This lesson plan is intended as an educational resource to introduce secondary
and post-secondary students to the Next Wave Indigenous artist Elisapie Isaac, a
Canadian singer and songwriter who performs in English, French, and Inuktitut.
To download a printable version of this artist spotlight lesson plan, click the button below:
1. LESSON PLAN: ELISAPIE ISSAC
Elisapie Isaac (also known simply as Elisapie) is a Canadian pop singer,
broadcaster, documentary filmmaker, and activist. Born in Salluit, Quebec to an
Inuk mother and a father from Newfoundland, she performed at age 12 with the
Salluit band Sugluk. Isaac collaborated with instrumentalist Alain Auger in the
musical project Taima (Inuktitut for “that's all” or “it is done”) in the early 2000s.
The band’s sole album, Taima, won the Juno Award for Aboriginal Recording of
the Year in 2005. In 2010, Isaac’s first solo album, There Will Be Stars, was
released by Pheromone Recordings. Her second solo album, Travelling Love,
was released in October 2012. She garnered a Canadian Screen Award
nomination for Best Original Song at the 2nd Canadian Screen Awards for her
song “Far Away”, which appeared in the film The Legend of Sarila. On National
Aboriginal Day in 2017, Elisapie paid tribute to her heritage by releasing a lively
resurgence of an Inuit folk classic, “Forefathers”.
Elisapie joined the New Constellations tour on the bus as a core artist for the
Western leg of the tour, playing in Saskatoon, Calgary, Edmonton, Prince Albert,
and Winnipeg. In addition to performing her own set at the tour’s final sold-out
show at Toronto’s Opera House, she led all of the artists onstage as they sang
the Willie Thrasher song “Wolves Don’t Live by the Rules” during the show’s
2. HIGHLIGHTED WORK
Listen to Elisapie’s music and watch the videos posted on her site,
At every show, Elisapie sang a song called “Darkness Bring the Light” that will appear on her next record, which she doesn’t expect to release until late 2018. Before she performed the song, she would explain to the audience that she wrote it after a difficult period in her life and that this song marked her return from a dark place that she believes everyone has to visit at some point. Read the lyrics below.
This work was written in English and the original is provided for the purpose of seeing and hearing how the work was performed in the New Constellations tour. The accompanying translation, though it does not attempt to reproduce the rhythms and sound of the original, provides a line-by-line translation for meaning.
Darkness Bring the Light:
As you numb yourself, as you numb yourself
Make me forget my name, make me lose my spirit
In your name and in your name and in your name I will be saved
In your name and in your name and in your name I will be freed
Darkness bring the light
Darkness bring my light
Of the wonders of nature the wild the dust the waters and the light
Oh the wonders of retreats and open spaces lived only by the fearless
Where will my heart go now?
Where will my heart go now
Darkness bring the light
Darkness bring my light
The birth of a child is the renew of one’s soul it’s a connection, connection
The death of my father is not to be feared for
He lives in you my child becomes once again my guide
Lyrics used with permission of Elisapie Isaac
3. ARTIST INTERVIEW
What inspired you to write “Darkness Bring the Light”?
At the end of the songwriting process for the next album, I felt something was still missing. Something related to the spiritual part of the journey I took while making the album. So I went and explored the vision we have as Inuit of the cycle of life.
What advice do you have for students who want to write about difficult subjects?
Before writing you have to face the fears you may have in your life and acknowledge the fear. This will allow you to write much more freely. And you have to be very patient. You have to find the intimacy within yourself to find that safety, that freedom to express how you feel. If you’re not in fear of something, you’re not on the edge. You have to be on the edge in order to go beyond the surface.
You sing in English, French, and Inuktitut. How does working in different languages inform your work?
Each subject, each emotion has a language. I never think in advance it's the feelings that guide me to a language. I try to follow my instincts, not the rules.
Do you find there are words or ideas that can’t be easily translated from one language into another?
Often very hard to do. But I love each world of a language. I feel fortunate to be taken to places that are different. I love adapting to each world because I feel like I’m transforming each time.
What do you hope audiences will take away from experiencing your work?
That I bring them to themselves by freely opening to my world, hopefully I bring them to the core of their human nature and it allows them to reconnect to who they are.
What does “resurgence” mean to you?
I think it’s different for each individual. I think each human being at one point in their life will have a resurgence. In order to grow we have to fall. Everybody has to learn to fall, it’s a sign of courage.
4. WRITING EXERCISES
Elisapie describes how she “explored the vision we have as Inuit of the cycle of life” when writing her song “Darkness Bring the Light.” The traditional knowledge and stories of Indigenous, Metis, First Nations, and Inuit peoples have survived despite the legacy of the Residential School system and other colonial efforts to destroy these cultures in recent centuries. What is your own vision of the cycle of life? Where does it come from? Think about a time when you experienced the loss of a loved one, or another period of darkness, and what ideas and images helped to bring you back into the light. If death and loss are unavoidable conditions of life, what are the ways we make sense of our pain and move forward with hope? Write a poem or song directed to “Darkness” and try to include the images and sounds and ideas that helped you feel hopeful about the future.
Elisapie writes and sings in three different languages. Do you speak more than one language? If so, what is your experience of moving from one language to another when telling certain stories? Are some ideas or feelings difficult to translate? Write a poem about what it feels like to live in these different worlds simultaneously.
If you don’t speak more than one language, think about a language that is meaningful to you — a language that used to be spoken in your family, or one that is spoken by a friend, or by others in your community. Go online and look up songs in this language. Now look at a map of the area in which you live and write down all the names that ou can find that a language different from your own. Pick one of these — a street, a lake, whichever one you are most drawn to think and write about — and write a poem about it, thinking about the relationship between this thing and the language of its name.
5. NCTR'S IMAGINE A CANADA: AN INVITATION TO SHARE YOUR VISION FOR THE FUTURE
The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) is calling on all young people to Imagine a Canada through the lens of Reconciliation! What is your vision of Reconciliation? What does it look like?
Imagine a Canada is an invitation for all young people, from across the country to share their own vision of what Reconciliation can be. It can be a poem, a song, a painting, a sculpture, a rap, a drawing, an essay, anything! This invitation is extended every year to ensure that young people remain a part of visioning Reconciliation in Canada. Imagine a Canada is perfect for students, from kindergarten to post-secondary, to explore both the past and our shared journey into the future. Collectively, we want to be looking into the future of Reconciliation and youth deserve to be a part of this visionary exercise. Imagine a Canada is a great way for young people to see themselves not just as concerned citizens, but as transformative citizens; to empower them to be the change they want to see in the world.
When studying work by contemporary Indigenous artists, it's important to consider Canada’s troubled relationship with First Nations and the truths about Residential School history, a context that the NCTR is dedicated to supporting in the classroom. As students learn more about this history, it is important to provide them with opportunities to contribute to change. Of course, learning truths about Residential School history can be very upsetting, and we want to continue that learning with opportunities to work towards a better future. Imagine a Canada is one such opportunity.
Friends and partners of the NCTR from across the country will help recognize and honour submissions in each region of the country and one entry from each province and territory will be selected each year to attend a national celebration of Imagine a Canada!