling and pushing on the lock, jingling and jangling the keys, lifting up, pressing down, I’m talking dirty to the door knob…all the crazy shit you do when something’s not working. Then it dawns on me that John might have given us the wrong keys and this set may be for the side door. Piling even more guitars in MJ’s arms I promise to be right back and dash around the side of the house. I get to the side door slip the key in the lock and voila, success! I let myself in, feeling a bit uncomfortable that I’m in John’s place, especially as there is a dog barking somewhere, but as I tiptoe through the kitchen I console myself with the knowledge that this isn’t technically my fault. If he hadn’t given me the wrong keys I wouldn’t be sneaking through his house. At which point I reach the back door and nothing is familiar. There are no stairs where there were when we left, the door opens a different way…and as I open the door to let MJ and 70 pounds of musical gear crash through the door I suddenly realize, ‘we’re in the wrong f**ing house!’

We started giggling, and shushing each other, which made us giggle harder. We tried to sneak out, but were suddenly unable to turn around without banging guitar cases against door frames and boot cupboards. I’m sure are all the deep resonant overtones sounded like Tree Beard and slough of drunken Ents after a kegger.

We get outside when I realize we can’t just run cause our car is parked in the frigging driveway. As I’m struggling to get the keys out of my pocket Conan bursts through the side door. MJ, showing great athleticism I didn’t even know she possessed just…vanished. With his large, He-man body glistening with he-sweat, nostrils flaring like a Stallion he bellows, ‘WHAT THE F#&! ARE YOU DOING IN MY HOUSE!’

At that moment I remembered a sales lecture I sat through right after high school. The gist of the lecture was, most salesmen are men and most of their door to door sales are with the woman of the house. It was a long drawn out boring lecture that involved points like, ‘the man is usually bigger and psychologically may intimidate the woman,’ so whenever possible the salesman was supposed to stand on a lower step than the woman, subconsciously putting her in the dominant role, blah, blah, blah.
This runs through my head as I try to assume the most unimposing, frail, waif-like artistic form, and begin (inexplicably) to talk in a high, womanly register at 100 miles an hour, ‘Oh I’m sorry sir that was me we have the wrong house and it was a total accident and I didn’t mean to walk through your house,’


‘It was the keys, the keys; we thought the keys were the wrong keys or the side keys…’


‘That’s my car, I know it’s an shitty import and I should be renting domestic but I was flirting with the girl at the counter for fun and she gave me this upgrade,’


I think I was bowing and genuflecting the entire time, making every overture to peace and conciliation I could think of. I backed the car out of Conan’s driveway, pulled in NEXT DOOR, where John actually lived and ran for the door. Of course the keys worked just fine this time and we slipped inside quietly. Neither of us could find the light switch in the entrance way but I headed down the stairs with guitars in both hands as we started to relive the events of the past few minutes in that giddy, post excitement way, which was right about the time I missed the last two steps. Suddenly I took flight, arms outstretched, each clutching a guitar case spread wide like the wings of a majestic swan…until I came down with a sound I’m sure even Conan heard. An Olympic belly flop with a half twist and two droning Ents farumping in each case. Insult, as they say, to injury.

The next day I confess to John what happened. He thinks it’s hilarious and heads down to the club where he proceeds to start telling the staff the story, which is when the bartender says, ‘Oh yeah I heard about that driving to work,’ a confused pause ensued, ‘they were talking about a break and enter on the news, apparently the guy startled the intruders who took off…in a shitty little import.’

Published in Tour Stories

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