THUNDER BAY – On Saturday, Thunder Bay came together to welcome indigenous youth to the city at Wake the Giant.
Every year, dozens of First Nations students from across Northwestern Ontario come to Thunder Bay to attend high school. The Wake the Giant music festival starts the school year off, with performances this year from a mixture of local and world talents such as Deadmau5, Thunder Drum, Sara Kae, X Ambassadors, and Dean Lewis.
In between performances, the festival took the opportunity to recognize the Indigenous students who attend the Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School, including one special act took the stage in the late afternoon.
A group of students from Deer Lake First Nations performed an original song centred around their life, their culture, and their freedom.
Through the Nishnawbe Aski Nation Choose Life program — a program that ensures First Nation’s communities have access to funding that promotes the mental, emotional, and behavioural well-being of youth — the Deer Lake First Nation students spend several weeks preparing to debut their contribution to Wake the Giant.
Choose life activities coordinator Nathan Meekis said an Indigenous songwriting group was brought into the community to teach the students how to write a song.
“Everyone had a chance to throw in one verse and while they were writing the song, the theme was our culture,” said Meekis.
After the workshop, the students were chosen to perform.
“Kevin Ray, the other organizer, we scrambled to find them a stage. We found one at the Choose Life [annual general meeting]. They performed there last week. Then we travelled home, stayed there for a week, and then we came right back out to perform on Wake the Giant. We were just lucky [Wake the Giant organizer Greg Chomut] was able to find a space on the stage,” Meekis said.
Performer Tihana Meekis said that she felt scared to be in front of a large crowd.
“I was shaking so much when I got off the stage,” said Tihana, adding she was proud of her accomplishment.
Nathan Meekis said it was emotional to see his students up on the grand stage and witness the students' hard work come together.
“I was tearing up. Me and Kevin have been working to get this trip finalized for a couple of months. We were hard at work just trying to get them out here and perform on the stage. We're glad it all worked out,” said Meekis.