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A space for youths to express reconciliation through creativity

Lori Hamar is the Project Coordinator for the Raven Tales Storytelling project with Change Makers’ Education Society and the North Coast Innovation Lab. She is currently a master’s student in the school of child and youth care at the University of Victoria which stands on the traditional territories of the Songhees, Esquimalt and WSÁNEĆ peoples whose historical relationships with the land continue to this day.

This summer, I’m supporting the coordination of a youth-led storytelling initiative that will focus on youths’ experiences and understanding of the truth and impacts of colonialism, and their hopes and ideas for moving toward reconciliation. The Raven Tales Storytelling project collaborates with Indigenous youth and allies, people who are curious about relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities, on Tsimshian territories to create and stage interdisciplinary performances, as well as document and archive their experiences using multimedia and creative practices.

I have built my career in the arts as a contemporary dance artist who choreographs, performs, produces, and teaches contemporary dance. After the birth of my daughter, I became interested in working with young children in improvisational dance. I obtained a diploma in Early Childhood Education, and studied with Anne Green Gilbert of Seattle, Washington, to learn about brain-based dance education. I continue to enrich my work as a professional dance artist, and Child and Youth Care practitioner, through arts-based research. Essentially, I am exploring how dance supports human development.

How did I arrive at the Raven Tales Storytelling Project?

When I received an email describing a Project Coordinator position in the Raven Tales Storytelling program, a collaboration between Change Makers’ Education Society and the North Coast Innovation Lab (NCIL) in Prince Rupert, I was struck by how the activities mirrored activities within my thesis proposal. My work is performance-based and rooted in dance, while the Raven Tales Storytelling project is hands-on and rooted in literacy through live theatre performance.

What challenges does the project face?

The question of NCIL and Change Makers’ moving forward in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic was a challenge and I questioned, how can I practice my work as an artist and arts-based researcher 100 per cent online? I was impressed and emboldened by the Raven Tales Storytelling team’s commitment to navigate these challenges and I took the leap and joined the team.

Our greatest challenge in these uncertain times is to reconnect with those who began the program last year, and to bring their original ideas and images to life. Not only do we gather virtually, we also create virtually. A small group of us are exploring outdoor video projection and on-site live theatre in response to social distancing restrictions. It is our desire to eventually lead small audiences through outdoor areas where youths can express their understanding and experiences of reconciliation.

Sage Buchanan and Taylor Munro Sampson using refurbished computers. (Photo by Priscilla Dennis)

Building relationships online

Preparing for this project required me to re-imagine what engaging with participants could look like. In March, I explored projects in the dance world to learn how the rapid shift to working online was taking place. In May, I spoke with my Change Makers’ supervisor, Karen Buchanan, and we decided to use the restriction as the new parameter. This has led to the vision of video projects that are developed online to support outdoor art installations, which will be presented in a live format. In this way, we have succeeded not only in building relationships online, but also in creating materials online that will support live performance.

We are now entering our second month of programming, and although our group is small, there is excitement and passion in our projects. If you would like to experience our early work, please visit our Facebook group page and click on the On site-In Sight Units.