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Theland Kicknosway leads the way with his drum

Justin Trudeau unveiled his new cabinet on Nov. 4, making history and breaking new ground.

12-year-old Cree leads new PM and cabinet into swearing-in ceremony

Cree drummer Theland Kicknosway leads the procession into Rideau Hall before Justin Trudeau is sworn-in as Canada's 23rd prime minister during a ceremony in Ottawa Nov. 4, 2015. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

It was a swearing-in ceremony like no other.

"I couldn't believe that I was there with everyone who is very important," said Theland Kicknosway, the 12-year-old traditional drummer and singer who led the procession into the ceremony with a drum song.

Justin Trudeau unveiled his new cabinet on Nov. 4, making history and breaking new ground. 50 per cent of the ministers are women, and for the first time ever, an indigenous woman is at the helm of justice. 

The new prime minister made another significant addition to the day. He included indigenous culture in the ceremony.

"It was a surreal moment. I could not believe that I was right there," recalled Kicknosway, who is Pottawatami  and Cree from Walpole Island, Ontario.

The traditional dancer, singer and drummer said at first he was nervous but soon got that out of the way and the song came naturally.

The significance of being a young drummer was not lost on him.

"I think it's important because if we have aboriginal youth and young leaders, like myself, we can bring them into a place that's humble with good spirituality."

Theland Kicknosway, 12, leads the procession before swearing-in at Rideau Hall 2:52

Drumming to raise awareness

It wasn't the first time Kicknosway has been to Parliament Hill to play for politicians and dignitaries.

Kicknosway played his hand drum for survivors, commissioners and guests at the closing ceremonies of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission this past June. 

In 2013, he walked 134 kilometres from Ottawa to Kitigan Zibi, Quebec, to raise awareness about the children of missing and murdered indigenous women who are left behind, an issue near to his heart.

Kicksnoway wore his Maisy and Shannon T-shirt under his ribbon shirt for the swearing-in ceremony, gifted to him during his trek. Maisy Odjick and Shannon Alexander were 15 when they vanished from Alexander's father's home in Kitigan Zibi in 2008. They have never been found.

"If I'm thinking of the murdered and missing indigenous women and all of the First Nations, Métis and Inuit women, and bring them into the Governor General's [residence] then they will be remembered. We got to keep talking about it."

In the first 100 days of being in government, Trudeau has promised to hold an inquiry into the more than 1,200 indigenous women who have gone missing or have been murdered in our country since 1980.

As for any other expectations from the government, Kicknosway is not quite ready to dive into specifics.

"I don't know, like, I don't know what to expect. If they support our aboriginal/indigenous people I think that is enough but I don't think I'm really focused on that. I'm focused on school, I'm only 12."