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College's Sun Gathering looks at Idle No More.

Political involvement is nothing new to Michelle Thrush who first became active with the Lubicon protests when she 17. Along with Cree Metis visual artist and writer Aaron Paquette, award winning actor Thrush presented at "A Call to Arts," the fourth annual New Sun Gathering, celebrating Indigenous Arts and Artists at Blue Quills First Nations College.

The theme of this year's New Sun Gathering held on May 30 was a focus on the Idle No More movement. Sherri Chisan, programs coordinator at Blue Quills said she invited Thrush and Paquette for the specific focus they took in their work as artists with Idle No More. "We stand in the centre of transforming relationships to our lands. Idle No More echoed back," said Chisan.

Paquette used his artwork and writing in Idle No More. He said, "I'd never seen a movement like this, not fighting, not blockading, not protesting." About the images he created for Idle, Paquette talked about finding the truth. "Whether an artist or not, you are a creator, find some way to express the truth. Be true to who you are. Take that action. Speak that word."

Among Thrush's recent political activities was a mock funeral, in response to the racism incited by some media outlets while Idle was taking place, and hugging and giving out information about the movement in downtown Calgary at lunch hour. "It's not about us against you, it's about the land and the water, it's about coming together," she said. "The treaties are about working together."

Thrush told of her personal journey to become an actor, the struggles she endured growing up with alcoholism and retreating from this world into Nature. Thrush's story of her first acting role in Grade Eight at Bowness High School in Calgary is as much a testimony to her own determination as a tribute to those that guided, supported and carried her through difficult times. Some call them mentors. Thrush calls them angels.

She decided early on that she could be either a part of the solution or a part of the problem. "I took the positiveness and held onto it with whole heart and soul."

Thrush went on to a positive experience at Plains Indian Cultural Survival School where the teachers and Elders understood the environment she was coming form. "Going to PICSS saved my life," said Thrush. "The Elders were so beautiful. I understood how beautiful to be a part of the Native culture: beading, drumming, singing, language. This filled a hole, a hole that was so deep."

For the Gemini she received in 2011 for Best Performance by an Actress in a Continuing Leading Dramatic Role for her character Gail Stoney in "Blackstone," Thrush said she felt the grandmothers with her. "I felt the grandmothers coming through for all women lost to alcoholism and murder," she said. "I felt the energy coming through and allowed it."

Thrush also performed her One Woman Show, "Find Your Own Inner Elder," a poignant depiction of the grandmother and grandmothers that live within her. "I give you permission to feel," she said.

Children from the Oskiya Outreach Program, performed the Eagle Child Story, a traditional story of creation. A commemorative show honoured the works of Elder George Brerton-Giant of Saddle Lake who passed away on May 19, 2013. The New Sun Gathering, seeded by the New Sun Joy Harvie Maclaren Fund at The Calgary Foundation is part of an annual weeklong celebration of traditional culture that includes the Chicken Dance, Horse Dance, Bear Lodge and Yuwipi Ceremonies.

By Darlene Chrapko

Sweetgrass Writer

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Title Annotation:EDUCATION
Author:Chrapko, Darlene
Publication:Alberta Sweetgrass
Date:Jul 1, 2013
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