Leanne Goose

Sharing Songs and Skills: Leanne Goose Found Her Way to School and the Stage

“I never thought growing up at the west end of Inuvik, singing in a bar since I was a kid with a grade 8 education, a runaway, growing up in poverty… But one day I decided I'm tired of it. I'm sick of it. I'm done living like this, and I want choices. I want opportunities,” Leanne Goose recalls. That’s when she decided she was done with people looking down on her and she was done with looking down on herself. It was time to make a change.

“I had to learn how to do that so I could achieve, so I could come home and I could share these skills. Because we all deserve to feel good. We all deserve to acknowledge our space and the time that we're holding, and to own it with everything that we are,” she continues. 

Raised in Aklavik and Tulita, her parents met at Grollier Hall residential school and she is a residential school survivor herself. Goose now works in communities in arts, culture, communication and engagement and as a singer, songwriter, and storyteller. 

Goose started making music with her dad at the age of 12. Her grandmother also played guitar and her own sons and brother are musical, too. Music has taken Goose across the country and into the US, with award nominations and wins for her music and songwriting. She had the chance to sing on stage at Rogers Centre for the Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards and released four albums: a rock concept album, a country cover album, an album that shares stories of home and one about recovery. 

"As people from the North, we're hardy, we're tough, we're cut from a different cloth."

Motivating her to get her voice out there in her music are friends and family she’s lost and who remain but struggle against the incredible challenges of aging infrastructure in the North. She thinks about how lucky she has been that she grew up protected by elders and that she received teachings from them that helped her through challenges witnessed in her family, like the justice system and addiction. Goose overcame her own battles with poverty and homelessness.

“As artists, our job is to be able to challenge that emotion, the pain that our people are feeling, the joy that our people are experiencing, and be able to share that with a broader audience and to help advocate for those things that we need to be able to continue to grow so that we could be healthy and happy and enjoying in grace all the gifts that Creator has given us,” Goose asserts. 

Her advice for Northern students leaving their home community is to decide where they are going and what they are taking, figure out the difference between APA and Chicago style papers, learn how to take notes well and to bring their teachings to their new surroundings. Goose further recommends, “Challenge everything that you don't agree with and ask why. Present in the best way that you possibly can what your view is.” 

Illustration by Shaikara David

One of the cycles Goose would like to interrupt is the way Southerners talk about the North and she wants to challenge their perspectives on Indigenous people. She is tired of the aspiring Southern Saviour narratives she encounters and wants people to know that people of the North are capable of saving themselves.  “I have saved myself, and I'm here to help you… I am not less than, I am bigger than,” she declares. Holding a certificate in Arts and Cultural Management, a diploma in Arts and Cultural Management, a degree in communications, and working on a master's in public health, she’s defied so many stereotypes while achieving so much. At the same time, she’s pushed back against educating her classmates and instructors, making them responsible for their own learning.

“I don't need a caretaker. I don't need a Saviour. I need you to get out of my way.”

Time management is something she learned is important for success, writing down all upcoming assignments and deadlines. What goes hand in hand with prioritizing school work is making time for rest. That time for rest serves as an opportunity to integrate learning. She also suggests taking the time to discuss what you learn with others to reinforce those lessons.  

Kindness and resisting lateral violence and judgment are practices Goose considers valuable. “Let's do our best to lift up one another and meet people where they're at and share as much kindness as that's who we are as northerners. That's how we were brought to be, to welcome everybody and share what we have,” she urges. Instead of criticism, she advocates for compassion, care and understanding about the intergenerational impacts of trauma and colonization. 

To balance her mental health, Goose goes for long walks to reset her mind, keep her body in balance and in shape. She’s learned how to better nourish her body after picking up bad habits eating in poverty, depression and PTSD. Making conscious choices to move her body more, she’s taken better care of herself. She has taken time to redefine her relationship with prayer and spirituality and to talk about her feelings in therapy. Creating accountability for herself in strong personal relationships helps her stay on track with her goals, too.  

When it comes to inspiration, Goose shares, “not only are we the answered prayers of 10,000 ancestors, that's who we are, right now, walking on this earth. Creator doesn't make mistakes; we're all a miracle.” She is highly motivated to make the world a better place. “If we want things to change, we have to get up and do it. Because that's who we are. That's what we're made for. That's why we're here. For those going through hard times, for those going through incredible times, this is our call to action. We have to do it. It's not somebody else's fault. It's ours if we don't get up. So let's get up. Let's get going and do it. It’s time to go.”

A runaway with a grade 8 education who grew up in poverty in the west end of Inuvik, she got tired of the way life was and decided she wanted more. She pursued higher learning and got a master’s degree, recorded four albums, and travelled all over singing her songs. Leanne Goose made a change so she could share her skills and her voice and she’s owning it with everything that she is. 

Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.

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Key Parts

  • Career
  • Identity
  • Province/Territory
    Northwest Territories
  • Date
    June 14, 2024
  • Post Secondary Institutions
    No PSI found.
  • Discussion Guide
    create to learn discuss

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