New billboard honours musician from Tataskweyak Cree Nation

A musician from Tataskweyak Cree Nation now greets anyone driving into the northern Manitoba community, or at least his image on a billboard does. 

Sebastian Gaskin went home last week to a surprise — his face along the highway.

“It was really moving to feel that love and that acceptance from the community that I grew up in,” he said.

Gaskin, who is now living in Toronto, hadn’t been home in over six years so when a youth conference invited him, he said he jumped at the opportunity. 

“Living out here in Toronto, it’s difficult to find connection to your culture,” Gaskin said.

Gaskin won a Western Canadian Music Award in 2021 for R&B Artist of the Year and a selection to attend the Allan Slaight Juno Masterclass, an artist development program. He is finishing up his debut album but has a lot of music already out, including his latest single Ghost.

The singer-songwriter moved to pursue his music career, saying growing up on a reserve can be “quite difficult with the lack of opportunity and activities.”

Bu he added the billboard is also a sign of hope.

“If a kid from here can make it out in the big world, then why can’t you?” he said.

290 Dirtband, Sebastian Gaskin's former band, plays together for the first time since 2017 at the billboard unveil.
Gaskin’s former band, 290 Dirtband, plays together for the first time since 2017 at the billboard unveiling. (Submitted by Dieter Beardy)

Dieter Beardy, a friend of Gaskin’s since high school, said “the vibes were just amazing” at the July 1 unveiling. 

“He was speechless,” said Beardy.

“I’m so proud of him and all of his accomplishments.”

Their old band the 280 DirtBand, whose last show was in 2017, reunited for the event and played together at the school arbour for the big sign unveil. 

A group photo of the event unveil for Sebastian Gaskins Billboard.
A group photo of the billboard unveiling event. (Submitted by Dieter Beardy )

While it was the youth at the conference that pushed for this commemoration to happen, David Chartrand, whose wife is from Tataskweyak Cree Nation, helped co-ordinate things.

“We wanted to make it something that will capture your eyes once you pull into the community,” he said.

Chatrand credits Marty McLean for the billboard design.