Nelson Bird column

On Sunday February 22nd, I was among millions who watched the annual Academy Awards. I didn’t’ plan to, but there were few options on TV that night. My wife and I had no real interest to see who was wearing what or what movie would win – mostly because we only saw two of all the movies that were nominated.

It turned out to be an interesting night of fancy dresses, spiffy suits, and most memorably, the speeches and the humour. As I was watching, it woke up something from my past. I was reminded of a time so many years ago when I thought I wanted to be part of it. Before I was even a teenager, I felt a strong urge to become an actor or a musician or even a professional dancer and eventually make it to Hollywood or New York City. I’m not sure what brought that on. Maybe it was the Globe Theatre troupe who would come to our school once a year and entertain us or maybe it was the man who brought a guitar into our elementary school and sang funny songs (it turns out his name was Winston Wuttunee) or maybe it was when I sang with all the other kids at the annual Christmas concerts. I’m not exactly sure.

Back then it was a career I could not pursue; one that I could only dream about. In the 70s, the pursuit of an artistic career was not readily welcomed or encouraged. As a youngster on my reserve, one could not follow that dream. The only activity that was encouraged, and sometimes forced upon a kid, was sports. There was nothing else. I admit I tried my hand at various sports and I also admit I wasn’t very good. I am not against sports at all and I actually encourage and applaud anyone who has that dream to pursue it.

I did end up in a career that put me in the television spotlight; not for acting or singing but for reporting news. It is a career I still enjoy today but a part of me still desires to be on stage or a movie screen just like the ones at the Academy Awards.

Times are different now, and so are people. Acceptance of the Arts as a career choice is much more common and we see it all around us. Young people on reserves who have the dream are more likely to follow it because there are more resources dedicated to it. I would love to see more young people get involved in acting, singing and dancing. In my years as a TV host, I was able to showcase hundreds of performers young and old. It was a pleasure for me to have them as guests, and I hope it was a good experience for them.

It makes me feel good when I watch the Oscar winners’ acceptance speeches and I hear the stars and directors thanking people and encouraging them to follow their dreams because ‘they did it!’ One of the winners talked about how, at 16, he tried to kill himself because he was teased and ostracized and felt he didn’t fit in anywhere. Sadly, his story is similar to thousands of others all because he was considered ‘different’ but I applaud him for sticking to it and following his dream. His efforts earned him an Oscar.

I say to everyone one out there, if you know a young person with a dream to be an actor or musician, please encourage them and help them achieve it. And if you are a young person, don’t be afraid to make that goal. Find like-minded people who will help you achieve it. They are out there.

I look forward to seeing the day when a First Nation person’s name is called as Best Actor or Actress at the annual Academy Awards. 

Nelson Bird is a member of the Peepeekisis First Nation.
The views shared are those of Nelson Bird and not those of CTV News.



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