TORONTO—Kendra Kitchikake of Wiikwemkoong may be a very quiet and reserved young Anishinaabe-kwe author, but the Grade 4 Pontiac student’s smile was bright as she stopped by The Expositor office with her grandparents and with her James Bartleman Indigenous Youth Creative Writing Award in hand.
“Yes,” replied Ms. Kitchikake when asked if she was excited to learn that she had been selected as one of five young Indigenous authors to receive the award established by the Honourable James Bartleman, former Ontario Lieutenant Governor.
“By contributing to a dialogue outside their own communities, these five young authors are inspiring Ontarians to take notice of what it means to be an Indigenous youth today,” Her Honour the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario Elizabeth Dowdeswell said in presenting the award. “Their talent and creativity are making a positive difference in the world.”
“Each year, I am inspired by the powerful submissions that are put forward by young Indigenous writers from across the province,” said The Honourable James K. Bartleman. “These five recipients have bravely shared their stories with us, exemplifying courage and strength. Their unique perspectives are essential to improving the understanding of Indigenous communities in Ontario.”
The former Lieutenant Governor was sporting a couple of black eyes as he presented the award, joking that he had a run-in with a bear just before the award ceremony. “I thought he really had,” laughed Kendra’s grandfather Theodore Flamand, a well-known local jokester in his own right.
“The James Bartleman Award provides a platform for young Indigenous writers to gain an audience beyond their local communities,” said Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Laura Albanese. “It is my hope that these young artists will continue to pursue their passion and hone their creative talents, so that their stories may live on.”
“These five young award recipients are role models to us all. By sharing their perspectives as Indigenous youth in Ontario, they inspire others and promote empathy and understanding,” said Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation David Zimmer. “Their efforts show how reconciliation can make a difference in the lives of everyone in Ontario.”
Ms. Kitchkake said that she was inspired to write her story and submit it by Tracey Cooper, her teacher at the Junior School. She wrote and submitted the piece while she was in Grade 3.
Asked if she liked writing her answer was an unequivocal “yes.” “She also draws,” interjects her proud grandmother Mary Ellen Flamand. Not surprising since her “Papa” on her dad’s side is none other than James Simon.
Ms. Kitchkake put her time in Toronto collecting her award to good use by going shopping with her grandmother.
Her award winning story is called ‘The Jingle Dress’ and is reprinted here with permission:
It is often thought that the jingle dress has a certain amount of jingles but you can put any amount of jingles on your dress.
Every dress has a spirit. The jingle dress is a healing dress because a little girl was sick and the father prayed and prayed for her healing. The dad had a dream of a dress he had to make so he made it and the little girl had to dance in the dress. She danced and danced and she was not sick anymore. That’s why the jingle dress is a healing dress.
When I see people dancing they go in a circle and go in and out. When they are going in they are grabbing the sickness and when they go out they are throwing the sickness away. When the jingles jingle, they make the sound of water and waves. It’s a beautiful sound.
I have a jingle dress and it is very special to me. My Grandma made it and it is so gorgeous. I love the sound of it, I love to dance in it and I love my jingle dress so much!
The award recipients included: Nova Gull for her poem, ‘Where’s Our Voice?,’ which highlights the lack of awareness of Indigenous issues; Ava Morin for her untitled essay on the importance of being confident and embracing who you are; Mike-Anthony Atlookan for his essay, ‘Are We Different?,’ which discusses the differences between people and the roots of discrimination’; Kendra Kitchikake for her piece, ‘The Jingle Dress,’ which describes the history and tradition of the Jingle Dress healing ceremony; and Sydney Flett for her poetry collection, ‘Cusp of Brilliance,’ an honest and personal reflection on her life and experiences.