Indigenous youth shared their experiences growing up at a storytelling showcase Saturday, Nov. 23. The youth explored their identity through songs, multimedia creations and dance.

The event, called A Youth Explosion (AYE) 2019, celebrated Indigenous culture through overcoming traumatic personal experiences. Throughout the evening, several stage performances presented their talents to a sold-out crowd at Telus Spark.

Michelle Robinson, whose daughter played a role in one of the short films, says she was brought to tears. 

“Those are healing, happy tears,” says Robinson. “Our youth are 100 per cent inspiring, and healing and moving forward beyond any of those traumas that we’ve unfortunately had to deal with.”

Taylor Crow Spreads His Wings, 26, and her younger sister, Tate Wesley, 16, performed a dance set in beaded and jingling regalia.

“We just started working on our routine yesterday,” says Crow Spreads His Wings.

The sisters performed their dance for the first time in front of everybody the night of the showcase.

Wesley’s dance style is called “Traditional” and her sister dances a style called “Old Style Jingle.” The duo incorporated their two different dance styles into something called “Old Style Fancy.” 

“For our dance, we put one-part Jingle and another part where it’s Traditional. At the end where we put our hands up, it’s like we’re reaching for ‘Waka’ or God, the Creator, as in a ‘thank you from my sister,’”says Wesley.

Music was also one of the live sets. 

Playing piano, Tyrese Bearspaw, 16, from the Morley Nation west of Calgary, learned his skillset watching YouTube videos.

“All I did was spend hours sitting down in my room watching this YouTube video coming from my iPhone,” says Bearspaw. 

In three years, he’s learned to play piano notes to the sounds of Mozart. He says, “I just sat there and practiced and practiced — just tried to get it on point on both sides.”

Many of the evening’s stories focused on overcoming individual adversity, resilience, dealing with depression and anxiety and the loss of family members — the stories were about how they have gone through them with triumph.

Marley Owlchild, from the Siksika Nation, says, “I mostly talked about my mental health.” 

“I mostly talked about my mental health.” 

She did an animation featuring two characters, Napi, a trickster figure in Native American folklore, and a Bison, telling the importance of the figure in their culture. 

“Doing an animation is a big passion of mine,” Owlchild explains.  “It took two weeks and 400 drawings.”

The youth group, which included 14 participants and a planning committee of eight members, worked on the project since June. 

The annual event’s executive director, Alyssa Lindsay, wants to create a space for youth voices where they can show their greatness. 

“I love hearing their great ideas,” says Lindsay, who aims to make them happen.

Danii Kehler, from a Saskatchewan Nation called Kawacatoose, introduced her murdered and missing Indigenous women painting of a figure in a glittery gown walking in the woods. 

The piece, titled Lady in Red, was sold in June. Kehler’s artwork was created as a way to help with the healing process for a book launch by Colleen Cardinal.

TREATY7 AYE BlackHorse3 2Danii Kehler, presents an art exhibit both on stage and in the main gallery, showing her renowned work titled, the Red Dress. Photo by Randy Turning Robe

“What we hoped is that this event lets other people say ‘How can I push my comfort zone? How can I be a changemaker?’” says Lindsay. “Look at these amazing youth who are doing all [of] these courageous things.”

For Crow Spreads His Wings, losing her mother at the age of 12 was a grieving process she hopes helps others experiencing hardships they are facing.

“Even though there’s hardships in your life and you can’t control what Creator has in store for you. You can lose your mother or you can mourn but that shouldn’t take away your happiness it pushes you to go further and I use that as strength and I’m so happy how far I’ve come,” she says.

Dancing has helped her heal, and get back to her traditions. 

“You can do anything you put your mind to. Keep going and keep praying and keep your faith.” 

Editor: Kemi Omorogbe |

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