Sheguiandah Summer Stories inspire creativity from the heart, connection to the land

Lisa Hamalainen one of the organizers for the Sheguiandah Summer Stories youth arts and culture program. The deadline to register is this Friday, July 15.

by Maureen Strickland

SHEGUIANDAH—The creators of last year’s Kagawong River Stories bring their unique arts and culture program for youth to Sheguiandah this August.

Sheguiandah Summer Stories or Sheguiandah Niibini Aasookaanan is a free program for youth ages 10 – 20, running the first two weeks of August.

Lisa Hamalainen, Artistic Director and Shelba Deer, Cultural Director, design and run the program that combines creative pursuits with Anishinaabe cultural practices.

The participants engage in a range of creative activities such as storytelling, drama games, creative writing and theatre practice. At the same time, they learn about Anishinaabe culture and connect with the land and the spirit.

This year’s program is at Myengenuk Gizhekeking Endaat  in Sheguiandah, one of the community partners for the program.

Ms. Hamalainen is excited to see how a new landscape inspires the creativity of the youth.

Ms. Hamalainen grew up in Little Current and currently lives in Montreal. She is an actor, artist and storyteller. She developed the program to, “offer a platform for youth to be creative, to share their voice and support them in developing their own creative vision.”

Ms. Deer is from Sheguiandah First Nation where she is the Wellness Promoter. Ms. Deer has a desire to pass on the Anishnaabe ways to future generations. She believes these ways help to protect the earth and help young people open up their hearts to spiritual connection with the land and with themselves.

“The program helps kids find and embody their gifts,” says Ms. Deer, “we all have something to offer.”

“Everything is interconnected and the Anishnaabe ways are universal,” says Ms. Deer.

The program itself mirrors this understanding of spirit and connectedness resulting in a very organic approach to creativity.

Ms. Hamalainen and Ms. Deer are the primary facilitators. But no one knows at the beginning of the program what creative performances will be developed as the two weeks unfold.

As the youths learn about the land, culture and various creative expressions they, “will live the language of the heart and create the performance,” says Ms. Deer.

The final performances are open to the public and will take place on August 13 and 14.

Sheguiandah Summer Stories runs from August 1 – 4 and August 8 – 11 from 10 am to 3 pm each day.

There are limited spaces available so anyone interested should contact summerstories2022@ as soon as possible.

From August 1 – 4 there is the opportunity for youth age 10 – 20 to drop in to the program just for the day.

Other participating artists and contributors include Katelyn Nani Gonawabi Bell with artwork and costumes, storyteller Jamie Oshkabewisens, drummer Ann Cummings, elder Jake Agoneh, firekeeper Lyman Aguonia, helpers Desiree Aguonia and Lauren Satok and graphic designer Lou Hayden. 

Sheguiandah Summer Stories is an independent program funded by the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council and supported by community partners 4elements Living Arts and Myengenuk Gizhekeking Endaat.