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This Indigenous literacy program is going to rock out. Here's why

Sault Ste. Marie Indian Friendship Centre to offer new, five-day research writing program inspired by award-winning Indigenous music documentary. Oh yeah, and there's a secret door prize involved
2016-10-04 Buffy Sainte-Marie DMH-2
Buffy Sainte-Marie at the Sault Community Theatre Centre in 2016. Donna Hopper/SooToday

A literacy instructor at the Sault Ste. Marie Indian Friendship Centre (SSMIFC) is hoping to improve peoples’ research writing skills through music. 

Based on the award-winning documentary of the same name, Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked The World is a new program that’s being rolled out across the province by the Ontario Native Literacy Coalition. 

“Students get to learn about the musical history of First Nation rockstars, going back to the early 1920s and forward,” said Allison Boissoneau with Niin Sakaan Skills Development, which offers literacy and basic skills development at the friendship centre. “It teaches them where rock and roll came from.” 

Participants will watch Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked The World - a 2017 documentary which highlights musical contributions from Indigenous musicians Link Wray, Robbie Robertson and Buffy Sainte Marie - before being tasked with four assignments, including a larger research paper. 

Those who complete the research paper at the end of the five-day program will be allowed to ‘drop’ one assignment - generally, a more difficult assignment the participant is struggling with - from whatever english course they’re currently working to complete, as the result of a collaboration with the Algoma District School Board. 

“A lot of our students do struggle with writing proper research paper, so that’s why I collaborated with Algoma District School Board - our teacher here - and she offered to take an assignment off for participating in this program,” said Boissoneau. “The fun part about it is they get their name in for a door prize draw, and nobody knows what it is.”

Boissoneau initially found out about the research writing program while attending an Ontario Native Literacy Coalition gathering this past June, and thought that it could very easily be applied to Indigenous students at SSMIFC. 

“I’m hoping to inspire our youth, because I’ve seen, through the academic school year, I’ve noticed a lot of our students are self-taught musicians,” she told SooToday. “Some of them are going on the internet and they’re printing out piano notes, and then I can hear them playing. Some students are going on guitars and they’re printing out the music notes and studying those notes, and they’re learning how to play guitar.”

“I just wanted to encourage that a little bit further. If music is their interest, I want to intrigue them.”

Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked The World takes place Aug. 5-9 at 241 Albert St. W.

Boissoneau can be reached at (705) 945-0963 or by messaging the Niin Sakaan Skills Development Facebook page.

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James Hopkin

About the Author: James Hopkin

James Hopkin is a reporter for SooToday in Sault Ste. Marie
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