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Shane and Shaneyah Redstar: Singing and Having Fun

Shaneyah and Shane Redstar are an Indigenous daughter-father duo from the Cree tradition who spread joy and connectivity through music.

This podcast is a production of Rebel Girls. It’s based on the book series Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls. This story was produced by Haley Dapkus with sound design and mixing by Mumble Media. It was written and edited by Abby Sher. Fact-checking by Joe Rhatigan. Narration by Denise Halfyard. Original theme music was composed and performed by Elettra Bargiacchi. Our executive producers were Joy Smith and Jes Wolfe. Thank you to the whole Rebel Girls team who make this podcast possible. Stay rebel!

Transcript

It was a cold winter night in early 2020, and six-year-old Shaneyah Redstar and her father Shane were at a local lodge on the Enoch Cree lands. The gym was packed with joyful chatter as a large group of First Nations folk gathered to sing and share music at the traditional round dance. Everyone was eager to hear each singer introduce new tunes.

When it was Shane Redstar’s turn to sing his song, he stood proudly in front of his friends and family. He’d been singing at round dance celebrations like this for decades, since he was a little boy. He felt the notes coursing through him, his voice soaring as his hands beat out the rhythms on his drum, steady and sure. Then, he heard another voice, coming from behind him. It sounded beautiful and confident.

Wow, who’s that? Shane thought to himself. He turned to look behind him, but he didn’t see anyone singing. 

Again, the voice joined him in song, clear and bold.

It was powerful and mysterious, matching his every word. Shane looked around, baffled. When his turn was over, he went to sit down and enjoy the other performers, still very curious. That’s when Shaneyah took his hand and said,

Daddy daddy did you hear me singing?

A huge smile lit up both of their faces. Shane had no idea until that moment that his daughter could sing like that in the Cree tradition. And Shaneyah was just learning what a gift it could be to make music…together.

I’m Denise Halfyard. And this is Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls.

A fairy tale podcast about the real-life rebel women who inspire us. 

On this episode, Shaneyah and Shane Redstar — an Indigenous daughter-father duo from the Cree tradition, who spread joy and connectivity through song.

For Shane Redstar, singing and performing at round dances was part of his life for as long as he could remember. Shane was born in what is now referred to as Saskatchewan, Canada. He grew up on the Whitebear First Nations Reserve, and followed the Cree traditions with his family. 

One of the most important things Shane learned on the Whitebear First Nations Reserve was wâhkotowin or kinship — this is the idea that human beings are all related not only to each other but to the land. We may come from many different backgrounds, but there are always ways for us to connect and understand one another. And one of the most powerful ways we can do this is through song. 

Shane loved to sing and drum traditional Cree music. Whether the song was about a new sunrise or a long-forgotten dream, Shane felt the words and sounds vibrating throughout his whole body. And he was a really talented musician! When he was just eight years old, Shane was recruited by his favorite drum group called Assiniboine Junior. He loved every second of the recording process. He got to see how Indigenous music could be powerful, uplifting and healing. He got to feel the energy of these grown men telling stories through music, and be an important part of it. 

This was such a triumphant experience for Shane. He wanted everyone to be able to share traditional songs and feel this way too.

Shane kept on making music — both with Assiniboine Junior and on his own. He loved composing and performing new pieces that mixed traditional ideas with his own rhythms and melodies. His voice grew fuller and he felt like he was channeling the voices of those who came before him too.

As soon as he became a father, he started teaching his children about Cree culture and the traditional ways of living. He was so excited to bring his family to the round dances he’d enjoyed as a kid. That day when he heard his daughter Shaneyah singing behind him was thrilling on so many levels. Shaneyah was belting out words that had been passed on from generation to generation; radiating with strength and pride! 

Both Shane and Shaneyah were fired up — they wanted to sing and drum together with the community as much as possible.

But then, the Covid-19 pandemic happened.

During those first days of isolation, there was so much fear and uncertainty. Days turned into weeks, and soon, Shane noticed that Shaneyah was beginning to mope around the house. She missed her friends and being in person with her community. 

Shane wondered if music could help her feel better. So one day, he brought out his hand drum, and asked if she wanted to sing with him. 

They dove right back into the familiar songs they loved. It was so comforting to find these notes and harmonies — it felt like coming home. After a couple of practices, Shane and Shaneyah even started sharing videos of their music online. Playing music together felt inspiring. Maybe we can boost other peoples’ spirits too, they thought.  

Imagine Shane and Shaneyah standing on a rock outcropping near a calm lake by their home, letting the wind and ancient melodies flow through them. It usually started with Shane finding the rhythm on his drum, then adding in vocals. Shaneyah followed by stomping along with her feet. She began adding in harmonies and joining with uplifting lyrics like:  “Listen to the wind in the willows! Telling you ‘Yes, it’s true, I love you.’” Shane even composed original songs for the two of them — their favorite was called, “Singing and Having Fun.”

The more Shane and Shaneyah shared of their singing online, the more people watched and cheered on their  creativity. Soon, the Redstars entered singing contests and even landed themselves a recording deal! 

It was very exciting for both of them — finding this new way to reconnect with their heritage and make beautiful music. At the same time, Shane knew that once their videos were public, lots of people could see and judge them. Sometimes, the Redstars got incredible positive feedback, but sometimes they got criticism or no reaction at all. After working so thoughtfully on their songs, these audience opinions could really affect Shaneyah especially. She was still very young, and because of the pandemic, these comments were some of the only social interactions she got to have.

So, whenever Shaneya started to feel down, Shane reminded her that she had incredible gifts as a singer and performer and that nobody could take those gifts away from her. This was just the beginning for her as an artist — she had so many tunes to discover! Shane also believed that the music they were making was powerful and full of love, so it would have to add positive energy into the world. For them at least, the joy it brought was worth so much more than the trouble. 

Today, Shaneyah and Shane continue to sing out, both together and on their own. Shane is excited to travel and perform whenever he gets a chance. And Shaneyah is exploring all kinds of musical genres — country music, R&B, and even rap. 

No matter where their musical journeys take them next, they feel a deep sense of gratitude and strength for how far they’ve already come. They are loud and proud, feeling that surge of the notes coursing through them; weaving together a timeless, melodic story. 

As Shane says, “There is no greater feeling than to have this experience together.”

Together, they are thanking the earth.

Together, they are connecting to their ancestors.

And together, they are creating a legacy of love.

CREDITS:

This podcast is a production of Rebel Girls. It’s based on the book series Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls.

This episode was narrated by ME, Denise Halfyard. It was produced and directed by Haley Dapkus, with sound design and mixing by Mumble Media. 

The story was written and edited by Abby Sher and Deborah Goldstein. Fact checking by Joe Rhatigan. Our executive producers were Joy Smith and Jes Wolfe.

Original theme music was composed and performed by Elettra Bargiacchi.

A special thanks to the whole Rebel Girls team, who make this podcast possible! Until next time, staaaay rebel!