Iksokapi Profile: Kiera-Dawn Kolson, Teetlit Gwich’in/ T’so Tsine Dene
“If you can dream it, you can achieve it, the sky is the limit, you better believe it”-Kiera-Dawn Kolson
FEBRUARY 2014 Iksokapi Profile – Kiera-Dawn Kolson is a Teetlit Gwich’in/ T’so Tsine Dene youth born and raised in Yellowknife NWT. She is an award winning multi-disciplinary artist, a motivational speaker, singer/songwriter and cultural facilitator. Her inspiration comes from her ancestors and mentors as she continue to strive towards a better world for those who cannot speak for themselves. Her goal is to educate, empower and engage others in understanding their greater potential and to utilize their individual gifts. Through contemporary and traditional values Kiera hopes to assist in creating new memories in the minds of our children, communities and nations.
How did you become involved in the Neil Young’s Honour the Treaties tour?
It was an unexpected blessing. I was actually visiting some friends in Winnipeg preparing some music on my time off when I received a call and invitation from Eriel Deranger the Comms director for the ACFN. We have done work in the past and I have a great deal of respect for her, her family and her peoples and everything they are striving to achieve in creating awareness of the respect and responsibility in including Indigenous peoples as well as being accountable for the projects taking place in Indigenous territories. In the call she invited me to participate in making the opening remarks the following day at the Press Conference from a youth perspective on honoring the treaties.
I am very passionate about our human rights and understand that this decolonizing process starts with you and me and reminding Canadians that we are all benefactors of these treaties, these ancient binding documents. Without treaties Canada is only a 3rd party subsidiary colony state of the British Crown, all infrastructure either crosses into or onto Indigenous territory and these Indigenous rights are protected through fiduciary obligation and the Canadian Constitution in respect to the duty to consult Indigenous peoples when implementing any type of development which may infringe on our Human rights to continue to live in harmony with the lands as stewards of the lands.
What was the purpose of the tour?
The purpose of the tour was more then what media or industry tried to make it out to be. This tour was about creating a dialogue and initiating a responsibility as “Canadians” to “Honor the treaties”. When is it okay for Indigenous human rights to be recognized as human? When is it okay for Indigenous peoples to say enough is enough and not have the whole wide world turn their backs on our human rights to live in a healthy space, human rights that are supported by the United Nations?
Drawing a line in the sand is symbolic because many Indigenous peoples are drawing that line and saying that it is time to honour our mother Earth and that does not include complete exploitation.Treaties are nation to nation agreements and with the Jack Pine expansion within ACFN territory (ACFN are also accepted into our Dene Constitution here in the Northern region) with the proceeding of this expansion without proper consultation or approval by the Indigenous peoples of the area Canada and Industry are violating and infringing on our Treaty rights and that is unacceptable.
Where do we go when and if our homes become so contaminated that we are told that we have become political refugees? many Indigenous peoples are currently living in 3rd and 4th world living conditions in a first world country and this is unacceptable. There are unfortunately countless Indignoues Human Rights violations across Canada and this tour is just the tip of the ice berg in recognizing the ethnocide, genocide and atrocious history Canada is responsible for in regards to the “Aboriginal-Crown” relationship. Honor the treaties Canada!
Not many people can say that they went on tour with Neil Young, how was that experience for you?
Well I didn’t really tour with Niel, I was just lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. I do believe that with hard work, dedication, the right attitude and the right opportunity dreams do come true. This was just an unexpected blessing by the creator for all my efforts over the years which has been more then half my life in creating more awareness to the issues. I am very grateful for the support of Eriel and Chief Adam for allowing me to make a statement not only that day to the media but to the rest of Canada and the world.
The first thing I did was put it back out to the youth and inquired on what would they like Canada to know and on the day of the press conference I held onto my eagle feather and spoke from my heart knowing that at that moment I was not only there for myself as a youth but for the countless other youth across Turtle Island who are in my moccasins. I hope that our young people remember that we are worthy, we are beautiful, to be Indigenous is not a bad thing and we are living proof of everything all their assimilatory tactics could not take away, many of us are so fortunate to have not experienced Residential School and so yes there will be a sense of pride not only in ourselves but within this greater global collective as a human race.
