Young environmentalist passionate about her cause

Ta’Kaiya Blaney, from the Sliammon First Nation, performs at the Aboriginal Cultural Village Aug. 10 during Penticton’s Peach Festival.  - Zach Embree/contributor
Ta’Kaiya Blaney, from the Sliammon First Nation, performs at the Aboriginal Cultural Village Aug. 10 during Penticton’s Peach Festival.
— image credit: Zach Embree/contributor

At 11 years of age, Ta’Kaiya Blaney has more passion in her convictions than most adults.

Blaney, who lives in North Vancouver and is from the Sliammon First Nation, learned from her grandparents and parents that their way of life would not be hers.

“They told me stories of how they used to go down to the beach and practice our traditions and culture by eating the herring off the rocks and gather the cockles and not having to worry about them being toxic, because the land was pristine back then,” Blaney recalled recently. “Every time they would tell me those stories it reminded me that I am never going to be able to do most of the things they talked about because the land is too polluted now.”

The stories, coupled with new stories of the environment being destroyed, sparked a passion in the well-spoken girl to stand up and do something about it. Today, at the Penticton Peach Festival Aboriginal Cultural Village in Gyro Park, she will bring her message of saving Mother Earth.

“There is always going to be people out there saying ‘what does she know, she is 11, she hasn’t got her wisdom teeth pulled,’ or ‘hasn’t got a job’ or ‘gone to college or university.’ I believe that it doesn’t matter if you are tall or small, 90 or six, it is just that you have a message and that message is what you feel,” said Blaney, whose first name translates into Special Water.

“The Earth is what I feel for. I am passionate for that. What I tell people is that if they have a gift they should share it, so if they are worried about the environment or they are worried about war then they should just not worry about people who are criticizing them. Stand up for what you believe in.”

In 2010 she co-wrote and recorded five songs with Aileen De La Cruz, including Shallow Waters. The message in the song is relevant today more than ever as she sings about how an oil spill on the northwest coast could tragically end the traditional way of life for many coastal First Nations and devastate all marine and coastal life and habitat. Since the video was released for Shallow Waters in February of 2011, it has been viewed over 100,000 times on YouTube.

“I really didn’t think I would have this much impact. I definitely wanted to get my message out there…it’s reached way farther and I am happy because I want to spread the message of how my ancestors land is being constantly destroyed, how my culture is in danger and how Mother Earth is in danger.”

Blaney was chosen as one of 20 We Canada Champions, an organization putting pressure on Canada to show leadership, to attend the UN Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro this past June.

Blaney also travelled to Indonesia with her mother and other We Canada Champions, where she met like-minded children and gave three workshops for 10- to 14-year-olds and sang at the closing ceremonies.

Blaney spoke and sang at several rallies this past year including the KinderMorgan Plant in Burnaby where tar sands pipeline expansion will mean more oil tankers in Burrard Inlet and more recently at the Enbridge environmental hearing in Comox.

While she hasn’t quite narrowed down what she wants to do when she becomes an adult—she has a long list that includes singing, speaking out on the environment and playing the violin—she does know it will involve her passion for the environment. That was confirmed after meeting one of her biggest environmental influences, David Suzuki.

“It is like reading about a superhero in a comic for so long then finally getting to meet the hero,” she said. “It was just an amazing experience.”

Blaney will be performing at the opening ceremonies of the Aboriginal Cultural Village at Penticton’s Gyro Park today, Aug. 10, at noon followed by a traditional pow wow until 7 p.m.

She performs again today, at Okanagan Lake Park at 3:20 p.m.

Events start at noon Saturday with a traditional pow wow followed by performances starting at 7 p.m. at the bandshell.

Penticton Western News.

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