Oshkikishikaw: A New Day
12 year-old identical twins Tapwewin (Truth) and Pawaken (Totem) have never cut their hair. In Cree culture, and in many Indigenous communities across Turtle Island, hair represents our sacred connection to AsKi, the Earth. Growing the hair is a manifestation of the growth of spirit. Jules Koostachin, Tapwewin and Pawaken’s mom - and documentary filmmaker - learned of a sacred coming-of-age ceremony when she was in her early 20s. An Elder told her that when boys hit puberty, a ceremony around the cutting of hair is a right of passage that supports and uplifts youth as they transition into the next phase of their lives. After the ceremony, they’re encouraged to grow their hair out again. For Jules, it’s important that her children understand the importance of ceremony — even though at times, some of the teachings are fragmented. Her family was plagued by colonialism; Jules’ mother Rita is a residential school survivor, who was taken away from a lot of her culture. When Jules became a parent, she wanted to make sure her children had a strong sense of identity and culture, and know their customs and protocol. She strives to honour customary practices by integrating her own teachings with others. In the summer of 2018, the twins and their family were invited by the Koostachin family to travel from their home in Vancouver to the birthplace of Kokoom (Grandma) Rita: Lake River, north of Attawapiskat. This was no coincidence; the family believes they were called back to their ancestral lands for a reason. They are the next generation, representing resilience, rebirth and strength. They are bringing back what was taken from colonial violence. Sadly, the trip to Lake River fell through, but the family asked local Knowledge Keeper Adrian of another site near near Attawapiskat where they could perform the ceremony. Adrian (who is the leader singer of the band Midnight Shine) suggested a location with a serendipitous name: Twin Islands. And so the twins travelled to Twin Islands by boat, with their whole family by their side, to take part in this sacred ceremony.