In the 2009 and 2010 Canoe Journeys, Ta’Kaiya Blaney blessed canoe families with her performance of “Amazing Grace” in her Sliammon language.
This year, the 10-year-old actor/singer used her vocal talents for another cause: Calling attention to a proposed pipeline called Northern Gateway from the Alberta oil sands to Kitimat, British Columbia.
The pipeline is opposed by more than 60 First Nations, who fear habitat destruction and contamination of drinking water, fish and other wildlife from spilled oil and other toxic substances used in oil production.
Ta’Kaiya sang “Shallow Waters” July 31 in the 2011 Canoe Journey/Paddle to Swinomish protocol tent in Swinomish, Washington. As she sang, a drum was placed at her feet and audience members put $830 into it, and then gave her a standing ovation.
Swinomish Chairman Brian Cladoosby was moved by the warning in her lyrics, “Shallow waters I can't see / The wondrous life God created to be / The tankers and pipelines keep coming through / I turned my head and so did you.”
“The Creator said you’d better listen to this 10-year-old girl,” Cladoosby said.
Concerned about the environmental risks posed by the proposed pipeline, Ta’Kaiya wrote the song, “Shallow Waters,” with her music teacher, Aileen de la Cruz. As the song was being written, the BP oil spill occurred in the Gulf of Mexico, giving the young activist performer’s project a sense of urgency. Greenpeace sent a CD to 350 Canadian politicians and officials at Enbridge, the Alberta pipeline company.
The result: Letters or emails of support from British Columbia’s premier and two members of Parliament; interviews with CBC Radio, Global News, North Shore News and the Vancouver Province; and an invitation by the five First Nations of the Yinka Dene Alliance to speak outside the annual meeting of Enbridge shareholders.
Ta’Kaiya has starred in three short films and a documentary since 2009. She was nominated for a Leo Award for Best Performance by a Female in a Short Drama, for her debut role as Shi-Shi-Etko, a girl who is being taken away from her home to attend a residential school.
Ta’kaiya, who is home-schooled, has started a blog on her website, about the Enbridge pipeline project.
Watch the video she produced for “Shallow Waters” below.