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Aboriginal Winners Honor Life

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“Ew, that outfit is hideous!” yells a chunky, green-clad girl to her friend, turning her away. The friend is dressed a bit frumpily, to be sure, but she certainly does not deserve to be told, “I can’t even be seen with you like this! Do you know what that would do to me?”

The dispirited teen dutifully goes home and tries on some more outfits. At the risk of plot-spoiling, we will say that the video has an upbeat ending. And so does the videographers’ story: “Self Image,” by Melissa Ziehlike and Sandra Kritzer of Flin Flon MBand, took first place in the “How do YOU honor life!?” contest run by the Honouring Life Network, a project of the National Aboriginal Health Organization (NAHO).

Suicide among aboriginal youth is a huge problem in Canada, with rates many times higher than in the general population. Numerous groups and government agencies are working on ways to encourage young people not to take their lives.

The contest’s first runner-up, “How I Honour Life,” was submitted by Brad Fyfe, Anthony Morrisseau, Dan Isham and Jessica Desrosiers of Fort Frances, Ontario. It features indigenous young people who celebrate their lives by exploring their Native heritage through singing and dancing.

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“Alice,” who overcomes setbacks with the help of a loved one, was the second runner-up. It was submitted by Catherine Coe, Shawnna Goulet, Caitlyn Goulet, Mandy Goulet, Lavina Black, Chavannah Kochon, Kaiya Delorme, Kevin Betsina, Johnny Martin, and Tyanna Gofard of Yellowknives Dene First Nation (N'Dilo), Northwest Territories.

Writers got their due as well. In her moving essay “Honouring Life—Suicide Prevention,” Krista Alec of Prince George, British Columbia, wrote candidly about her father’s suicide when she was seven (she’s in her 20s now) and its effect on the lives of her family, community and her own life outlook. Her response has been to live life to the fullest, throwing herself into everything she does. “I live, love and laugh like there is no tomorrow,” she wrote. “Sure I make a lot of mistakes, but I learn from my mistakes and I have fun making them!”

The first runner-up was “Voices” submitted by Robert Animikii Horto of Rainy River First Nations, Ontario, who wrote, “To me, ‘Honouring Life’ means doing all I can with the gifts I have been given and/or developed to serve the best interest of our People and communities.”

Winning entries can be accessed at the Honouring Life Network site.

“NAHO congratulates all of the youth who participated in the contest,” NAHO chief executive officer Paulette Tremblay said in a Jan. 11 statement announcing the winners. “Their creativity shows a rich appreciation and pride of First Nations, Inuit and Métis cultures, and their works send positive messages to other aboriginal youth across the country.”