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Photo courtesy Indigenous Arts & Stories

Historica Canada presents contest showcasing writing and art from Indigenous youth

By Troy Hasselman, March 15 2019 —

Indigenous Arts & Stories is a writing and art competition presented by Historica Canada for Indigenous youth across the country between the ages of six and 29. Prizes for the competition include $2,000 cash and a trip to Ottawa to be honoured at the Governor General’s History Awards. Entrants can submit works they have already created or work done specifically for the contest in a variety of mediums, including writing, visual art or 3D works such as beading or sculpture.

The contest serves as a platform for Indigenous artists across the country. Past award recipients have gone on to do notable work.

“The contest is meant to give young Indigenous artists and writers a chance to share their stories and work with a wider audience,” says Andrea Hall of Historica Canada. “We have had previous winners that have gone on to have great success. One of our winners was Joshua Whitehead, who has been nominated for the Giller Prize. Aviaq Johnston is another one of our former winners who has published two books, including Those Who Run the Sky and the children’s picture book What’s My Superpower.”

The contest explores a wide variety of themes and topics that relate to the experiences of Indigenous youth with the number of entrants expected to increase this year.

“We usually get anywhere between 600 and 700 submissions. So far this year we have more than 500 and we usually see a flood of submissions right at the deadline,” Hall says. “In past years we’ve seen pieces that address language revitalization, we’ve seen pieces that address missing and murdered Indigenous women, we’ve seen a lot of cultural heritage pieces. For example, there’s a triptych of art pieces that are inspired by the entrant’s grandfather’s mukluks. There’s a huge mix of what we get and I think that really speaks to the range of experiences of Indigenous youth.”

Hall says contestants have commented on the contest’s use as a platform for Indigenous youth to express themselves.

“Some of the feedback we’ve had from previous contestants and winners is that this allows Indigenous youths to express their thoughts and feelings,” says Hall. “Storytelling has always been a part of Indigenous culture and this gives an opportunity to continue that. It also celebrates a shared passion for art and gives the opportunity to learn about different cultures within the Indigenous community.”

The selection process for winners is time-consuming and uses a jury of some of Canada’s most prominent Indigenous artists.

“We usually announce the winners early in June and there’s usually a two-month gap between the deadline and the announcement of the winners,” says Hall. “We do have a jury that selects the final winners. Some of the members of the jury include John Kim Bell, Ryan Rice, Maxine Noel, Drew Hayden Taylor, Brian Maracle and they select the winners for the contest.”

The contest is one of many platforms that have been created across the country for Indigenous art and artists to gain wider public recognition.

“This is just one opportunity of many that are out there to increase visibility of Indigenous art. I think as an organization Historica Canada is dedicated to offering programs that people can use to reflect on Canadian history and what it means to be Canadian,” Hall says. “I think perspectives of Indigenous people and Indigenous youth, in particular, are a really important aspect of that. This contest allows us to include these perspectives in the broader themes of our program.”
Entries for the contest are open until March 31. More details about the competition can be found on the Historica Canada website.

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