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Matters of the Heart

A community engagement project in process - learn along with us!  

“Matters of the Heart” is a pilot community arts engagement project taking place in Sioux Lookout.  The project is designed to improve relationships and the physical and mental wellbeing of indigenous and non-indigenous youth and adults in the community.  The project is a co-managed by the Sioux Hudson Entertainment Series, an incorporated, not for profit organization, managed by a volunteer board of directors and a community advisory committee.  The project is supported through Ontario Presents with funding provided by the Fresh Start Program, Department of Canadian Heritage. 

The complexity around community sensitivities and findings from a community mapping and needs assessment report -  require that this project use an iterative process and prepare partners in the project to be mindful of community cultural development guidelines that allow for time to ensure that broad and diverse community conversations, inputs, actions and ownership evolve through building trust.

 This project aligns with strategic objectives in the Sioux Lookout Culture Plan: 1.  To celebrate Sioux Lookout’s unique history and heritage  2.  To honour our diversity and foster and nurture relationships within the community and surrounding areas.  The municipality has recognized that a healthy community is one that engages in ongoing public dialogue, nurturing relationships that promote creative change and leadership.  Embracing the stories and continued sharing is an important aspect in the development of youth in the community.  Youth are the future leaders.  Embracing indigenous culture and the arts is an important aspect in the development of youth and the community.

The project framework is based on the four stages of community engagement practice .  At the current time, we have completed Stage 1 (Inform) and are between Stage 2 (Involve) and Stage 3: (Collaborate),  

Inform:  Let your community know of your interest in engaging more broadly in the community and your desire to connect to those who are not likely to engage with your organization in the traditional manner.  

We undertook a community mapping exercise, and a needs assessment to better understand how to work with community stakeholders outside the arts and question how an arts project and performance could contribute to improving community outcomes.  Sioux Lookout has a population of approximately 5,500 residents, and provides essential services to 30,000 people in northern remote First Peoples communities thereby earning the title “Hub of the North”. Watch our inductory video, "My Home is Sioux Lookout". The video is written and performed by Daniel Fraser, the Municipality of Sioux Lookout's Youth Centre Coordinator, who undertook this creative project in 2012, to create this video to celebrate the community's centennial anniversary. Local youth identified the photos and created the montage for the video. 

A two-part community consultation session with local stakeholders began in February 2016. When mapping the socio-cultural conditions, participants noted that the following conditions and assumptions exist in the community: 

  1. ·         non-indigenous community stereotyping indigenous art forms
  2. ·         underlying tensions around the residential school experience for many community members and their families
  3. ·         indigenous and non-indigenous youth do not participate in joint community activities
  4. ·         token indigenous involvement on arts committees and activities
  5. ·         traditional medical approaches and methods not working to improve health and wellbeing of community
  6.           health risks in the community is an indigenous issue not a shared community challenge


Physical and mental health was identified as a community concern and priority and it was noted that this challenge is exacerbated because of the insufficient relationship between indigenous and non-indigenous residents.  

Project Goals:

The project goals are based on the identified priorities:

To improve awareness of the connection between “movement” - physical and mental health and healthy relationships and to improve indigenous and non-indigenous relationships in the community so that:

  • people feel value and welcomed
  • there is an increased understanding of one another; more respectful, more dialogue; youth feel safe
  • there is an understanding of privilege


Involve: Together, have a dialogue about how the arts might be meaningful in creating connections and or embracing issues.  Fully understand what this other organization wants to achieve through arts engagement. Identify and connect all of the different players who would be required to meet this aspiration.  

Current Partners for the project to date include:

  • Pelican Falls First Nations High School
  • Sioux Lookout Public Library
  • Mayor's Committee on Truth and Reconciliation 
  • Lac Seul First Nation


Dialogue Part One:  On February 13th, 2017 - A collective of local arts, education and health sector professionals will come together with youth at Pelican First Nations High School to participate in physical activity (movement/dance) to explore the connection between physical and mental health and healthy relationships.  This activity is facilitated and presented by Blueprint for Life.

Take a look at their work in communities

Stephen “Buddha” Leafloor is a Canadian B-boy Elder, street dancer, youth outreach worker, speaker, and a social worker for 27 years who recently received the Governor General’s Meritorious Service Cross for his work with indigenous youth and communities. Stephen is the founder of using break-dancing to break barriers and help indigenous communities hip-hop their way to healing.

Angela Miracle Gladue is a young Cree dancer also known as “Lunacee”. She is an Indigenous & Hip-Hop Artist, Educator, Dancer and Performer living in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. In 2008 became a member of one of Canada’s top all female dance crew’s “The Fly Girlz” and went on to win numerous competitions such as Artist’s Emerge, the 2010 Canadian Hip- Hop Championship and 3rd in the World Hip-Hop Championships bringing home Bronze Medals for Canada. Recently she was awarded the Chief David Crowchild Memorial Youth Award from the mayor of the city of Calgary.

Troy Sexton is a dancer, drummer, beatboxer, teacher, motivational speaker and performer with high energy and a positive personality. At the age of 19, Troy joined the cast of the international percussion sensation STOMP. He was the youngest, and only Canadian performer in the history of STOMP. Recently Troy and his team have become the official bucket Drummers for the Toronto Raptors. Notable TV credits include Dancing with the stars (Poland), So You Think You Can Dance (Australia), Much On Demand (Canada), We Day 2010 (Canada) Zoink’d (Canada, YTV), as well as music videos for artists Rich Kidd, The Used and USS.

Collaborate Make a commitment to collaboratively undertake a project that will serve the identified constituent group and achieve the described aspirations. Undertake the project with shared leadership, decision making and participation. 

A follow-up meeting with stakeholders participating in the workshop/presentation will take place on February 14th to discuss how to continue the dialogue and talk about next steps in the “Matters of the Heart” project. Local current partners and stakeholders have a draft project charter that outlines roles and responsibilities, shared goals, risks, and metrics to evaluate the impact of a longer-term “Matters of the Heart” arts engagement project.  Following the workshops and meetings in February – a project charter will be developed.

An upcoming performance/workshop with Santee Smith and Kaha:wi Dance in April is an opportunity to build on the conversations in February.  The collective will determine the steps to take.

Please check back for details on the next step.  We will tell you more about the project and documentation should be ready soon after February 13th, so that you can see and learn along with us as we move through the various project steps. 

My Home is Sioux Lookout



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