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A Look Back

To celebrate a decade of inspiring writing and art created by First Nations, Métis and Inuit youth across the country, Aboriginal Arts & Stories interviewed ten of our many talented past winners to hear about how the contest has impacted their lives and careers. Here are their stories.

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NICOLE PAUL:
Senior Arts Winner, 2014
Aboriginal Arts & Stories

I found out about a week ago that I won the competition and I could not believe that I won. It was absolutely amazing.

ANTHONY WILSON-SMITH:
President, Historica Canada

In terms of talking about or celebrating Aboriginal youth, there’s almost so many reasons to do it that it’s hard to know where to begin. One is, of course, the overall importance to this country going back hundreds, if not thousands of years as, you know, the first people in Canada.

When we talk about First Nations we recognize they, they themselves have a shared history going back thousands of years, but they’re very different in the way the countries and cultures are often different so you see this whole wide array of different styles, different histories, different feelings, languages brought to it and that’s so tremendously exciting.

What we’ve seen in the last decade is this remarkable degree of talent and achievement, accomplishment that we’re celebrating. They’ve made all of us aware of the tremendous contribution and abilities of Indigenous peoples through this contest and out of what they have done and brought to us and share with others is the future and as we look at the future, based on what we’ve seen and their contributions to date, the sky really is the limit.

NICOLE PAUL:
Keeper of the Voice (2014) Nicole Paul
With my piece I really wanted to make a commentary on the dying aboriginal languages around Canada and North America. This competition probably represents one of the milestones in my career. I definitely think it’s something that I can look back to and just progress further on.

SUZIE O’BOMSAWIN:
Laureate, troisieme recits, 2013
Arts & Récits Autochtones

I think it is really great that there is a contest like this for young Aboriginals in Canada. I feel it is a great way of supporting young Aboriginals, all the more so, since we know there is a lot of talent among young Canadian Aboriginals, both as writers and as artists

STEPHANIE WOOD:
Junior Writing Winner, 2010
Aboriginal Arts & Stories

The contest just made me kind of stop and consider the intrinsic significance of your family and your past and I think when I first found out about the contest that immediately it came to me. When I read about it I realized just how important it was to sit down and try to do something like that.

CANDACE TOMA:
Junior Writing Winner, 2011
Aboriginal Art & Stories

I chose to submit my story into the contest because I wanted people to know that whatever they are going through, they are not alone. There are a lot of people that go through the same thing.

STEPHANIE WESLEY:
Senior Writing Winner, 2012
Aboriginal Art & Stories

When I was a teenager growing up in Thunder Bay, I never thought I would be here, never thought I would be doing what I’m doing now which is something I always wanted to do so it’s really important to follow your dreams.

It’s also important to help others as much as you can. You have to realize where you come from. You have your own personal stories to tell. If you do want to be a story teller it’s your duty to tell these stories.

BRANDAN WILSON:
Junior Arts Winner, 2013
Aboriginal Art & Stories

When I won the contest like I felt great like I was almost like invincible. My whole family’s really proud of me, just like an awesome feeling just being up there in front of people I didn’t really know, but I guess they knew me. I’ve touched, I guess, hearts of other people.

SONIA BASILE-MARTEL
Laureate, cinquieme place arts, 2013
Arts & Récits Autochtones

For myself, I aspire to see lots of change for young Aboriginals. I actually work in community art because I believe it is together that we can make big changes, we can move things forward, but most of all it is a way for us to affirm our identity and also for our culture to survive through our voices.

This is what I really believe in and I feel that art, well, it's a beautiful tool. It's a beautiful means of fighting against all the ignorance, and perhaps some of the invisibility that remains in the eyes of the rest of the country, and I believe it's a beautiful window for us to have contests like Aboriginal Arts & Stories.

JOSEPH TISIGA:
Senior Arts Winner, 2011
Aboriginal Arts & Stories

I was excited, you know, to be a part of something that looks at First Nations narrative and art and creation so, it was really exciting, it was great. I would say winning the challenge was definitely a good experience in getting some exposure, you know,opening up some different avenues in, in the media that I really hadn’t been exposed to before, you know.

SHANEEN ROBINSON:
Senior Writing Winner, 2008
Aboriginal Arts & Stories

Sometimes I think there was a lot of people that had to lay the groundwork for people like me to come up, like I’m going to lay the groundwork for young people that still are just finding their voice. The door’s open to realize that my voice does have, is necessary in our society, that my voice has a place, that it has a right to be heard so I think that it gave me the confidence to carry on with my career goals.

HOWARD ADLER:
Senior Writing Winner, 2009
Aboriginal Arts & Stories

My advice for young indigenous artists and writers is to keep working at it, and the stories that you have to tell and the perspectives that you have to give are, are so important and you are the only ones that can do it with the skill and voice that you have.

BRIGITTE d’AUZAC de LAMARTINIE:
Director, Historica Canada

We are in the tenth year for the contest, ten years already. We have had more than 2 000 participants, more than 100 winners of Aboriginal descent across Canada, First Nations, Inuit and Métis, and it is thanks to our sponsors that the contest has been going this long.

So I would like to thank our presenting sponsor, Enbridge, and I would also like to thank our supporting sponsors including TD Bank, the Government of Canada, Aboriginal Link, Canada’s History and The Walrus, and once again congratulations to the winners.

NICOLE PAUL:
Our traditions really speak towards our identity and who we are. If our languages just slowly die out and if our traditional art pieces die as well, I think that as Aboriginal people ourselves we lose who we are and I think that we really need to come together and preserve that and really bring life back into it.

SUPPORTING SPONSORS AND MEDIA SPONSOR