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Joshua Odjick: Speaking My True Voice

Joshua Odjick: Speaking My True Voice

Everything we observe in our physical world stimulates our senses. This continuous feedback serves us as an indicator of where we stand in relation to how we think, feel, perceive, and experience our existence. By exploring the balance within the movement of outwards and inner attention, between more and less stimulation, a fast-paced and calming environment, we will naturally get to a steady state of satisfaction and ease.

Joshua Odjick is an Indigenous artist born in Ottawa, Ontario, and grew up in Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg, a First Nation community located in Maniwaki, Quebec. He says, “Although I love making fun of myself, I see myself as a quiet person. I don’t like being in crowded spaces for too long. I grew up in open environments, such as the outdoors and nature, and that’s where I feel most comfortable. I’m a very sensitive person. I feel at home in nature, but I also wanted to speak my voice as an actor. So, I decided to do it and explore that boundary.”

It’s not very beneficial to push ourselves to do anything we don’t feel comfortable with or don’t enjoy. But when there is a desire that inspires us to open up our inclusiveness to new experiences, that stretches our boundaries of what we are capable of accomplishing—we are on the discovery of bringing those desires to life.

An example of that is Joshua, who plays a lead role as Pasmay in the film Wildhood. It’s a love story filmed in both English and Mi’kmaw. This movie follows the journey of Link (Phillip Lewitski) as he tries to locate his mother, who abandoned him. Link meets Pasmay, who joins him to explore their identity, culture, and the love in the land they belong to.

Joshua is of Algonquin-Anishinabe heritage and belongs to the Deer Clan. He got his name, Nahbigahbow, which means “he who replaces the first,” during a ceremony. “Since I was young, I’ve been doing ceremonies, feasts, tobacco offerings, and sending them over to my clan. People have helped me along the way, especially the Spiritual Guardians who have been watching over me.”

Photography // Tim Leyes

In regards to the connection to all the rituals and traditions Joshua grew up with, he continues by saying, “It’s a very important aspect of my life. I follow these traditions, and I apply them to everything. I ask for guidance with what I’m going through at any given time and the experience always teaches me something and has definitely helped shape both my career and who I am as a person.”

We all measure and compare ourselves to others from time to time. It is inevitable to look around our physical selves and not notice that we look, move, and perceive life differently than others. Measurement and comparison serve us as the starting point for defining our preferences of likes and dislikes, thus the catalyst for who we want to become. From our physical-self perspective, we have a unique vantage point; from our inner self-perspective, we are One with everything and everyone. Hence there can be no competition but the one we create with ourselves.

Joshua affirms, “Competition doesn’t really bother me as much now. When I was younger, I had a different approach. When I first started, I was hurt by rejection, but now that I have done so many auditions, I’m okay with those rejections as they are part of the process. It’s ok not to get a part – I will get the ones that are meant for me and the stories I’m meant to tell. My mentor always says, ‘It’s this or something better!’ And I believe that too. I’m not a self-made person; I rely on other people to help me along the way. It’s important for me to have a positive outlook and always continue to work hard to get better at my craft. You just have to start believing yourself, and you will start achieving things.”

Joshua’s outlook on life has led him to represent and give voice to those who often are not heard. But his sense of being inclusive goes beyond that, “Inclusivity for me is including everyone and yourself. Of course, everyone wants to be inclusive and be included. As an actor—in my case for the indigenous peoples—I like to be included and tell the stories of how I was raised and portray that on screen, not only about my family’s trauma, but also about their happy moments in life, their goofy moments, or whatever they love. That’s all I’m trying to convey. I’m sure anyone else can do that as well. But I feel like I can share my unique perspective on it.”

We all have some kind of tool that allows us to go within and calm our minds so that we can return to doing what we love with a softer approach. One of the best practices is meditation—gentle breathing that creates space for new inspiring thoughts and ideas to come through. In a profession like acting, talents use their intellect so much during the process of becoming someone else; that it can be overwhelming.

Photography // Tim Leyes

I always bring aspects of myself into a character that I realize we have in common. But sometimes, I would discover those things either prior to or during filming. For example, during the process of developing my character, Pasmay, in Wildhood, I connected to the fact that we both just want to be who we are. It’s fun to create a whole character layer by layer and eventually meld the parts that are very much myself and him and the parts that are different.

This is just the beginning of Joshua’s successful acting career. Joshua just returned from Europe filming a lead role in the series The Swarm, set to be released in 2023. It is an ecological thriller about the delicate interconnectedness between mankind and Earth, from Primetime Emmy Award-winning television producer Frank Doelger (Game of Thrones). About his experience, Joshua excitedly says, “I never thought of myself leaving Canada at this young age, learning so many things on set, discovering things on the fly, meeting great people, and forming lifelong friendships. I’ve also booked several other projects, which are filming right up until January and then another one in the Spring of 2022.”

Joshua is connected to his roots and traditions because he was raised with an ancient Anishinabe belief system. “I feel clear and focused when I’m in nature, and hear my creator by tuning in to the wind, the birds flying, the sounds of the water. My guardians watch over me. My grandmother always taught me to be kind and to use my common sense. I always hope to make her proud.

“A lot of Anishinabe ceremonies are long gone, but having been to a few ceremonies that still exist, it has been an honor and a privilege to witness and practice them.  I do believe it has shaped my sense of self to a certain extent, although I’m still young and naive at times. Learning from my mistakes has helped me shape who I am,” says Joshua.

Regardless of our beliefs, upbringing, or culture, when we are inclusive of ourselves first and then others, everyone will want to know and hear our story, just as Joshua is doing.

Photography // Tim Leyes

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