First Nations youth launch album covering hope, challenges of living in remote communities

Young people from a pair of Manitoba First Nations are heading to Vancouver this weekend to launch a new album featuring songs they wrote, performed and recorded.

A group of teens from Oxford House and Garden Hill First Nations made the trip to perform their songs, When the Dust Settles and Help You See, which cover themes including hope and the challenges of living in a remote community.

"It was a really amazing experience and I loved it and it was nice to get out how I felt about the community," said Carlene Weenusk, 16, of Oxford House First Nation. She's a singer and helped record When the Dust Settles.

"[The song is] about wanting to get out of your small town, small reservation or wherever you may be, wanting to get out and be successful, and even, like, to just go back and help out your community to remember where you came from," she said.

This trip is the first time Weenusk has left Manitoba, and she said she's both nervous and excited to perform live.

Weenusk and other youth wrote and recorded their songs as part of a workshop run by N'We Jinan, a non-profit organization that helps youth across North America make music videos with a mobile recording studio.

Both tracks will appear on N'We Jinan's newest album, The Silent War Volume 5.

N'We Jinan director David Hodges said the non-profit got started about three years ago with Cree teens in Quebec. Since then, he's worked with hundreds of kids in more than 30 communities across North America.

"It's an incredible experience, because No. 1, everyone is so welcoming to having our organization come in and work with their kids, and everyone seems to be very open as well about telling us about the issues and the trials and tribulations of the history of their communities," he said.

"But then also the youth, because of the opportunity that this presents ... it also allows them to engage on a level that speaks their language."

For Weenusk, hearing how people relate to her work and seeing its positive impact has been a good feeling.

"I've tried doing things to maybe help my community in different ways and also to help out other people in the community, and I think that's what I want to continue to do once I build myself more and go out for school," she said.

"I just want to come back and work there, try and make it a better place."

Oxford House First Nation is about 580 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg and Garden Hill First Nation is about 475 kilometres north of Winnipeg.