My Story

My Story

“My name is Tristan John Bent and I’m a proud Okanagan Carrier-Sekani man from Takla Lake First Nation. This is my story.”

Tristan John Bent  joined SOI Arctic 2017 with support from SOI Educator Jessica Bolduc and her organization, 4Rs Youth Movement, a youth-driven initiative that works to improve the relationship between Indigenous and non Indigenous people through cross-cultural dialogue. While on SOI’s Arctic Expedition, Tristan shared his life story during a workshop entitled “Watershed Moments.” His words so moved the group that day that award-winning author and SOI educator James Raffan (JR) suggested they work together to turn Tristan’s story into something more.

The result of this collaboration was a spoken word performance by Tristan (with JR on guitar) during the final night of the expedition onboard the MS Ocean Endeavour. The response by students and staff that evening was overwhelming! Inspired by this experience, Tristan decided to apply for an SOI Inspiration Grant to make a professional recording of the piece and take the next step towards sharing his story with others.


“When he ended there was this dumb founded silence and then the room erupted. And this kid who has been invisible most of his life, because of his own abilities, put himself right in the focus of a parabola of people who by this time are standing and cheering and crying in support of what was an heroic act. A very courageous act and I was sitting there in awe of a kid who has strength and wisdom way way beyond his years and the courage to tell a remarkable story.” – James Raffan

Thanks to a TSI Grant, Tristan travelled from Calgary to Prince Edward County where he and JR worked with D’Ari Lisle and Melissa Larkin, co-founders of arts nonprofit Darkspark, to bring Tristan’s story to life through a collaborative musical performance and recording session. Over the next couple of days,  Tristan’s song was edited and recorded, with additional voices and instrumentation added by other contributors including Gail Simmons and Brian MacMillan.

Throughout the weekend, D’Ari and Mel also introduced Tristan to the art of digital recording, and he developed invaluable training to further his music productions goals. The TSI grant also furnished Tristan with a reconditioned MacBook Pro Computer, Midi Keyboard and related software that he was then able to take home to Calgary and begin his own at home recording studio.

“Music is a language common to all people, and an undeniable platform for social change. Tristan’s journey of writing, recording and releasing this powerful piece of art proved this to us once again. We’re grateful to Tristan for trusting us with his story, and humbled to have been a part of it.”
     – D’Ari Lisle & Mel Larkin




“One of my favourite things about the 4Rs Youth Movement, is getting to connect with Indigenous young people – people like Tristan who teach me to be playful, humble, powerful and resilient. One of my second favourite things about 4Rs is the amazing partners we have. Partners like SOI, who helped me and Tristan build a friendship on ice, gave us a platform to talk about the work of 4Rs, and to share Tristan’s story, of growing up Indigenous on Turtle Island.

I’m grateful to have been a part of Tristan’s journey so far, and to see the gift of his words and music captured through this amazing collaborative with JR, and D’Ari and Mel at Darkspark. His story, and stories of Indigenous youth like him, are the sparks that are going to make the world a brighter and more just place for all of us.”
     – Jessica Bolduc, Executive Director, 4Rs Youth Movement

My Song

“Most people know me as Tristan John Bent. Without knowing my true past, and what lead to my trip to the Arctic and eventually set in motion the drive and the courage to want change.

Before you listen to what I’ve made, I only ask that you realize that what happened in the last sixteen years of my life is in the past. What happened between me and my mother is now slowly being forgiven, and that like my sister had told me, ‘when it comes to family there are no sides’. I completely agree with my sister’s thoughts. I don’t blame anyone for what happened and I don’t want to hold on to it. We all have our own past and my mother’s has trauma which I had to ultimately inherited, passed down through generations the only difference between us is that I found a way to deal with it in a positive manner, which is music. With my grandmother’s teachings to be strong and to finally ask for help. I broke free, from the physical and psychological pain that had affected me. I broke this cycle and I see that way to many people had lived similar lives as me.

I want change and I need people to understand and listen, and to know that with some hope and a little hard work you can achieve anything. Like a wise man told me ‘the past is the past, there is nothing you can really do about it. The only thing that matters is what you do now, to create a better future for yourself’. This was my Dad. And it makes sense to me. Thank you for listening.

My name is Tristan John Bent and this is my story.”

The Team

Tristan John Bent
An Okanagan Carrier-Sekani youth from Takla Lake First Nation who experienced a transformational journey onboard SOI’s 2017 Expedition and support from SOI and the following team members to turn his life story into an inspiring work of art. He looks forward to further developing his talents in music and public speaking to break down barriers and inspire others.

James Raffan
A prolific writer, speaker, geographer and Director Emeritus of the Canadian Canoe Museum in Peterborough, Ontario.  For 19 years a Professor of Outdoor & Experiential Education at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, over the years he has produced 16 books and written for media outlets including Canadian Geographic, National Geographic, Explore, The Globe and Mail, as well as for CBC Radio and The Discovery Channel.  He is a community activist and volunteer, a Fellow International of the Explorers Club, Past Chair of the Arctic Institute of North America as well as a Fellow and Past Governor of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, service for which he was awarded the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002, the Camsell Medal in 2009, and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012.

Jessica Bolduc
An Anishinaabe kwe from Sault Ste. Marie, ON, Batchewana First Nation and the Executive Director of 4 Rs Youth Movement where she works with youth to rebuild Canada by creating opportunity for Indigenous and non-Indigenous young people to come together and through dialogue and learning, to reconcile our relationships in support of a better future. Jessica has years of experience in community economic development and is the National Youth Representative for the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, which advocates for urban, off-reserve Aboriginal peoples in Canada. Jessica was an Educator on SOI’s 2017 Arctic Expedition, helping to foster dialogue between Indigenous and non Indigenous youth onboard.

D’Ari Lisle
A professional producer, songwriter, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist who has been a touring performer and front man in several Canadian bands for over 15 years. He has been involved in every aspect of the music industry – writing, recording and producing records, working in management and agency offices, as well as producing short films and music videos.  In 2012, he assisted Melissa Larkin in developing the Darkspark program and contributes his skill in recording and multi-media to the experiential learning experience of students participating in Darkspark. In 2017 he was selected as one of few Canadians to attend the inaugural Obama Foundation Summit for his work with Darkspark helping to champion social change. D’Ari studied New Media at Ryerson University, Toronto.

Melissa Larkin
A professional vocalist, instrumentalist and songwriter. She has toured and performed in various projects  for over 10 years, and worked as an arts educator since 2010. Throughout her career she has used song writing to facilitate engaging educational programs. In 2012, she became an accredited arts educator through the Royal Conservatory of Music. Following this, Melissa created and launched Darkspark with creative partner, D’Ari Lisle, to educate and empower students. Melissa graduated with a Scholars Electives honours degree from University of Western Ontario in literature and social justice studies.



This Students on Ice Inspiration Grant project is made possible with funding from SOI partners and staff alumni Tarek Sherif and Sophie Nicholson.

Students on Ice is proudly supported by bv02.

This website was made possible by a generous contribution from the Leacross Foundation.