My name is Ta’Kaiya. I am Sliammon. I am an environmentalist and I am fighting for my culture, the ocean and the healing of our earth.
Ta’Kaiya Blaney has been singing with her musical mentor Aileen De La Cruz since her parents got her into singing lessons at the age of 4. At 10 years old she has performed at festivals, schools, conferences, film festivals and tribal journeys across BC and internationally in Bandung, Indonesia. She has been chosen as one of 20 “We Canada” Champions – an organization putting pressure on Canada to show leadership at the UN Earth Summit 2012 in Rio De Janiero. This summit will review and set goals for a future that is sustainable and promotes social justice.
In preparation for The Earth Summit 2012 taking place next summer Ta’Kaiya will be travelling across Canada, from Halifax to Victoria, visiting classrooms offering workshops about the environment and collecting the visions from our future leaders.
Already Ta’Kaiya recieves letters from students in schools where she has visited. Students wrote Ta’Kaiya letters explaining the super tanker proposal that they are up against in Bella Bella and several Gitksan classes have written Ta’Kaiya with appreciation for her music.
RPM: What do you enjoy about singing?
Ta’Kaiya Blaney: I enjoy songwriting because you get the message and what you want to say to people into that song so when you sing it you can really mean it.
RPM: What kinds of emotions are you trying to express in your songs?
TB: I wrote one song called Shallow Waters with the Enbridge Pipeline proposal that goes from the tar sands to Kitimat. It’s crossing through First Nations territories. It’s about a future where an oil spill happens on our traditional land and how sad it would be. The message of that song is we really can’t put this pipeline in. That song was coming from me and it’s what I was passionate about so I mean it when I sing it.
RPM: Why do you think it’s so important for our young people to have a voice with what’s going on in the world today?
TB: I think every voice matters young or old. Even if it’s the voice of an elder or a child. It’s still a voice that’s speaking out and is passionate about the healing of the earth and the healing of the traditions. I think it’s important for kids to understand this too.
RPM: Who else in your family practices singing and/or music?
TB: On my dad’s side, my cousins and my Kookpa, they do traditional singing, dancing and drumming. When I was 5 or 6 when I learned Amazing Grace. My Kookpa translated the first two verses into Sliammon.
RPM: Have you been learning some of your language?
TB: Yes, this year I have been learning Sliammon. I want to be able to go back to Sliammon and speak the language. I think it’s really amazing to be learning my traditional ways. I think it’s important because in the past our traditions were lost because of the residential school. We don’t have as much of our culture and in the community only some of the elders and adults know it. I think it’s really good for some of the younger generations to know it so their culture doesn’t get lost forever.
RPM: What do you do to prepare for going on stage?
TB: One of the challenges of speaking is getting your message to your audience and you have only one chance when you are on stage to express what your message is. It’s really important to get your message to your audience so that they can understand what you are speaking about. Its what you need to prepare for.
RPM: Is there anything you do to prepare yourself so that you are clear and strong and in a good space?
TB: I know for one thing when I get on stage I can’t be angry or anything like that because my mind doesn’t work well when I am angry. I can’t be tired because when you get on stage and you are trying to get someone to listen to you, you can’t be in a bad mood or else they get the wrong kind of idea. I have to relax a little before I go on stage or perform anywhere.
RPM: Are there other things that bring you happiness other than singing and public speaking?
TB: Reminding myself of the message and how I am a part of stopping this pipeline and helping heal the earth. Just being reminded of that is all I need because it’s really amazing for me.
RPM: What is your vision for the future?
TB: My vision would be a green economy and sustainable practices and our culture not being negotiated or for sale by the government. And world peace.
RPM: Is there anything else you would like me to include in my article?
TB: There is this thing that I always say at the end of my speech and it says: “You have a voice, be heard. You have a gift, share it”
Ta’Kaiya in actively gathering stories about how unsustainable development is effecting our land. She is encouraging people to send her letters. For more info check out her website takaiyablaney.com.
The CBC National News will be airing a profile on Ta’Kaiya this Sunday, December 11 at 10 p.m. She will also be on the second season of Down2Earth, which airs on APTN and NITV Australia, as part of their focus on young Aboriginal environmentalists. If you miss CBC news on Sunday go to Duncan McCue’s CBC page next week to view the video.
Here is an older video of Ta’Kaiya singing Wonderful, Beautiful at the 2009 Tribal Journeys hosted by the Suquamish Nation. Ta’Kaiya explains “It’s about don’t give up, don’t let anyone make you feel bad. Even if you fall, you can stand up and stand tall.”