By Marvin Louie
Special to the Chronicle
Painted Turtle is an arts and performance camp from Toronto in which youth ages 6 – 12 participated in arts and crafts, songs and dance, and drama activities through the week of July 30 to August 3.
Painted Turtle has been visiting aboriginal communities across Canada since 2012 (55 in total since 2012) and this is the third year they were able to extend visits to B.C.’s aboriginal communities.
I was able to finally persuade them (offered them continuous fry-bread for the week – you know the slogan –“Don’t panic, we’ve got your bannock!”) after three years of applying to come to the Oliver community. Just kidding! Painted Turtle is only able to visit a certain number of aboriginal communities per summer and there are lots of applications every year, so we were very fortunate to be picked from the bunch.
Sarina Condello, Painted Turtle’s program director, mentioned it has been a great experience being able to visit and explore the many great indigenous communities across Canada. It has brought her great inspiration and insight to her soul which she can now share with others on her future journeys through life. I asked Sarina about what the best things she sees in the Painted Turtle coming to different native communities and in particular the Osoyoos Indian Band community. Sarina said, “It is engaging the communities in creative ways while at the same time making it an inter-generational gathering.”
Helping run the Painted Turtle program for Sarina throughout B.C. and other provinces are Damarise St. Marie (program lead) and her sister Alexa St. Marie. Damarise has been involved with the Painted Turtle program for four years and has been involved in the arts for many years. Younger sister Alexa has also been studying and performing arts the past few years and has worked with Painted Turtle the past two; each of them bring so much energy and enthusiasm that it’s contagious and you can see the kids really become attracted to this as the week progressed. Damarise mentioned, “I just love coming to aboriginal communities, watching the kids play and creating their own space to explore and expand their individual traits.” She was really impressed with the way our youth adapted to the weekly activities and even expanded their own ingenuity on a few of them; it was great to witness.
Alexa said, “I just love participating and playing with the kids, reminding me you’re never too old to play and enjoy life on a child’s level.”
Alexa also reflected on the different challenges that are presented in some of the communities they visit, like some kids being very shy (with regard to dance and drama) but by the end of the week a vast majority of the kids come out of their shell to create more confidence and pride within themselves they can carry forward in this prosperous journey called adolescence.
The Painted Turtle camp finished off the week with a final performance in the Sen Pok Chin gym on Friday, August 3, in which the youth did some dances and drama performances which reminded me: Yes, we actually do have some drama queens in this community! It was a great time had by all, and we really appreciate all the time and hard work it takes to create a production of this sort; so very grateful to have a fun, professional group like the Painted Turtle come to the Okanagan territory.