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Anishinaabe youth recognized with James Bartleman Indigenous Youth Creative Writing Award

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Sheguiandah First Nation’s Jaymes Simon (right) was recognized with one of 12 James Bartleman Indigenous Youth Creative Writing Awards on July 15 at Fort William Historical Park in Thunder Bay.

By Rick Garrick

THUNDER BAY — Sheguiandah First Nation’s Jaymes Simon was one of 12 James Bartleman Indigenous Youth Creative Writing Award recipients recognized by Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell on July 15 at the Fort William Historical Park in Thunder Bay. Simon, a Manitoulin Secondary School student, was recognized with the 2022 Senior On-Reserve James Bartleman Indigenous Youth Creative Writing Award for their story, I See a Boy.

“I’m really happy to be here, I’m happy to be given this opportunity, I don’t really go out so this is very awesome,” Simon says. “I wrote it when I was feeling bad about my body, I didn’t feel like I belonged in my own skin, so gender expression and wearing the clothes I liked helped that a lot.”

Simon says their family has been very accepting of their gender expression.

“They’ve been very accepting and helped me get here,” Simon says.

Sue-Ann Oshkabewisens, Simon’s mother, says she was glad that Simon expressed what they felt during the James Bartleman Indigenous Youth Creative Writing Award ceremony.

“I’m a very proud parent, I’m a proud sister, I’m a proud community member — I support the LGTBQ,” Oshkabewisens says. “I always tell [Simon] if you have something to show, something how you feel and express it, share it because somebody could be somewhere feeling the same way and not feel so alone. I try to get all my children to express, share, and love how they can.”

Oshkabewisens appreciated the opportunity to hear the James Bartleman Indigenous Youth Creative Writing Award recipients share their creative writing during the ceremony.

“It’s really nice hearing how other children from all over, how their minds, and how they perceive things comes out,” Oshkabewisens says.

The three other 2022 James Bartleman Indigenous Youth Creative Writing Award recipients were Rowyn Kasunich from M’Chigeeng with the Junior On-Reserve award for The Chandelier story; Avery Stewart from Kanata with the Junior Off-Reserve award for Our Culture poem; and Evie Gideon from Ottawa with the Senior Off-Reserve award for The Long Way Home story.

The 2021 James Bartleman Indigenous Youth Creative Writing Award recipients were Keilyn Linklater from Attawapiskat First Nation with the Junior Fly-In award for Spring 2021 poem; Tish Tookate from Attawapiskat First Nation with the Senior Fly-In award for untitled poem; Kentley Gardner from Thunder Bay with the Junior Off-Reserve award for Take Me Home poem; Emily Peltier from London with the Senior Off-Reserve award for untitled story; Farah Garlow from Ohsweken with the Junior On-Reserve award for My Strong Family story; and Asia Nahdee-Wagner from Walpole Island with the Senior On-Reserve award for Self Love: Kindness Through the Eyes of an Anishinaabekwe poem.

The 2020 James Bartleman Indigenous Youth Creative Writing Award recipients were Kaidyn Bailey from Utterson with the Junior Off-Reserve award for When the Winter Comes story and Sophie Langlois from London with the Senior Off-Reserve award for Kindred Spirits poem.

“It was really nice to acknowledge the young people for their writing and we got to hear some of their poems or excerpts from their stories,” says Fort William Chief Michele Solomon. “It really spoke to their personal lived experiences in their communities.”

Solomon says it was great to have the James Bartleman Indigenous Youth Creative Writing Award ceremony on her community’s traditional territory, the first time the awards were presented away from Queen’s Park in Toronto.

“It’s nice to be able to come and be part of acknowledging and honouring these young Indigenous people who are at such a young age taking such a strong interest in writing,” Solomon says.

The James Bartleman Indigenous Youth Creative Writing Award was established in 2008 to honour the legacy of James Bartleman, a Chippewas of Rama citizen who was the province’s 27th Lieutenant Governor and the first Indigenous person appointed to the role in Ontario.

“This award recognizes the efforts of James Bartleman in promoting literacy among Indigenous youth and celebrates brave and inspiring voices,” Lieutenant Governor Dowdeswell says. “This work deepens the province’s collective understanding and appreciation of Indigenous cultures, and ongoing relationships with Indigenous leaders and communities.”

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