November 15 & 16, 2012 is the moment I have to cough up ten thousand dollars of my own money.


Because I took a risk. 

I started something I believed in, even though people told me I was crazy for doing it.

The good news…what I believed in has happened.

The bad news…I gotta pay.

What was I trying to do that cost me so much money?

Save lives, change lives and change the world. You know, just your average day.

Let me explain….

In Canada, the likelihood a First Nations, Metis or Inuk youth will kill themselves is a shocking SEVEN times higher than the national average.

I understand this because I was one of those youth who nearly took my own life.

The reasons are varied, individual and handed down through generations of systematic abuse (ie. Residential Schools). It’s the result of generations of enforced poverty and a government policy that was hell-bent on eradicating Indigenous cultures.

Our youth grow up in a world that despises them.

They grow up in a world where they don’t feel they belong.

Skim through any article online in the Sun, the National Post, the Globe and Mail and you will find horrifying evidence that racism and dehumanization of Indigenous peoples is alive and well in our Home and Native Land.

This is not an angry piece, so don’t worry. I’m just laying down the situation.

My goal, my dream, was to find a solution.

The focus: Education.

Our education system has deep roots in the Industrial Revolution. It’s completely contrary to the way human beings best learn. We all have a shared history of music, dance, art, song, acting and storytelling. This is how cultures develop and thrive. This is how memory is kept alive and passed down from generation to generation.

So why don’t we teach this way? Why is this not a part of our fundamental education?

Well, rather than keep asking these questions, I decided to act. 

Last winter, I sat down for a coffee with a colleague. We were sort of talking on the issue and I said, “You know what? We should do this! We should create a gathering where teachers and prople who work with youth can experience our Traditional Ways of Knowing.”

My colleague and partner, Dawn Marie Marchand, readily agreed and so it began.

Little did she know that this would eat up half her money and take up so much time. She has dedicated everything to this project for the sake of her love for the youth she works with. But when you know something has to be done, you put every energy you have into it. And she has done just that. Along with the support and patience of her two amazing children. This Conference wouldn’t even exist without her tireless efforts.

And so the question we faced was: who to invite to Present and lead Workshops?

Why not some of the very best FNMI (First Nations, Metis, Inuk) creators we could find in Canada?

So we did. We have the best. And I couldn’t be more proud.

Women and men who are outstanding at what they do, and who also do something remarkable: They teach what they do in order to share it, to empower others, to enrich lives. Specifically, they ENGAGE.

And that’s what our youth need.

They need to feel engaged. They need to feel like they are partners in their learning, that it’s not being forced on them in a way in which they are constantly failing.

They need an education experience that isn’t all boxes and desks and squares and grids.

They need the teachings of the hoop.

Our youth need to be taught in ways that stay with them and empower them with knowledge and experience so much that they can in turn teach others. Our youth need to feel successes in their lives. Acceptance. And responsibility.

Our youth need to be taught that they are amazing, beautiful, capable and strong.

Right now the focus seems to shunt them into the trades, which is fine. But they are capable of becoming anything in this world, and that’s a fact.

More than anything, our youth need to feel that their lives MATTER.

And that’s why I am putting in my $10,000.

This isn’t a brag, far from it. 

You see, what I failed at here was in spreading my message effectively enough. I didn’t convincingly show those who work with youth how profound this Conference is, how incredible this gathering would be.

So we have about 20 less people coming than the break even point requires.

But those who are coming, they will have direct and unprecedented access to Indigenous artists, writers, dancers, singers, comedians and actors who have not only overcome their own challenges, but have grown to excel at what they do!

And even better, are so connected to the Creator’s Spirit that all they want to do is share that amazing magic key: How they do what they do.

How they teach youth in ways that are never forgotten. How they engage these kids not only in what they are learning, but in their entire lives!

Because let’s face it:

You either learn how to create your life or someone creates it for you.

And too many of our youth have had centuries of troubles laid on their shoulders. They have been born into a world where from their first breath they are considered third class citizens. They have been born into a world that is not kind, and where to succeed they need to be twice as accomplished as anyone else.

And they are born with the natural ability to overcome it all. They just need a little help along the way.

The funny thing? The way Indigenous youth best learn turns out to be the way ALL YOUTH best learn.

When you inject creativity into learning, amazing things start to happen. When your whole being  – your body, heart and mind – is engaged in learning – then cross-curricular magic occurs. Instead of knowledge being boxed up into little isolated subjects, the whole world becomes a fertile land where everything is interconnected.

That’s the kind of education our youth deserve.

They deserve to have all those true creative impulses honored, awoken, and directed. They deserve to learn in a classroom and on the land. All youth deserve that. All adults deserve that.

What kind of world do you think would result from a system where we honored the past, honored the land, and followed the dictates of current, proven science?

You see, it’s a proven fact that when there is art in the classroom test scores in science in math rise by over 10 percent. Scores in the humanities skyrocket. And this aligns with our instincts, doesn’t it?

This return to traditional ways of learning also matches up perfectly with what cutting edge pedagogy calls Differentiated Instruction. Multiple Intelligences.
We have had the answers all along, right under our noses.

So my aim is to arm those who work with youth with these tools. They will experience these tools first hand, go through the process and come out knowing HOW to use them in their practice.

Once you experience how easy it all is to learn this way, how fun and effective it is, you just can’t go back.

And our youth will live.

They will thrive and grow.

If they can’t find a place for themselves in this world, then they will transform the world so that there is a place for everyone.

Tell me that’s not worth the money.

Tell me that’s not worth everything.

If that’s a $10,000 long shot then you take that shot. Every time.

After all, that’s how it all begins…

hiy hiy

Aaron Paquette

Founder, Cree8 Success Inc.

“My People will sleep for one hundred years, and when they awaken it will be the artists who give them their spirit back.” – Louis Riel


By the way, you should check out our insanely incredible presenters.


Or even Register!