Patrick Aleck said he was taught by his elders that it’s his responsibility to leave something to the next generation, and he believes he’s done that through his drumming, singing and speaking.
For the past five years, Aleck, who hails from Penelakut Island in Stz’uminus First Nation, has been giving presentations about his experience living with cerebral palsy and intergenerational trauma and how he’s managed to vanquish obstacles in his life. He’s also been involved in cultural events.
“Looking different, walking different and being different sometimes has some challenges but I’ve overcome those challenges through resilience and that resilience comes from having a disability. I really want to say that,” Aleck said. “People think it’s my drumming and singing that has got me here but it’s actually my disability that got me here because I had to learn to walk at a later age because of my cerebral palsy and I got told that I wasn’t going to walk at one point in my life but I fought to learn how to walk and I’ve fought to earn my spot in the community.”
Aleck is the recipient of this year’s City of Nanaimo Culture and Heritage Award for Emerging Cultural Leader. He said he was surprised by the honour but it tells him that “hard work does pay off.”
“It’s helps me accept what I’m doing,” he said of the recognition. “Because I’m human, I have doubts and I have lack of self-esteem in some areas and sometimes I feel that I’m too young. But it just shows me that I need to continue because my work is making an impact.”
Aleck said “it was the youths that put me to work first.” They’re the ones who invited ‘Uncle Patrick’ to visit schools and drum and sing with them, although Aleck notes that his music “isn’t a performance,” but rather a method of sharing his healing. It was after his work with students that he started getting approached by other organizations and he said he feels a duty to share that healing with all who ask.
“I have to be ready to be called from community all the time,” he said. “That’s the teaching from my elders: Be ready for when they call you.”
Aleck said his goal is to continue uplifting his community and to help them through their own struggles. He said that while his work starts with him, it’s not about him. He views the Emerging Cultural Leader Award as a shared victory for his community.
“If one indigenous person succeeds, we all succeed. That’s what I’ve heard in my life,” Aleck said. “And so it shows that you can do it too. It’s not about, ‘Look at me, I got an award,’ it’s, ‘You can do it too. No matter what challenges and barriers you’ve had in your life, you can do it too.’ That’s what I want that award to represent.”