nitâhkôtan: A Gratitude Lullaby for Earth
At first this piece was meant to be a lullaby for my future children, written and composed as a tool for learning one of my ancestral languages: nêhiyawêwin or Plains Cree. It was proposed as part of a collaboration I co-directed with two Aboriginal artists, Cheryl L’Hirondelle and Joseph Naytowhow during a ten-day song-writing and language-learning exchange: “Back to Where My Heart Belongs.” Taken from Buffy Sainte-Marie’s song “Qu’Appelle Valley, Saskatchewan” the title of our project made reference to returning to the land, walking the “old way” and deepening connection to ancestry through the stories and wisdom shared on the land. My Métis ancestors once journeyed in this valley. So in late August, 2013 we travelled to this land, to connect and share stories with the elders and to create a series of songs that would embody our collaboration. We listened for the words and stories to reveal themselves as we gathered sage, walked on the land, swam in the waters and sang from the hills.
nitâhkôtan is a song of arrival, a return to the land with a deeper sense of embodiment and belonging. It is a song of gratitude. It is a song that brings us into closer relationship to the earth, no matter what land we walk on. This is why the piece was filmed in the territory where I currently reside, on the mountain in Montreal. We hoped to capture these moments of reverence within the chaos of an urban centre. The film was created in the summer of 2014 in collaboration with Wapikoni Mobile, a Quebec-based indigenous film organization that creates training and dissemination opportunities for young indigenous filmmakers and media artists. We created the 3min clip over the course of three weeks. It was launched in early July 2014 and was featured at the 2014 Wapikoni films celebration in mid-October, 2014. wapikoni.ca/
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About the Author
Métis multidisplinary artist Moe Clark is a nomadic songbird with wings woven from circle singing and spoken word. Her poetic songs resonate with the power to heal, to celebrate spirit and to connect with authentic purpose.
As an educator, Clark facilitates writing, vocal improvisation and looping pedal workshops in high schools, communities and with Aboriginal youth. Her work takes her as far north as Iqaluit to offer intergenerational storytelling exchanges and as far south as Brazil to collaborate inter-culturally with the Tembe people. Her approach to group facilitation aims to build bridges through empathetic listening and sharing.
Clark has two albums of words and music: Circle of She: Story & Song (2008) and Within (September 2014). Her bilingual book of poetry Fire & Sage / De sauge et de feu was published through Maelström Press in 2013. She has performed and collaborated on numerous national and international stages including Maelström ReÉvolution Poétique Fiéstival in Belgium (2013 & 2009), IDEA World Congress: Art for Social Change in Brazil (2010), and her more recent “Poet of Honour” performance at the 2014 Canadian Festival of Spoken Word. As artistic producer she directed the 10th Annual Canadian Festival of Spoken Word in Montreal (2013), the first bilingual edition which also highlighted Indigenous languages. Other collaborations include Bird Messengers indigenous theatre performance and Back to Where My Heart Belongs Cree language songwriting project.
She has given feature talks at TedXMontreal (May 2012) and the Olympic Summer Games in London, U.K. (July 2012).