With her 2008 debut album, Crystal Shawanda established herself as one of the great new musical talents not only in Indian country, but in country music in general. Titled Dawn of a New Day, it entered the Canadian country chart at #2 and the U.S. country chart at #16. She won three Aboriginal People’s Choice Awards and five Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards in 2008, and in 2009 won Female Artist of the Year at the Canadian Country Music Awards and Best New Country Artist at the Canadian Radio Music Awards. She is currently eadying her highly-anticipated followup, Just Like You, for release.
Crystal is Ojibwe, and grew up on the Wikwemikong reservation in Ontario. On top of being a great musical talent, she is also a producer, entrepreneur, and Nike N7 Board Member—which lets her advance another of her passions, that of helping reservation kids to get healthy. We asked her to share her feelings on healthy living just a few days before the start of the Nike N7 Summit.
INDIAN COUNTRY TODAY MEDIA NETWORK: What are the main obstacles to pursuing a healthy lifestyle on the rez?
CRYSTAL SHAWANDA: The first obstacle, I would say, is that people living on a reservation might lack the money to eat properly. They also lack awareness about nutrition and health. Although we have the most awareness now that we’ve ever had. Growing up, myself and my parents, we didn’t know carbs were a bad thing. And vegetables could be expensive. Sometimes when you’re struggling to put food on the table, you have to cook what you can afford. So you cook these things for your family, and you load them up with carbs.
Are there barriers for rez kids when it comes to participating in sports?
Sports can cost money, and people can’t always afford the equipment. My dad told us, if you want to pursue a sport, you’d better be serious. He wanted to make sure we would have a passion for it. My nephew played hockey since he was three years old. He was a goalie. When you get into the adult equipment, for a goalie that could be $2000. It was too expensive, so he gave up playing hockey, now he’s on the wrong path in life. My niece is a perfect example of what sports can do. She plays every sport. It gives her an advantage. She has the confidence to take on the world.
What was your own sports experience?
Well, I played a lot of sports—but I never signed up for any that required money! I played sports in school, running track, and playing on the softball and volleyball teams.
Other than the obvious benefit of fitness, what else did your involvement in sports give you?
Sports has definitely helps my music career. If you’re going to be making music with other people, you have to have a team mentality. Something else I think is important is that playing sports teaches you that you win some and you lose some. And when you lose, you don’t just quit. Sports teaches you to lose with grace, and I think today’s kids need that. Because in life, you’re going to lose sometimes. You may fail a class in college—so what? You don’t drop out of school because you failed one class. The more I played sports, the easier it became to handle life’s defeats. You learn it’s not the end of the world—you laugh it off and try again.