Chelsey Hicks
Friday, October 27

From a functionally homeless high school drop out reliant on social services, to founding and building a non-profit organization with an international reach, 21-year-old Chelsey Hicks credits her thirst for warmth, unique perspective and experiences of privilege for her growth, success and sustainable recovery living with PTSD.

At the age of 16, Chelsey found herself moving from a healthy sheltered childhood into the harsh reality of support services. As a legally emancipated youth within Child, Youth and Family Services, she felt like a number in the system. Having experienced a healthy and happy family life, her privileged upbringing had left her blind to many realities in the world, and trying to understand how so many toxic cycles could exist without concrete efforts to fix them was difficult to process. At the time, Chelsey didn’t have the answers on how to address the need for change within her community, but she did have something that helped with the pain — dancing. By sharing and teaching her connection to positive coping at local community centers, bringing people together for dancing quickly turned into a healthy safe space for conversation, and what began a simple idea to share a love of dancing grew into beneficial anti-oppressive programming.

As the executive director of Dance Thru It, Chelsey wears many hats, as a keynote speaker, workshop and programming facilitator, mental health advocate and most recently a college student, upgrading her high school diploma. Her work with Dance Thru it has lead to several unique experiences and training opportunities across North America, recently including a conference on restorative justice through media on remote Cortes Island in British Columbia, and facilitation training on accessible community services on Bainbridge Island, Washington. A particular highlight of Chelsey’s work was collaborating with a focus group to draft a report for the United Nations on mental health and addictions. She has also been recognized by the Lieutenant Governor of Newfoundland and Labrador for her volunteer work addressing youth homelessness and mental health in the province. Chelsey was proud to be among the brilliant speaking team of the first inaugural TEDx Youth St. John’s event. All this work spawned a short documentary about Chelsey’s work, The View from Here, which made its way to the screen at the 2016 St. John’s Women’s International Film Festival. Chelsey humbles herself in the reality that things have only just begun. You can only go as far as you can dream.

Ryan McMahon
Saturday, October 28

Ryan McMahon is an Anishinaabe comedian, writer, media maker & community activator based out of Treaty #1 territory (Winnipeg, MB). One of the most decorated Indigenous comedians/writers/media makers working today, Ryan’s voice has become vital to both Indigenous & non-Indigenous communities – his comedic storytelling style is fast-paced, loose & irreverent as he explores the good, the bad & the ugly between Indigenous Country & the mainstream.

When not on stage and when not in a studio, Ryan can be found helping Indigenous Youth communities in the area of Leadership & Empowerment. Ryan is the CEO of the Makoons Media Group – a digital media company that focuses on telling Indigenous stories to worldwide audiences. In October 2013, Ryan founded Indian & Cowboy, the world’s only listener-supported Indigenous podcast media network. In 2017 he took on co-hosting duties for the hit podcast Canadaland Commons. He also started monthly column for VICE Canada titled, “Canada 2167 – Investigating The Next 150 Years.”

Creatively, he has grown his Red Man Laughing & Stories From The Land podcasts into major players in the Canadian digital media space. Ryan became the 1st Indigenous comedian to ever record a full mainstream comedy special with CBC TV titled UnReserved, and later that year made his debut at the prestigious Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal, QC, where he was named to the New Faces list at the festival.  His full-length CBC comedy special, Red Man Laughing, aired nationally on CBC Radio 1 in 2015. He has a serious side too, as evidenced in his 2016 documentary, Colonization Road featuring Canada’s colonial past told through interviews, comedy & rantings, with its world premiere at the 2016 ImagineNATIVE Film & Media Arts Festival in October 2016. Ryan has written for the Globe & Mail, VICE, CBC, CBC Aboriginal, APTN among others, has earned his degree in Theatre, and is a graduate of the prestigious Second City.