By Lyonel Doherty
An Oliver girl who sometimes struggles with low self-esteem has won a prestigious national award.
Senpaq’cin student Preston Gabriel won first place in her age category for a poem she submitted to the Indigenous Arts and Stories contest, partly sponsored by Historica Canada. This year’s contest received more than 950 submissions.
The 12 year old impressed the Chronicle with her articulation and self-awareness, not to mention her intelligence.
Gabriel submitted a poem entitled “Lost Without It” in which she reflects upon her culture and ancestors.
The moon coming out of its hibernation to guide our spirits through the night. The scene of earth filling the air. Many laughs are heard, but I do not care. This is my culture, my home. Without it we are lost and not guided, our lives fall apart, we lose ourselves. The touch of the feathers in my hair soothe me and give me the blood of my ancestors who danced on this ground before me.
“It’s about a person who is deeply connected with their culture, and they are trying to rebuild it, kind of, just cherish it,” Preston explained.
She writes a lot of poetry, and this piece in particular came naturally to her.
“It was really fun to write because it was representing what I wanted to be like.”
Preston said she is “kind of” going through a rough time because she has a lot to juggle, including hockey.
So she uses poetry to relieve her stress.
“It’s a way that it connects and represents what I go through in my life.”
Her poems are extremely deep and she dedicates her heart and soul to each one of them.
Even at age 12, Preston has been thinking a lot about what she wants to do with her life.
She recently participated in a school exhibition where her focus was anxiety and depression.
“I feel deeply connected with it. I feel really, really, what’s the word? Really interested in it.”
As a result, she might want to be a counsellor when she’s older. She is also considering being a hockey coach.
Songwriting is another passion she might pursue, or a musician.
“Not like a famous one, just kind of . . . have a little fans or something, but it doesn’t really matter because it’s for my . . . to let my creativity flow.”
Preston said she was totally shocked to win the contest because she doesn’t really believe in herself a lot.
She knows other people who have depression, which is why she wants to do something to help them.
“I get stressed a lot; we all get stressed and sometimes it’s over the top.”
But she said there is a way to reduce it, such as avoid being a shut-in and go out more.
“Stay off your devices. I go on mine a lot and I try to tone that down because I know that leads to depression and anxiety too.
Preston said whenever you see something on screen, you tend to want it.
“It’s always like, oh, I wish I had that. Oh, I wish I could do this. Oh, they’re so talented. I’m jealous.”
She noted this leads to anxiety because you think you’re not good enough because someone is better than you.
She admitted that she falls prey to this and tends to give up easily because it’s easy to do.
“But you should always persevere,” she countered.
Another way to help relieve stress is to be connected to your culture, Preston pointed out.
“I feel like if you aren’t connected with your culture, then what really are you? I mean, we are all people but you should always have some sort of thing that roots you. My culture roots me.”
Preston said she always tries to spend time with her “tupa” (great grandmother) to enhance this connection with her culture.
The songs start again, the beat taking over my senses, the fur wrapping around my long braids. I feel like I’m flying. I open my eyes to see I’m lifting up. I don’t feel afraid. I know Creator is the one guiding me, because, he’s answered my prayers.