J. Otis

Cree / Rapper / Teachings // I believe that we are all in this world to find out who we are, to figure out our guiding values, our character and how we find our place among our environments. Only when we learn that are we then able to give of ourselves to making the world better. 

I see this in J.Otis, an imposing six foot five inch Cree man from Fort Albany, who I first met about 5 years ago as a 16 year old adolescent. Wise in traditional teachings and ceremonies, even back then, I see someone who in many ways lives a comparatively different life than I. He carries knowledge of things unfamiliar to me, like hunting and trapping, like his cultural ceremonies and traditions, and then there are some, like honour and integrity, seemingly visible less and less in a society such as this. There is a confidence in him, that I long to have - wishing to have known my character, my innate values, and my belonging in this world earlier so that I could go out confidently to make it better.

Over the years, there is one thing that becomes clear, J.Otis, cares about people.  I am taken by his humility and passion to support others. Never have I seen him decline to support someone. I know, through our conversations, that he has witnessed and experienced the intergenerational traumas that come from the legacy of residential schools as well as other symptoms of inequality that have plagued Indigenous peoples on Turtle Island and continue to do so. Although the intense and consistent reminders of this can take its toll on anyone, his strength in character is undeniable.

All of our conversations tend to lead back to the things that ground him - his culture/tradition and his love of hip hop, in particular, his affinity for Tupac Shakur.

When you listen to him rap, if you close your eyes, I swear you can hear the soul of Tupac, the one that spoke so honestly about life experiences with raw honesty and vulnerability yet show strength and hope at the same time.

I appreciate that he is real, filled with a good heart and good intention, he accepts his imperfections and is compassionate to the imperfections of others, and, he understands that there is always learning to be done. Something perhaps our society, today, needs more of.

With dignity and respect,