Making New Tracks

In the past 10 years more and more First Nation dance groups have been popping up. People have decided it’s pretty cool to learn their traditional drumming, singing and dancing.

Bracken Hanuse Corlett calls it de-colonization.

Hanuse Corlett is an audio-visual artist with the group Skookum Sound System, which uses current technology and traditional sounds and images to create a dance party.

Skookum Sound System are performing at the Adäka Cultural Festival on June 27, and they will be teaching free workshops in four communities across the Yukon, teaching youth how to do what they do: DJing, electronic beat-making, singing and making multi-layered videos.

While their beats pulse through the body, the raw vocals and stream-of-consciousness video projections take the mind on a trip. A trip with a message.

“For us the message is very important,” Hanuse Corlett says.

Hanuse Corlett and fellow Skookum Sound System artists Csetkwe Fortier, his wife; Dean Hunt, his cousin; and Darwin Frost, his long-time collaborator, are all into reconnecting with their different indigenous roots. They are also environmental activists.

“De-colonization is basically the re-emergence of our culture and our practices,” says Hanuse Corlett, who is Wuikinuxv and Klahoose from the Coast Salish Territory. “I’ve been meeting people with a Celtic background and they’re looking more into their roots, too.”

De-colonization opens up the possibility of seeing life from a different perspective – the kind of perspective our ancestors might have had. Of what’s important in life, like the impact of pipelines.

Hanuse Corlett is opposed to a pipeline being built from Alberta to the west coast of British Columbia. To him, the idea of shipping oil from the coast means an oil spill in the Pacific Ocean.

“Poisoning your water seems so backwards to me,” he says.

Hanuse Corlett says their music is a way to spread their side of the pipeline debate. And they do it by making a audience-pleasing soundscape.

“We call it medicine candy,” Hanuse Corlett says. “We present a pleasing visual environment and sounds – you either nod your head or shake your booty to it. You can still dance to it, even though we’re talking about pipelines.”

They also want to show the new generation that art can be used to create change in the world.

“For the youth coming to the workshops, they’ll be able to access some new tools – audio-visual tools,” Hanuse Corlett says. “One of the lines we use is ‘We are the technology.’ Meaning all of these tools are an extension of your own expression.”

The free workshops take place in Haines Junction, Whitehorse, Dawson City and Old Crow, thanks to the Adäka Cultural Festival, Northern Cultural Expression Society, Bringing Youth Towards Equality (BYTE) and the Yukon Film Society.

Stephanie Chevalier, executive director with the film society, is excited that Skookum Sound System will be teaching youth about the possibilities of using traditional art in new ways.

“The new, indigenous media art scene is something that made me think, ‘Wow, that exists?'” she says. “It was a great discovery for me and I’m excited to share it with Yukoners.”

The workshops are inclusive – non-First Nation youth are welcome.

“I see this as a potential for development of critical thinking for youth,” Chevalier says. “It’s about sending the message to youth that they can contribute to social change through art, and not necessarily through getting into politics.”

Skookum Sound System will be at the Adäka Cultural Festival on Thursday, June 27. They will do an artist talk at 1 p.m. and perform at 6 p.m. in the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre. Tickets are $5 for two people.

The free workshops are for youth 12 to 18 years old. They take place on June 24 in Haines Junction at St. Elias School; on June 25 and 26 in Whitehorse at the Yukon College; on June 29 in Dawson City in the KIAC Ballroom; and on June 30 in Old Crow at the Youth Centre.

Contact the Adäka office at 667-7698 for more information.

For more information about Skookum Sound System, go to

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