There could have been no better opportunity than National Child’s Day on November 21 to allow community members of Waskaganish to organize a day of fun-filled activities for all their children. The participation and performances of our youth throughout the day did not go unnoticed and they deserve all the shout-outs and the hurrahs they got.
The day started with a community walk involving students, parents and teachers from the local schools. The young walkers held their banners proudly and made a statement about their role in the community and their importance as carriers of tradition and culture for the future of Eeyou Istchee. “Children are everything,” said Daisy Stephen, community organizer for the Awash Youth Program of Cree Health Board who was busy serving the “ever-so-popular” hot chocolate beverage after an invigorating walk around the village.
The youth gathered again after lunch for an afternoon of family skating, which took place at the Sarah Stephen Memorial Arena. Their joy was obvious as youth skated around the ice freely sharing their gratefulness with their peers, the teachers and those parents who could make themselves available for the event.
The highlight of the day was the banquet at the Gathering Place held later with pizza-ghetti and cake in the children’s honour. The prayer was led by Daisy Moar. The speakers were brief. Emcee Mary Hester, had the children take the microphone to speak about their talents, what they like to do and what helps them most in life. She made the children feel comfortable with the microphone allowing them to gain self-confidence and express their personalities.
Hester then made way for the entertainment portion of the evening. All entertainment was provided by the children, some of them dressed in full banquet regalia, and what an array of talent and amazing stage presence coming from these young participants. Artists came and went, most of them from elementary school levels… and all of them just blew us away. The 12 young singers “strutted their stuff” and had their moment to shine. All were extremely talented and there was consensus amongst the audience about the children’s performance quality and their level of self-confidence.
A big thanks goes out to all the young artists for taking the stage. Waskaganish is harvesting quite a crop of talented performers. This included the Grade 3 French class, from the elementary school, who opened with three French songs and the lights of Denzel Berryman, Roselyn Whiskeychan, Shayleen Hester, Nicholas Hester, Damian Stephen and Bailey Hester (J’aime le chocolat, Pas de bullying and Avec mon cheval).
This was followed by Anthony Stephen on his electric guitar (Folsom Prison Blues by Johnny Cash) exhibiting some unusual skills and fine dexterity. Finally a series of talented singers followed: Kaylissa Hester and Kadence McLeod (The Lord’s Prayer), Merielle Salt (The Climb by Hannah Montana), Melody Hester (Our God), Shalawna Hester who mesmerized her audience with three songs (Rolling in the Deep by Adele, I’m Alive by Céline Dion, Angels by Jessica Simpson). Then Shayleen Hester came back “solo” with a French song (Je vais dans la forêt), which she performed perfectly.
Festivities also included three piñatas where everyone was invited to hit the donkey blindfolded. The event closed with a long gift distribution for the kids. All this took place while Anthon Stephen was manning a kiosk where he drew ad-lib and showed off his art portfolio to the curious bystanders. What an amazing day it was for our children!
The main organizers have a lot to say for themselves as contributing members of our town. The Headstart Program (Waseskun Child & Family Services), composed of Corrina Hester and Ethel Blackned, is dedicated to helping children (ages one to five) with special needs of all sorts (including fine motor skills, speech, sensory skills and nutrition). They provide the registered parents with home visits, parental care and practical advice. And they have worked conjunctly with Sofiah Stephen (Daycare Centre) and the Awash Youth Program from the Cree Health Board and Social Services of James Bay, under Bertha Dixon and Daisy Hester, who joined to put together this amazing event for a second year in a row.
The organizers want to thank the speakers (Pastor George Hester and Elder Elizabeth Iserhoff), the volunteers (Agnes Morgan, Bessie Gillies and Marcella Napash) and Lisa Shallhorn, principal for the two local schools (Wiinibekuu High School and École Annie Whiskeychan Memorial Elementary School) and all the sponsors without whom any of this would have been possible.
The sponsors are: Waskaganish First Nation Chief & Council Gordon Blackned and Deputy Chief Thomas Hester, Pentecostal Church, Gathering Place, Waskaganish Police Department, Public Safety (Ernest Blueboy), Youth Council (Melissa Whiskeychan), Daycare Centre, Kanio-Kashee Lodge, Northern Store, Jacob’s Restaurant, Blackned Construction, Cree Trappers Association, Whiskeychan Taxi and the Sarah Stephen Memorial Arena.