Friday, 10 May 2013

Winston Wuttunee, A Life of Music and Spirit: The Early Years

Winston Wuttunee &
Robert-Falcon Ouellette
University of Manitoba
Cree Elder Winston Wuttunee was in the studio and completed a series of interviews about music, spirituality. Here is a discussion of his early life as a musician and the events which shaped him as a human and allowed him to grow spiritually as a human being.

Resume:
Winston initially talks about music and how young Aboriginal Cree youth traditionally would learn music in the family in his time. Winston's father was the farm instructor at the local IRS. A place that Winston refused to say the name out loud. Winston's father was born in 1892 and was well educated having earned a grade 12 education at the IRS. His family was eventually moved to Battleford when Winston was only 2. The family did not speak English at home for they only spoke Cree, but he sure did learn English quickly. His father soon started a business of a livery stable (horse repair shop). After that he created another Business selling water and delivering water from house to house for 75¢ a barrel. Whenever he would come home after work he would empty his pockets full of coins and Winston's uncles Bill and Noel would then come over and help him count the coins. The family become quite well off and eventually Winston's father would start selling and delivering ice from house to house. 

Winston and my father (James Ouelette as recorded on the birth certificate and with Indian Affairs but he always used Ouellette) would fight side by side against the other Moonyas children. They were very smart because they needed to be. They were able to run extremely quick. They would place rock piles around the streets in corners in order to defend themselves against the Moonyas (white) children. I asked if there was some racism at that time period and Winston there was just some racism Robert but a lot. Even though there was racism in the town from the RCMP and others, still members of the family were popular in school and they were able to take roles of responsibly like speaking at assemblies, music or defending fellow Neechi, brothers and sisters. “We were able to take these roles because we are Wuttunee descended from chiefs, it is in our blood.” Wuttunee means Golden Eagle Feather.

Winston also told more stories about North Battleford and the old times when he was growing up. Winston also discussed the environment and the role that Moonyas culture has taken in destroying the land that we live on and air we breathe!

Winston is a 2013 winner of an Indspire award for his work as an elder and in spirituality. This is for many the Noble prizes of the Aboriginal peoples in Canada.

To Learn More (podcast)

https://archive.org/details/WinstonWuttuneePartIMixdown  

Citations


APA
Ouellette, Robert-Falcon. (Director) (2013. May 10). At the Edge of Canada: Indigenous Research. Winston Wuttunee, A Life of Music and Spirit: The Early Years [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from http://www.attheedgeofcanada.com  
MLA
Ouellette, Robert-Falcon, dir. "Winston Wuttunee, A Life of Music and Spirit: The Early Years." At the Edge of Canada: Indigenous Research.. N.p., 10 May 2013. web. May 10, 2013. < http://www.attheedgeofcanada.com ›

4 comments:

  1. It was interesting to read about the early life of Winston Wuttunee after he came to class to talk to us. We did hear a bit from him when he was in class, but it is interesting to read more about what his early life was like. From the sounds of it, it family was really well off as his father had the opportunity, if you could call it that, to be a teacher at the Residential Schools. I never realized that they had Aboriginal teachers at these schools and it would be interesting to see what Winston’s father would have taught. For example, did he have specific skills that he had to teach or fail to teach? Was he able to teach anything that he wanted to?
    From this article, we can also see that they were well off because the family had opportunities to talk in front of people, or play music. They were not pushed to the side to allow the ‘white’ people to do all of the work and presenting. Instead, they were integrated into the ‘white’ person activities. It does upset me though that even the RCMP was included in the racism. The function of the RCMP is to enforce laws and make sure that everyone is respecting others. This is not happening as much as it should be as there is a story from CBC News where even Aboriginal RCMP officers are being discriminated against. (http://ca.news.yahoo.com/aboriginal-rcmp-officers-face-racism-says-ex-mountie-112640906.html)
    Lastly, I do completely agree with the fact that ‘white people’ are ruining the environment. We are making concrete islands (cities) and spraying pesticides all over the land. This is completely ruining the land, no matter how much people think it is helping. Before Europeans started coming over, the Aboriginal people were providing a much more sustainable way of living. Once we came here, we completely ruined all of the land that we started working.

