New music, art programs in Calgary set out to share Indigenous culture

The Indigenous Resilience in Music — Isitsiipotaako program launched their winter workshops this week.

Isitsiipotaako is Blackfoot for 'a song or sound that breaks silence'

Clarence Wolfleg speaks to students about a beating heart, rhythm and its connection to music. (Livia Manywounds/CBC)

Blackfoot Elder Clarence Wolfleg from the Siksika Nation opens the workshop with a traditional prayer.

The Indigenous Resilience in Music group launched the Isitsiipotaako music and art program this week at the Calgary Public Library.

The workshops and discussions focus on inspiring youth from diverse backgrounds through music.

Isitsiipotaako is a Blackfoot word that translates to "a song or sound that breaks silence."

The workshops are taught from emerging Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists.

Curtis Running Rabbit-Lefthand is the artistic director for the group.

"The workshops are for youth and presented by musicians, Indigenous musicians and artists [to] just encourage them and inspire them," he said.

"It is a chance for youth to seek out their own practices and … seek out their own path," said Running Rabbit-Lefthand.

Curtis Running Rabbit-Lefthand is a member of the Indigenous Resilience in Music group. (Livia Manywounds/CBC)

The artistic director said the workshops are an opportunity to share culture, music and talents, not only with youth but emerging artists as well.

"This is something that I and a lot of my team [have] been preparing for the past year now on creating something that … has not been done in Calgary," he said.

The Indigenous Resilience in Music Isitsiipotaako program is the first of its kind, he said.

Sarah Houle is an artist and performer involved in the IRIM program. (Livia Manywounds/CBC)

Sarah Houle is one of the artists collaborating with fellow musicians to teach youth about cultural identity through music.

"It is so fresh and it kind of feels like it is making Calgary a more diverse place," Houle said.

The artists are teaching youth about music and their own personal practices.

"I think it is important because its giving an opportunity for artists from diverse backgrounds to come together to create something fresh and new … with cultural teachings," the artist says.

The performer said the new downtown Calgary structures create an inspiring space to learn.

The winter series workshops will be housed at the Calgary Public Library and the National Music Centre. Spring sessions will start at the end of April.


Livia Manywounds is a reporter with the CBC in Calgary, a rodeo competitor and a proud member of the Tsuut’ina First Nation.