“Dream big,” 16-year-old TJ Sochan sings in the opening verse of a new video posted to YouTube late last month.
The song, “Where Happiness Dwells,” was written by seven young Indigenous people.
It talks about life on the reserve of the Blueberry River First Nations, located north of Fort St. John.
The lyrics address some tough issues facing them today.
“We have had a few suicides. It’s been very hard on our community. Very tough losses,” said 16-year-old Tichia Davis, one of the seven singers.
“It’s very hard for some of us to talk about. Especially youth, a lot of them were youth and we don’t want to see that anymore. We want to be a healthy community and come together as one.”
Blueberry River First Nations education manager Patsy Grey Eyes initiated the project because she wanted young people to have their voices heard.
“There’s been a lot of tragedy in the community in the past with suicide, murder, so I thought it was important for them to share some of their story,” she said.
The song is named after an area on the reserve where ancestors would gather. It aims to revisit both a place and a feeling.
One of those ancestors was Charlie Yahey’s great-grandfather, who inspired some of the lyrics.
The group created a music video for their song and collaborated with N’we Jinan, a non-profit mobile recording studio that brings music to schools across North America.
N’we Jinan music educator David Hodges said teaching kids to channel their emotions into art is therapeutic.
“Kids are confronted with these things on a day-to-day basis and it’s not just Indigenous youth, it’s all youth. And putting it into something that will either help release all those emotions or help you get through them, or put it out there, because for sure there’s other kids that are feeling the same thing as you,” Hodges said.
Dana Claxton, an associate professor of art history at UBC, said video is giving young people a new way to pass on their stories.
“If we think of the time of hide paintings or rock carvings or petroglyphs and earth work of recording indigenous history, this is like this generation’s way of marking their history, and themselves, and their reality,” said Claxton, who is of Hunkpapa Lakota ancestry and also a filmmaker and artist.
Blueberry River First Nations community members like Nicole Dennis are excited to see youth bring people together.
“I feel so proud of them, especially for them to come out of that bubble I guess you can say, to be able to perform, pretty much in front of the whole community,” she said.
The group will perform their song for the Treaty 8 Chief Tribal Association at Fort St. John.