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Res students create video against drugs and alcohol
'North of 60' actor guides workshop at Deninu School

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services
Published Tuesday, February 22, 2011

DENINU KU'E/FORT RESOLUTION - While attending an inner-city school in Edmonton as a child, Dakota House was voted least likely to succeed.

NNSL photo/graphic

On Feb. 20, filming took place at Fort Resolution's Deninu School for a public service message against alcohol and drug abuse. Among those participating were, from left, hypnotist Scott Ward, Isaac Simon, Desiree Mandeville and Dakota House, an actor best known for a role on 'North of 60. - Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

"When a kid in Grade 4 hears that, that's devastating," said House, an actor best known for the role of Teevee Tenia on the television series 'North of 60.'

However, he did succeed and now as a motivational speaker he offers advice to help others succeed, including young people in Fort Resolution in November and again from Feb. 17-20.

"This time around, what we're doing is we're shooting a PSA a public service announcement in sort of a music video style," he said while taking a break from filming at Deninu School on Feb. 20.

The announcement, which was written and produced by students, focuses on the hazards of alcohol and illegal drugs.

"It's giving the youth a chance to have their voice heard because the amount of talent that these kids possess, not only here but right across the country, is just amazing, but the outlets are just so few and far between that our kids are succumbing and falling to the effects of alcoholism, drug abuse and peer pressure," House said.

According to students at Deninu School, House made an impact during his visit.

Karisa Balsillie, 14, said House delivered an important message "because drugs and alcohol are really bad for you."

Isaac Simon also welcomed the visit from House.

"It's pretty cool, because he tells us not to do drugs and all of that. He's pretty awesome and he's on 'North of 60,'" said the 10-year-old, adding he also enjoyed hearing from Scott Ward, a hypnotist and motivational speaker who accompanied House.

Shania Miersch, 15, was among the students who got to try the technical aspects of filming by operating a camera.

"I love it," she said.

Miersch also said the workshop taught students how to co-operate.

Students learned about all aspects of filming acting, writing, recording, editing and more while expressing their views about why people should avoid alcohol and drugs.

House said the one-minute video will be pitched to CBC North and the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, and may be entered in film festivals.

The PSA shows healthy alternatives to alcohol and drugs, such as snowmobiling, dancing, music and singing.

The video was a special project for Fort Resolution.

"Each community that we go and do our workshops in, we try to accommodate to each community's needs," House said. "In this community this time around, we're doing the PSA, and that's what they asked for."

In other communities, workshops have focused on such topics as alcohol and drugs, bullying, gang awareness, self-esteem and parenting. Some communities simply request entertainment such as video dance parties and hypnosis shows, which were also held in Fort Resolution.

During House's first visit to the community in November, he offered a self-esteem workshop, which touched on drugs and alcohol.

The actor travels extensively throughout North America, often with Ward, working with youth in an organization he created called Going MILES, which is an acronym for motivate, inspire, lead, empower and succeed.

"I've been in the film industry almost 20 years now, and being in the film industry, I knew that there was another calling for me," said House, 37. "Being on 'North of 60' and being on other films that I had the opportunity of acting in has been a vehicle for me to get me to where I need to be."

His acting career has offered a way to connect with people and give back, he said, although he noted some people are surprised to find he is nothing like his character on 'North of 60.'

"Actually there's been a couple of times where I've been cancelled to go into communities because council got together and they're like, 'Why should we have that bad kid come in and talk to our kids?'" he recalled with a laugh. "Sometimes it's hard for them to differentiate reality and fiction."

However, he added it is quite a compliment that his acting is so convincing.

Although he grew up in Edmonton, House is from Keg River, Alta., and was born in Manning, a northern Alberta origin that helps him connect with young Northern people.

"When they find out that I'm actually from up here and some of the obstacles that I went through to get to where I am, it's quite inspiring to know that I've been there," he said. "I'm from where you are. I've been through the same gamut of problems and stuff and I've experienced all those things. I always say life is what you make it, not what it makes you."

The partners in the initiative to bring House and Ward to Fort Resolution are Yellowknife Health and Social Services, Deninu Ku'e First Nation, the Hamlet of Fort Resolution and Deninu School.

House said he has enjoyed his two visits to Fort Resolution, noting, "If they want us to come back, we'd be more than happy to come back."

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