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The importance of words a highlight at the upcoming Miss Indigenous Canada Pageant – Anishinabek News

Sarah Lewis is a spoken work poet from Curve Lake First Nation in competition for the inaugural Miss Indigenous Canada Pageant. The pageant focuses on community service, cultural connection, leadership, and sisterhood. – Photo supplied

By Kelly Anne Smith

CURVE LAKE FIRST NATION— Spoken word poet Sarah Lewis of Curve Lake First Nation is vying for the title of Miss Indigenous Canada.

Lewis will be among 26 women from across Canada participating in the inaugural pageant focusing on community service, cultural connection, leadership, and sisterhood. Sisterhood is is important says Lewis. Much of her work is on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and dismantling the stereotypes inflicted on Indigenous women.

“When I came across this pageant I felt called towards it because it dismantles and shines light on how Indigenous women are not just statistics and we have so many gifts and talents and voices and stories,” Lewis explains. “To have all my stories and my new gifts to share and to meet other women who want to do the same thing is super empowering to me. That’s the most important piece to why I’m part of the pageant. And where my inspiration and excitement come from.”

As a spoken word poet, Sarah performs her words out loud in front of different audiences at organizations, schools, and events. She started through the slam poetry scene.

“It’s sharing, telling their stories,” she says, adding that spoken word poetry is the effective outlet for her activism. “I grew up and had faced a lot of different difficulties and trauma due to a number of reasons, but mainly colonization and the impacts from that. I was an activist from a young age. And I discovered the art of spoken word poetry or slam poetry and thought this would be a great way to get my messages out there and to talk about all these difficult things.”

“I shed light on those subjects and not only do I try to educate the truth and what happened, but why the ramifications of colonization and Residential Schools and Sixties Scoop resulted in an over representation of Indigenous people experiencing violence or homelessness or Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women,” Lewis continues. “My goal is to bring us together because I feel like there’s been some sort of separation or divide or just a lack of education. A lot of people don’t understand why we’re fighting for our rights and why we go to protests or why were talking about these issues.”

Lewis will be sharing her words at the Miss Indigenous Canada contest.

“I will definitely be performing my poetry in front of all the other contestants and the judges. I’m really looking forward to it. It’s going to be a new piece and something connected to the culture and pride and themes around resurgence of our people. And sovereignty.”

Asked about the large variety of bird calls heard while talking to Sarah, her contented reply was of appreciation of the land around her.

“I grew up on reserve and I’ve always been close to the bush and the water. This is my natural habitat, as it is for everyone, but I feel more connected to my homeland. It rejuvenates me and brings back a lot of childhood memories of being on the water and being out on the land with my family.”

Regaining culture and languages and building up Indigenous youth are all part of the purpose of Sarah’s performances.

“I know when I was younger it only took one person, one Indigenous artist, who spoke about what had happened to him. And he was more than just the bad things that had happened to him and how art saved his life. It signalled to me about how important representation is. And to see other Indigenous people or women talking about this stuff and talking about how we’re also artists and we’re also academics. We’re not the trauma and the violence and the addiction.”

Sarah Lewis says Miss Indigenous Canada is a great opportunity to talk about important issues and empower other Indigenous women.

“I always think about the seven generations that came before me and that sort of wished all of these experiences that I’ve experienced into existence. Because I never liked speaking in front of audiences. Now I feel like it’s my ancestors that brought me here and they want their stories told,” Lewis expresses. “I’m telling my grandmother’s Residential School story. And although these things are very painful, they were sort of the catalyst to all of the work that I do. It was for those ancestors and it’s also to be a voice and encourage other people to use their voices, especially the youth. I think of my son. It’s really inspiring to have him come to my different events or to know I’m in a pageant where I get to utilize my poetry, and where I get to be proud of my culture.”

Miss Indigenous Canada activities and competitions take place from July 24 to July 27 on Six Nations of the Grand River territory.

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