Drinking and driving cost Frank Waln’s cousin his best friend and his freedom, the outspoken artist told more than 75 audience members at a March 19 event at the Walpole Island Cultural Community Centre.
“Choices: Artists & Vehicle Injury Prevention” showcased First Nations artists who shared their experiences, using personal examples to highlight what can happen when people neglect safety on the road.
Waln opened the event with a song about his cousin, who spent his 21st birthday in a California penitentiary, serving a term for manslaughter in his friend’s death. Writer Tanaya Winder and singers-dancers the Sampson Brothers rounded out the program.
The performers shared strategies they use to help each other stay focused and alert while travelling, including taking breaks when they are tired, and getting passengers to take phone calls and texts.
The presentation resonated with Lianna Waboose, a Walpole Island member who drove from Windsor to see the event.
“I loved it all, but what I really loved is how they addressed First Nation issues in all their performances,” she said. “They delivered a great message and I thought it was inspiring for all, but especially the youth. My boys loved it!”
Walpole Island First Nation members Anika Altiman and Naomi Williams coordinated this event, building upon the interest of the local advisory group for the “Vehicle injury reduction” research project. The group is responsible for newly-installed “Buckle Up” and “No Texting” signs, which include Ojibwe language translations.
This project is part of a Canada-wide AUTO21 research project led by UWindsor professors Brent Angell and Suzanne McMurphy, based on Understanding and Reducing the Impact of Vehicular Injury in First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities.
Back: Tim Ackerson (project manager), Suzanne McMurphy (co-investigator), Cecil Isaac (master of ceremonies), Brent Angell (principal investigator), Frank Waln, Sam Sampson, Micco Sampson, Anika Altiman (AUTO21 HQP, Western University), Naomi G. Williams (AUTO21 HQP, University of Windsor). Front: Tanaya Winder, Natahnee Winder, Waawaatesi Altiman.