Big hero’s welcome for Sagkeeng’s Finest

Talent-show champs return


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It was a welcome normally reserved for rock stars, celebrities and high-profile athletes.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/05/2012 (3847 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It was a welcome normally reserved for rock stars, celebrities and high-profile athletes.

Brothers Dallas and Brandon Courchene and Vince O’Laney — a.k.a. Sagkeeng’s Finest — were met by hundreds of screaming fans, many of them toting congratulatory signs and balloons, when they arrived back in Winnipeg Tuesday evening, one day after being crowned champions of the Canada’s Got Talent television show.

“It’s the best day of my life,” said O’Laney, during a brief break from hugging family and friends and posing for pictures. “I didn’t expect this kind of reaction but I hoped for it. It’s amazing how much one positive thing can affect the community and bring everybody together.”

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Hundreds of well-wishers wait for the arrival of members of Sagkeeng's Finest at Richardson International Airport Tuesday evening.

All three of them clutched their championship trophies and wore leis around their necks.

The crush of people had Dallas Courchene expecting to nurse an injury Wednesday morning.

“I think my wrist is going to be pretty sore with all the autographs I’ve signed before I’ve even got out of the airport,” he said.

When asked if he was having trouble keeping track of who was family and who were friends, he shook his head.

“Our whole community is our family. We have lots of love from them. Coming down the stairs (to the arrivals area), I got really emotional,” he said.

Their traditional First Nations dance performance, including a tap element, set off perhaps an unprecedented celebration in the First Nations community, which is located about an hour north of Winnipeg. Several hundred people watched the broadcast on a big-screen TV inside Sagkeeng’s arena.

“Everybody jumped and screamed and threw their signs in the air,” said Kristy Sinclair, who came in with her mom and younger sister, Mariel, to welcome Sagkeeng’s favourite sons home.

“I’m here to cheer them on,” Mariel said. “All three of them are my cousins.”

The trio plan to split their prize evenly — $100,000 in cash, a trip to Tobago, a sports car, a chance to perform in Las Vegas and an appearance at a televised New Year’s Eve party — and are considering investing in a dance studio in Sagkeeng where other kids could learn.

The trio’s buzz even resonated with politicians both on Broadway and in Ottawa.

Manitoba NDP MP Niki Ashton applauded them during members’ statements in the House of Commons and some MPs offered a standing ovation..

“As the MP for Sagkeeng First Nation, I would like to join the many people from across Manitoba and Canada in congratulating Vincent O’Laney, Brandon Courchene and Dallas Courchene,” Ashton said. “They have made so many people very proud.”

She said Sagkeeng’s Finest combines traditions with a modern twist.

“Sagkeeng’s Finest also shows us how we have to believe in young aboriginal people, their talents and their future. We must support the arts and education, and we must celebrate the successes of young Canadians.”

Premier Greg Selinger passed on his congratulations to the three for capturing the imagination of Canadians with their “creative take” on traditional dance.

“Manitoba is home to so many unique and talented artists. I’m proud to see Sagkeeng’s Finest recognized on such a prominent national stage,” he said.

— with files from Mia Rabson

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