Youth Development & Empowerment Conferences


Recent and Upcoming Keynote/presentations for
Youth Development and Empowerment Conferences

* Dreamcatchers Conference (2002, 2003, 2004)

Grant MacEwan College (Edmonton, Alberta)
Gave presentations for Aboriginal youth and provided music for closing ceremonies.
Contact: Carolyn Chartrand (event organizer) @ 780 497 4699

* Western Canada Child Care Conference (2004)

Grant MacEwan College (Edmonton, Alberta)
Delivered keynote address plus workshops for youth care workers.
Contact: Carolyn Chartrand (see above)

* Westbank First Nations Youth Development Program (2006)

Community Activity Center (Westbank BC)
Conducted workshops for young adult education and employment program.
Contact: Judith Goodsky (program coordinator) @ 250 707 0919

* “Surrounded by Cedar” Aboriginal Foster Child Program (2007)

1025 Vancouver St (Victoria, BC)
Presentations/concerts for native youth in foster care
Contact: Bradley Dick (program director) @ 250 383 2990

* Greater Victoria Youth Detention Center (2006)

West Burnside Rd (Victoria BC)
Conducted empowerment workshops for groups of young offenders
Contact: Nella Nelson (Principal Ab/ed – Victoria school district) @ 250 475 4123

* Safe Schools Conference (2008)

TCU Conference Center (Saskatoon, Sask)
Gave keynote address on youth empowerment and effective methods of reaching
students re racism

During presentations on youth empowerment and child development Dennis provides a heart-rendering account of his own difficult upbringing, which included being a permanent ward of the Alberta Government and enduring 17 foster homes and religious institutions in the Edmonton area. Typical of many Aboriginal youth who were abandoned or neglected, and compounded by his struggles with Attention Deficit Disorder, Dennis gravitated towards a life of petty crime and substance abuse. He dropped out of school early and entered a state of free-fall, winding up on the streets of Edmonton, Vancouver and Prince George, drifting from one dead-end job to another and eventually doing time in prison and various drunk-tanks. It was clear that Dennis was following in his mother’s footsteps (passive suicide) and was heading for an early death. He was smoking two packs of cigarettes a day and consuming vast amounts of alcohol and junk food and it was on the occasion of his 21st birthday that he finally experience an epiphany. Based on x-rays showing early signs of emphysema and lung cancer, an Edmonton doctor told Dennis he only had about five years to live. Confronted with the startling reality that he was dying, he had to make a decision – the most important decision of his life!

It was on that day, December 9th 1967, that Dennis Lakusta became a warrior. He was forced to reach deep within himself and begin the life-long battle to confront and overcome his demons and his addictions. Dennis not only turned his life around but in the process has also evolved into one of Canada’s most creative and prolific Metis artists. He has become an accomplished musician, writer, photographer, painter, music producer, humorist, inventor, children’s performer, public speaker. educator and university lecturer.

His is a wonderful and uplifting story and provides a role model for many of today’s youth who are experiencing similar difficulties in their lives. Dennis brings many samples of his art, music, humor as well as his amazing photographs into the sessions, thereby giving students a practical, hands-on sense of his accomplishments and the potential for others to follow in his footsteps.

Dennis Lakusta