Dakota Bear is a 26-year old hip hop artist, land protector, warrior entrepreneur, clothing designer, business consultant, motivational speaker, and youth mentor from the Treaty 6 Territory. His copious interests speak to his energy and passion; and, in every one of his many endeavours, Dakota brings his Indigenous identity to the forefront.
“Whether I’m writing a song or creating a project, I’m always thinking about who is listening to it, and what they are getting from it…. inspiration really does come from our Indigenous culture.”
This is what Dakota’s role as a warrior entrepreneur is all about: “Taking the values of our Indigenous culture and bringing those to our businesses: carrying ourselves in a good way, giving back to the community, ensuring that we’re only taking what we need.” Dakota builds all of his enterprises with this noble ethic, and also provides advice to other Indigenous businesses.
Though Dakota has been making music for 10 years, it was only after attending a business course in Vancouver that he found a way to pursue his passion further, “not only as a hobby or something I did to feed my creative side, but something that I was able to have as a career path.”
Dakota was able to apply the lessons he learned about publicity, marketing, and all aspects of business management to his other ventures, too. “Having that education greatly helped me. I learned so much within that eight month programme.” But Dakota also learned a lot from less formal sources, as well: “[I was] doing online courses anywhere that I could, that had Indigenous instructors online or videos, and how-to tutorials. And then taking that knowledge…and using that to help launch [a] business.”
Dakota’s work is not only about creating, but also sharing. “With the platforms I have, I’m hoping to spread messages of hope to young Indigenous peoples, also spread truth and awareness on issues that we face as Indigenous people, whether that be through my music, or through the clothing that me and my partner design, or speaking more directly at schools….just using the platforms we have created over the years to really empower and inspire younger people.”
Dakota’s motivation to guide and inspire others likely stems from the mentorships and guidance that he received when he was young and struggling. “When my father left, my uncles took the role of wanting to teach me things that I needed to learn growing up as a young man. Just to have those people as mentors in my life, those family members, helped me greatly.”
Sadly, one of Dakota’s uncles passed away in 2016. Losing him helped Dakota further understand the important role his uncle had played in Dakota’s life. “It made me realize that it’s important to have somebody there...And that’s why I’m so dedicated to helping young people...It’s kind of like reciprocal.”
Dakota describes his younger self as “spending so much time caught up in the wrong things…messing around, wasting time, partying and drinking.” It was many years before he came to the realization that he was behaving this way because he was “coping in an unhealthy way with intergenerational trauma.”
Dakota defines the meaning behind this powerful term: “ ‘Intergenerational trauma’ is feeling the effects of the pass and permit system, residential schools, the 60’s scoop and more, feeling the trauma of these plights that our grandparents and our parents had felt without actually going through that ourselves. We carry that through our blood, we carry it through our DNA. The trauma can get attached in that way.”
Living with an absentee father, a mother battling additions, and other family members struggling with alcoholism, Dakota sought to find positive examples similarly carried through his Indigenous bloodline.
“It is also knowing that we’re very resilient. Through the 500 years of colonialism that we have been faced with, through all the adversities and the plights, through all of this, we’re still here. We’re still thriving. We’re still growing. We’re still learning our culture. We’re still learning our languages. And it’s really knowing that we are able to grow and we are able to move forward.”
Today, Dakota lives in Vancouver, pursuing his many interests — music, videos, design, youth education, business, and raising awareness about Indigenous land and rights — as well as being a loving, full-time partner and father. He and his family use their culture to keep connected and grounded, through prayer, smudging, giving thanks, and spending time on the land. “Things that are really positive and feed us, feed our spirits.”
Dakota knows that many Indigenous youth may be faced with the fallout from intergenerational trauma, and his message — like his music — is for them.
“I wish I could have been more self aware when I was younger. I wish I could have spent more time understanding those things, talking with counsellors, healing from those things. I’m doing it now. It’s not too late. I’m 26, and that’s okay. Took me some time to learn. I hurt myself along the way and I made mistakes along the way. But I’ve grown from those things.
“And so I guess my advice would just be take care of yourself and make sure that if you have some things that are weighing on your chest and you’re going through some stuff, there’s healthy ways to deal with those things. You can learn from them, you can grow, and become a very strong person…. Make sure that you have a good support system and… you’re always expressing yourself and letting that out, not bottling it up. And make sure that you’re always [aiming to be] healthy and happy.”
Freedom, by Dakota Bear
“You’ll hear us off in the distance/
We are the kids that you dismissed/
We are the targets you just missed/
We are descendent of healers and chiefs/
Just know that our struggles are brief….
We are the warriors!”
Special thanks to Jessica Dee Humphreys for authoring this blog post.
Future Pathways Fireside Chats are a project of TakingITGlobal's Connected North Program.
Funding is generously provided by the RBC Foundation in support of RBC Future Launch, and the Government of Canada's Supports for Student Learning program.