A Walpole Island youth was a part of history today, as he led Justin Trudeau into Rideau Hall to be sworn in as Canada’s new Prime Minister.
Theland Kicknosway, 12, was picked to sing and drum a welcome song for the historic event, which led the procession for Trudeau, along with Trudeau’s family and his new cabinet ministers.
“I was trying to remind myself… don’t trip, don’t trip, don’t trip,” Kicknosway told the Sydenham Current. “Remember the song, but don’t trip. That is basically what went into my head at that point. There was a close call, I stubbed my foot on something but I didn’t want to be in the news headlines ’12-year-old boy falls during ceremony.’
Kicknosway, who lives in Ottawa with family, is a member of Walpole Island First Nation. His father Vincent is from Walpole, and many of his relatives still reside on the Bkejwanong Territory.
Kicknosway said he had the chance to meet Trudeau right before the ceremony.
“I talked with him for a couple of minutes before we actually went in, but we had to leave. There were a lot of people and lots of security too,” he said.
“He introduced himself and introduced me to his wife and his two sons and daughter. I said I was going to be singing a song and he wished me luck and I wished him luck too.”
Kicknosway said the song he sang during the ceremony was from the drum group Crazy Spirit, which is based out of Aamjiwnaang First Nation just outside Sarnia.
“I’ve done the song previously,” he said. “It was an honour song.”
Kicknosway said the opportunity to perform at the Prime Minister’s swearing in ceremony stemmed from a previous performance back in June for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.
“They kept my mom’s contact. The idea was to bring in aboriginal youth and to introduce and welcome the Prime Minister into his new job. They called my Mom on Friday and they said they were looking for me to come in and sing an aboriginal welcome song,” he said.
“We had to keep it confidential, we couldn’t really tell anybody. My mom didn’t tell any of her friends and she didn’t tell me until Saturday.”
Kicknosway said it was a funny story how he eventually heard the news from his mother.
“We were on our way to Toronto and she told me in the car, and I was like ‘oh, okay.’ Then she tells me on Sunday, and I’m like ‘what, you never told me this.’ And she was like ‘I just told you yesterday.’ I guess I wasn’t paying attention. So I didn’t learn the actual news until then.”
Wearing a shirt representing the missing and murdered Indigenous women of Canada during the ceremony, Kicknosway said it is important to raise awareness about the issue.
“It’s something that we always have to keep talking about,” he said. “It’s everywhere.”
He added the experience overall was surreal.
“At the time, I was like wow this is actually happening and after I was more freaked out… it was cool though. It was a cool experience and it was an honour.”
Elaine Kicknosway, Theland’s mother, said the whole event was a nice experience.
“They were kind, they didn’t rush him,” she said. “They gave him space to get his grounding and get himself together because even getting there was a little crazy. Even though it felt rushed, it wasn’t, it was great that way. It was neat to have that experience.”
Elaine Kicknosway said Theland was also asked to perform at a function for former Prime Minister, Joe Clark.
“Theland is the only youth First Nations drummer around (the Ottawa area.) So that is why you’ll see us at a lot of events.”
She said her husband owns land on Walpole Island and they try to come down a few times a year.
“We came home for the powwow this year,” she said. “We try to make it down as much as we can.”
Here is some more coverage about Theland from the day:
Aboriginal Peoples Television Network: History-making Trudeau cabinet sworn-in amid drum-beat echoes and throat singing