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Mohawk teens from Kahnawake write and record music video exploring Indigenous identity


Four students from the Kanien'kehá:ka (Mohawk) community of Kahnawake wrote, sang, rapped and filmed a music video that explores their experiences as Indigenous youth.

Their school, Howard S. Billings in Chateauguay, issued the challenge, and the young artists rose to the occasion.

The world premiere of "They Fly" took place in the school's auditorium in front of all the students.

"It was a little overwhelming at first," said singer and co-writer Wahientha Katelyne Cross. "I didn't know what everybody was going to think about the music video coming out because we're all in high school and kids be kids. I thought there was going to be a lot of different opinions flying around, but, in the end, it was all ok, and I feel good about everything."

The music video has thousands of views on YouTube.

The grade 11 students brought their ideas and had some guidance in the creative process.

"We had the opportunity to work with producer David Hodges and mobile studio Nwe-Jinan to create an Indigenous music video, so we selected four students who were interested and have the creative talents," said principal Lynn L'Esperance-Claude.

Rapper and co-writer Onekwentaraonerate Lola Rosa McQuaid wrote lyrics about being Indigenous and light-skinned.

"There's not a lot of representation of pale-skinned and blue-eyed Native people," she said. "Not all Native people look the same, and also, mixed Natives are still Natives."

The song is meant to build awareness in listeners, yet it also seems to have inspired some self-awareness in the artists.

"It was really freeing," said rapper and co-writer Kawisenhtha Mercadies Deer. "It allowed me an opportunity to get out of my shell to do something I've never done before."

"It's outside of my comfort zone," said rapper and co-writer Teioronhiathe Phoenix Lahache. "I thought it would be good to have that feeling."

The four students made sure to showcase Kahnawake's local businesses and monuments in their video.

"I wanted to put more awareness on Indigenous people and their communities," said Lahache. "That's the whole reason why I did this."

"I liked collaborating with different people, and I like understanding the ideas and focussing on how they feel and how we feel and how and bring it all together to make something beautiful like we just did," said Cross

The music video-making process allowed them to find their voices through a conversation about identity and expressed through song creation.

"I learnt about myself," said Deer. "Like if I'm determined, I can do something even if I'm scared at first, and just in general, if you're determined enough, you can do anything."

"I'm super proud of it," said McQuaid. "I was super nervous premiering it, but I'm super happy with it now." Top Stories

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