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  2. Currently in a music class, I am working on a “Play List” assignment for the Early Years age-group. My overall theme is Canada, and since we had to the opportunity to meet and participate in some Aboriginal music with Winston Wuttunnee, I thought it would be important for to include some of his songs in my Play List. Now, picking a blog post to comment on, I find this one very appropriate, as I have had the chance to browse through their his webpage and listen to more of his songs. It sounds as though Wuttunne had a special childhood, and that has helped shape who he is and success today.
    As you mentioned, Wuttenne described there to be racism towards his family and other members of the community because they were Aboriginal, and I this is still seen in today’s society. CBC did a documentary series called the 8th Fire which is about Aboriginal communities across the country. Many of the episodes are taken place in Winnipeg and in one particular episode it show cases “Winnipeg Most” a rapping group from Winnipeg, and they express there felling on stereotypes within the city form the police. The video shows the police “checking up” on three aboriginal young males. These men were not doing anything but walking in the parking lot, and the police assumed that they were causing trouble because they were aboroiginal. These negative stereotypes need to be addressed, and changed. The episodes also sends a positive message that aboriginal people are still just like another individual and can be successful, for example they interview, Jordan TooToo, a professional hockey player, playing in the NHL, graphic novelist Steve Keewatin Sanderson, Dr. Evan Adams, and as mentioned Winnipeg’s Most rap group.

    Reference: 8th FIre. (Coleen Rajotte, Charlotte Odele, & Griffin Ondaatje). (2012). Indigenous in the City Available from http://www.cbc.ca/doczone/8thfire//2011/11/indigenious-in-the-city.html

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  3. As I listened to the podcast entitled, 'Winston Wuttunee, A Life of Music and Spirit: The Early Years', I was fascinated with Winston Wuttunee’s discussion on the environment and how humans have caused much harm to the environment. For instance, people are depositing their garbage in the natural environment (Ouellette, 2013). Also, pesticides are polluting the land and water. Since wildlife (e.g. birds) is apart of this natural world, the pesticides are having a detrimental effect (e.g. death) on the animals (Ouellette, 2013).

    Wuttunee stated that the Indians are the only ones to stick up for the water, environment, and land (Ouellette, 2013). For instance, he mentioned that his sons picked up the garbage that people had deposited in the natural environment (Ouellette, 2013). However, I believe that maintaining the wellbeing of the earth is everyone’s responsibility. Humans need to understand that each ecosystem and living organism is vital to the wellbeing of humans, animals, plants, and the earth. Thus, I think that it’s very important that teachers teach their students that our actions are harming animals, humans, plants, and the earth. If we want to remain in harmony with the natural world, then we all need to join forces and make sure that we are all doing our best to keep our planet healthy.

    Therefore, as an educator, I believe that it is important for all of my students to understand that seven grandfather teachings (love, respect, truth, trust, humility, wisdom, courage) that are inherent in the Aboriginal culture. I think that it’s important for the students to understand these teachings because these are the characteristics that each person needs to have if we want to create a world that is beautiful to healthy to live in. For instance, if we have love and respect for the environment, we will make sure that our actions will not harm the environment. I also want them to learn about the teachings so that they can live in a world that is healthy for them and their future children.
    In order for them to learn for my students to learn about how to respect the natural world and the seven grandfather teachings, I will first read a book entitled, 'The Elders are Watching'. In 'The Elders are Watching', a young Aboriginal boy is sent by his mother to go live with his grandfather in the forest so that he can listen, think, and learn. Of all the stories his grandfather told him, the young boy is most fascinated with the stories and knowledge of the old ones, the elders. These stories deal with the Aboriginal leaders of the past expressing a message of concern for the natural environment since people are not respecting the natural environment the way they should. For instance, people are cutting down so many trees that they are leaving the land barren. Consequently, the homes for the fox, deer, and wolf are gone. Thus, the elders urge people to respect the natural treasures of the environment (e.g. water, air, bear, salmon) as they are the essence of life and that without them people and wildlife would die.

    After reading the book, I would bring elders into the classroom so that they can discuss the importance of keeping Aboriginal traditions (e.g. respecting the natural environment, having a connection to the spiritual world) alive and how students can incorporate the seven grandfather teachings into their lives. By having elders coming in to discuss these things, the students will understand how they can benefit physically, spiritually, and mentally from the Aboriginal customs and the seven grandfather teachings (Kirkness, 1999). They will also understand that the natural environment will also benefit from the Aboriginal customs and the seven grandfather teachings (e.g. leaving the forests intact so that wildlife can live in their natural habitats). Thus, the elders will be able to encourage the students to have a deep connection to the natural world. The elders will also encourage them to respect the natural world so that humans and nature can benefit from their respectful actions.

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