Taking lessons from the past and scripting his future, Randy Kakegamick inspires others and himself

Student turns his life around while collecting full arsenal of artistic tools from programs at Algonquin College
Photo: Kerry Slack
Script-writing student, Randy Kakegamick drums and sings with Spirit Wolf Singers at the Canadian Museum of History on Feb. 4 as a part of Winterlude festivities.

Once baffled by the mechanisms of his laptop, scriptwriting student Randy Kakemagick has transformed himself into an extraordinary force behind full-fledged productions.

Kakegamick’s remarkable journey epitomizes the incredible potential that lies within each one of us, no matter what obstacles we face.

“I was into my third month, and I was really struggling. I just could not grasp using a laptop because I never used a laptop in my life,” said Kakegamick reflecting on his first semester at Algonquin College.

“I didn’t even know how to shut it down properly. So, I went to see my friend at Odawa, Jamie Dube, and I was like, what am I doing with this thing?”

After showing Dube how he was shutting down his laptop, by closing the lid, Dube laughed.

“Bro, there’s a process,” said Dube.

Kakegamick overcame that hurdle, and he has overcome so many others.

A generational survivor of the residential schooling system, Kakegamick recalls at age nine feeling lost in school. He spent time starting fights with other students without reason.

He remembers picking fights with kids when he was having a bad day.

“I started really getting into trouble, doing all kinds of things that normal kids don’t really do,” said Kakegamick.

He also began getting into more serious trouble with the law. He constantly pushed the boundaries set before him; he would steal and do other illegal things with friends, including drinking and using drugs while underage.

In a series of missteps, Kakegamick found himself within the confines of the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre (OCDC).

Each arrest ended up with a longer sentence. Eventually, the time in jail snowballed and he spent a total of almost five years behind bars.

It was there he started to learn to walk again, the series of life’s missteps culminating in rebirth.

“When I was brought into the OCDC here in Ottawa they had to put me on meds to bring me off of alcohol,” said Kakegamick.

“Yeah, I mean I was literally in a state where I could die from my withdrawals from alcohol, that’s how bad it was. That was the last straw.”

Getting sober is a lot like learning to walk again. Both require persistence, balance, the willingness to stumble along the way and the determination to keep doing it.

A Gladue report was a chance to reshape Kakegamick’s path on his terms.

“It’s like taking a big breath. It’s like definitely getting my head above water,” said Kakegamick.

Working through his past is a continuous and trying process, but one he’s willing to take on daily.

His son is his motivation and inspiration to get sober and live a more positive life.

“I push through because I remember what it was like to be ignored too as a kid, and I want him to feel the love that I lost,” said Kakegamick.

Kakegamick and his now teenage son like to go on adventures together; they spend their time hanging out and talking and he always ensures his son feels heard.

Sometimes they talk about movies, other times he is checking in to see how he feels at school with his friends and more recently into girlfriend talks.

“I know at the end of the day Randy just wants to be a good dad, and to me, I think he’s acing it,” said good friend and second-year applied museum studies student Shayna Shawongonabe.

Drumming and signing with the Spirit Wolf Singers have given Kakegamick another outlet for his creativity and his continued healing.

If you haven’t met Kakegamick, you just may when you graduate. He performs at ceremonies, events, and graduations, including Algonquin College’s commencement ceremonies. The gorgeous ceremonial drumming is coming from Spirit Wolf Singers. He sings graduates into their ceremonies with great pride.

Algonquin convocation 2023
Algonquin convocation 2023 Photo credit: Supplied by Randy Kakegamick

Part of Kakegamick’s path to being the person he wants to be is gaining as much knowledge and experience as possible in school.

A student in the scriptwriting program this year, he has already graduated from the music industry arts, broadcasting television and digital music production programs, giving him a full arsenal of artistic tools to carry into the future.

“Randy’s got the right attitude, a fresh take, and the skills to achieve whatever goals he sets his sights on,” said scriptwriting professor Rick Kaulbars. “I always joke about how, someday, I hope one of my students is so successful that they end up hiring me. In Randy’s case, it might happen.”

Kakegamick is also a student navigator for Algonquin College and the Mamidosewin Centre. He gives back to the student community in any way he can.

“I remember after our first conversation I felt so understood and uplifted, a feeling I desperately needed at the time,” said Shawongonabe.

“He’s the type of guy that would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it and make a joke while doing it,” she said.

Singing, dancing, and beating the drum at powwows across Ottawa give Kakegamick another way to give back to his community while engaging in the music that he loves. More than that, it has given him a safe space where he can heal and grow.

When he dances, he fills every inch of the sacred circle. His eyes are filled with light, excitement, and hope.

He graces onlookers with a dance step so light; it’s as if he no longer carries the weight of his past.

He is a vibrant force of energy and inspiration to those around him.

“From sitting in a cell or sitting in solitary confinement to now being somebody a kid can look up to, I’m inspiring myself,” said Kakegamick.

Even after the moments of pain and doubt that his journey brought to him, Kakegamick sees his life now with a sense of satisfaction.

“The ultimate goal is to see my work on Netflix,” said Kakegamick. “A feature film or series, I have a few things I’m working on.”

A few is an understatement.

He works as a casual camera operator at APTN, and as of recently has been hired to do editing on a popular podcast.

Kakegamick’s evolution from a laptop illiterate to a production prodigy is nothing short of awe-inspiring.

Today, his exceptional ability to craft compelling stories and seamlessly coordinate a production stands as a testament to the power of unwavering determination.

Kakegamick’s story teaches us that with persistence and an unyielding thirst for knowledge, we can each carve our own paths

The smallest steps can lead to the greatest strides.

“I do have those moments now where I can say I’m proud, finally,” said Kakegamick.

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