North Caribou Lake youth hopes her award-winning art will help others open up about bullying

·2 min read
This artwork by 14-year-old Memekew Apetawakeesic-Morriseau topped 130 entries in a contest that was part of Tikinagan Child and Family Services' recent Red Alrt! Bullying Hurts! campaign. (Tikinagan Child & Family Services/Provided - image credit)
This artwork by 14-year-old Memekew Apetawakeesic-Morriseau topped 130 entries in a contest that was part of Tikinagan Child and Family Services' recent Red Alrt! Bullying Hurts! campaign. (Tikinagan Child & Family Services/Provided - image credit)

Memekew Apetawakeesic-Morriseau has drawn from her own experiences being bullied to create award-winning artwork that the 14-year-old hopes will help others open up about their experiences.

The artwork — which portrays a young girl surrounded by tall, menacing figures calling her names like "loser" and "crybaby" — was recently named winner of the Red Alert! Bullying Hurts! campaign by Tikinagan Child and Family Services in Sioux Lookout in northwestern Ontario .

The art by Memekew, who's from North Caribou Lake First Nation, was chosen from 130 contest entries.

She said being bullied when she was younger affected her self-esteem while growing up.

Memekew, shown with her certificate from Tikinagan Child and Family Services, says she was reluctant to enter the contest but her parents encouraged her to do so.
Memekew, shown with her certificate from Tikinagan Child and Family Services, says she was reluctant to enter the contest but her parents encouraged her to do so.(Tikinagan Child & Family Services/Provided)

"Well, at that age, I shouldn't be experiencing that."

Memekew said she was initially reluctant to enter the contest, but her parents encouraged her.

"I guess I just didn't want to be noticed.

"I was really proud of myself because it was my biggest achievement so far," she said of winning the contest. "And I'm also scared because of the spotlight."

Carlena Petawaick, the North Caribou First Nation Youth Advocate and band councillor, who also experienced bullying, said she was touched by Memekew's artwork.

"When you're bullied, it sticks with you and it's just in the back of your head," she said. "You think that everybody's like that."

Community does its share to counter bullying

As part of its anti-bullying work, the North Caribou community has a number of services, including prevention services and speech therapy, and recently held a week of events focusing on the issue.

Petawaick hopes the anti-bullying efforts will help more youth open up about their experiences.

"We're hoping to aim for younger children and our youth that are like maybe 16 to 18," she said. "We're planning that right now. And we're also going to work on the adults ... because we still have cycles to break."

James Benson, a prevention co-ordinator with Tikinagan, said he's received great community feedback about Memekew's artwork.

"Everybody is pretty impressed with her, with her artwork," he said. "People are asking if T-shirts are going to be made available, or sweaters.

"They're currently working on it, so hopefully [we'll] get them soon."

Benson said North Caribou's recent week of anti-bullying events, which he described as more of a youth conference, are already making a difference.

"We see kids that came out that you wouldn't see talking to anybody — they would be in their own bubble," he said. "A few days before the conference ended, they were all out and about just talking to people. And they were not shy. They were not scared."

More workshops and events are being planned, said Benson.