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Finding hope in Eabametoong

Thursday December 20, 2012
Traditional dancing was one of the many talents the community members in Eabametoong displayed during the Talent Show.
An Eabametoong Elder and Mary Okees share a laugh after a performance of honky-tonk rhythms.

Liana Achneepineskum says there are not many opportunities for her to show off her talents as a singer and songwriter in Eabametoong First Nation.

So when the community held a talent showcase on Dec. 14 and 15, the 26-year-old was grateful for the chance to get up on stage and sing.

On Dec. 14, she sang an untitled song she had written.

“It’s a break-up song kinda thing,” she said with a laugh. “Everyone likes the song I sang and everyone tells me I’m good at what I do.”

On the second night, she took the stage again and performed covers of Jimmy Eat World’s “In the Middle” and U2’s “With or Without You.”

Achneepineskum joined more than 20 other community members in taking the stage at the talent showcase.

The event featured a variety of performances, ranging from flute playing, rap, singing and storytelling to dancing and drumming and, of course, guitar and vocals.

There was rarely a lull in the activity onstage, as people of all ages eagerly signed up to show off their talents.

“I really enjoyed it,” Achneepineskum said of the event. “I’m glad they did this for the youth and everybody.”

The event was organized by a group that call themselves Taybinace, Oji-Cree for “whatever.” Taybinace consists of three married couples who saw a need for activities for youth.

Mary Okees said the group was formed after the First Nation leadership declared a state of emergency due to the high rate of prescription drug abuse in October 2010.

She noticed that on Facebook, youth would post about how bored they were.

“We decided to find stuff for the youth to do and our message is say no to drugs and you’re not alone,” Okees said.

They organized events such as dances, which started out slowly with few participants, she said.

“But now, sometimes we have to turn people away because the hall is so full,” Okees said.
They created a Facebook group and would post about upcoming events.

To hold such events, the group holds fundraisers such as bingos and flea markets.

“Sometimes we pay out of our own pocket,” Okees said, including the cost of the lights they use at dances.

The talent showcase was the first time Taybinace put on an event of that kind. The Dec. 15 event was broadcasted on Wawatay Radio Network across northern Ontario.

“We said, Let’s fundraise and get the money, and for whoever’s listening to Wawatay, let’s show them what Fort Hope can do,” Okees said.

Since Taybinace was formed and started organizing the various events, the community is noticing a change among the young people.

“Since we started, some of these youth come to us to say ‘thank you. I stopped doing drugs because of you guys and what you guys say and you show us you care,’” Okees said.

The weekend concluded with a gospel music night on Dec. 16. Taybinace is currently organizing more festivities for the holidays.


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