We all need clean air, water, lands and we are all benefactors in these treaties. The time is now for the awakening and the Rainbow Tribe is coming together 🙂 I have faith in what is yet to come.
Where does your inspiration come from to do the work that you do?
It comes from the human rights violations which my family has been subjected to. I always seek the good in every situation, so I have taken from this pain and transformed it into power and motivation to continue to educate, empower and engage others in seeking truth and accountability. The youth and unborn children inspire me greatly, these beautiful beings deserve a chance to dream dreams and live their culture in a healthy world. They deserve our leaders to think and act beyond an electoral term. They deserve soo much and for them I will always do my best to offer them everything they deserve.
That means speaking even if my voice trembles, that means taking the road less walked to break that trail, that means standing up to the people who raised me and helped inspire my voice when I know that they are not making healthy choices, that means always being true to myself and following my heart-because when you follow your heart you provide a path for others to follow your lead and I hope that someday at least something that I’ve done can inspire our youth to recognize their potential 🙂 Dream big believe is my philosophy and just because we come from a small place, it doesn’t have to mean that our expectations for ourselves have to be small.
Dream big and believe because that development for greatness begins within ourselves and the only limitations we will ever have are those we create and accept for ourselves.
Who is your role model and why?
I loveee Buffy!!!!!!!! however I would have to say my mom 🙂 She is my rock, my best friend, my inspiration. If I can become half the woman she is I would be so lucky. She raised me as a single parent and gave me all the love and support to help and assist me in developing into the person I am today and without her I don’t know where or who I would be. She is a breast cancer survivor, an author, a professor, but most importantly she is my mom and I am ever greatful for her and all she does. She is my inspiration and greatest supporter in all I do 🙂
What project or accomplishment do you consider to be the most significant in your career?
I find that everything happens for a reason and each experience has held a special relevance in my life. The Olympics was amazing because of the beautiful youth I met and the new family which came from those friendships. Mount Rushmore was great because I was able to share these teachings with a greater collective. The North Pole trek was inspiring to know that we were there for the whole wide world with millions of people supporting our efforts and that there are soo many people around the world who want Climate accountability.
Miss Indian World was a whole new experience since we don’t really have pageants in the North but my participation and placing has inspired other Dene youth to want to participate which excites me to watch as youth blossom into their own. The various awards, awards shows and conferences are always fun, having the chance to re-connect with like-minded people and meet new individuals is always inspiring. But the very first conference that really inspired me as a youth who also attended it would have to be the Dreamcatchers conference at Grant MaCewan 🙂
I have such a respect for everyone involved in creating this space for youth to come learn and grow and become proud of their identity. This was the conference I first spoke and performed at and I highly recommend our communities to bring our youth to participate 🙂
What is the best advice you have ever received?
“There are many roads to the top of the mountain, all who wander are not always lost.”
“Stand strong like two, regardless of where your roots are planted.”
“They promised us as long as the grass grows, rivers flow and sun shines. If they stop the grass from growing, the rivers from flowing, or the sun from shining then we must speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. The winged, the rooted, the ones who swim, the ones who crawl, the 4 legged and the 2 legged.”-Dene Elder Besha Blondin
What are your goals for 2014?
Continue to develop my Dene skills and cultural understanding, focus on environmental issues, finish recording my debut Album, record a few music videos, Get our Charitable Youth Arts and Cultural Foundation off the ground and organize a conference for 2015 in the north 🙂
What are 5 random facts about yourself?
1. I am an only child
2. I was the first poetry award recipient at the En’Owkin Indigenous Center for the Arts
3. I love chinese food
4. I love to fish and be out on the land
5. I am an Aquarius
For more information LIKE her on Facebook
(Photos provided By KD Kolson)