Friendliest Rattlesnakes Ever! @IAMETFOHalton #ETFO

James Shea & Jake Payne When I conceived the Six String Nation project it was intended to start a conversation about Canadian identity that was diverse and inclusive and went beyond the clichés without simply dismissing them. The pieces that went into Voyageur's creation told hundreds - if not thousands - of stories. But in the first flush of media attention that surrounded the project on its debut in 2006, the breakfast shows and news hits didn't have time for thousands or hundreds or even tens of stories. They all wanted to focus on the two or three most famous bits - the ones that most supported the clichéd understanding of Canadian identity. Ever since, I've been looking for a way to tell the story of Voyageur in a more fulsome way, to start more conversations, to inspire more inquiries into the dynamic and evolving nature of "Canadian-ness". And while I have had success connecting to festival and community and corporate audiences, naturally the places hungriest for exactly this kind of conversation are schools. And if I hope to inspire students with this project, I need to inspire teachers first. And I've been especially fortunate to have built a relationship with the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario over the course of a few events. Back in the fall, I gave my presentation at an ETFO event in Mississauga and two attendees of that meeting - Dave Buddell and Rob Smolenaars - invited me to come and present to the annual meeting of ETFO's Halton Region membership last night.

Taking the Bronte Rd. exit off the 403, one is struck by the number of directions to golfing facilities. The famed Glen Abbey is not far from there, Deerfield, several driving ranges, Oakville, Angel's View and three courses at Rattlesnake Point, where ETFO's meeting was taking place in the main clubhouse. It was a small group and they had important union business to attend to while Six String Nation photographer Doug Nicholson and I set up in an anteroom to do portraits following the presentation. Spot on 6 o'clock they wrapped up their voting and the presentation began.

As always, I ask event hosts to recruit one or more players to bring Voyageur to life near the end of the presentation. Dave and Rob found two players, Jake Payne (pictured, right) and Jamie Shea (pictured, left). Often, the folks who occupy this role feel compelled to cover some chestnut from the Canuck canon, which is fine - though I prefer to hear a wider range of expression. The best scenario from my perspective is when players play their own music - kind of staking their own claim on the musical map of the Six String Nation. And I was thrilled that both of these players did that in spectacular fashion last night: Jake with an instrumental written on guitar for his then girlfriend (now wife) eighteen years ago in spite of guitar not being his main instrument; and James with a song he wrote called "Home", inspired by the story of Johnny Oovaut and his son Alec, who suffered hypothermia and near death following two days on the ice after their snowmobiles broke down outside of Quaqtaq, Nunavik, QC, in November of 2013. It turns out James had played Voyageur once before: at an impromptu campfire singalong at the farm of our mutual friend Kathy Hill's father following the Summerfolk Festival in Owen Sound back in 2006!

Thanks again to ETFO Halton for inviting us to be part of their annual meeting, to Jake and Jamie for making such great music and to all the teachers who attended and came to get their portraits done after the presentation. Thanks also to Greg for handling tech in the room. And special thanks to Meaghan MacLeod for assisting at the portrait station and Mark Stupple for all his work both at the portrait station and in getting us all set up properly and on time.

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