On Friday, February 9th, 2018 I travelled through the snowy streets of Ottawa to the National Arts Centre (NAC). When I arrived at the NAC I was a little overwhelmed by the size and beauty of the building. I entered the Babs Asper Theatre to find it packed. A full house, buzzing with excitement.
Every single artist in this showcase was absolutely incredible and it was an honour to be there with everyone. The evening was emceed by Rosanna Deerchild of CBC’s Unreserved. At the following link you can hear her recount heartbreaking news she received just shortly after the intermission of this show: http://www.cbc.ca/radio/unreserved/after-colten-boushie-where-do-we-go-from-here-1.4535052/a-long-moment-of-stunned-silence-rosanna-deerchild-on-telling-a-crowd-gerald-stanley-was-found-not-guilty-1.4537870
I will never forget the feelings and sounds in the theatre when Rosanna told the crowd Gerald Stanley was found not guilty. It was the sound of grief paired with injustice and it will haunt me forever. A week later and I still cry instantly from the thought of it.
Which makes me think of Ryan McMahon’s words on Twitter …
“To the benefactors of settler colonialism – wipe your tears away and get down to work. BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) communities know this feeling all too well. Your action should outmatch your sorrow. Indigenous People are watching, what will you do now?
So what can I do? I feel ashamed and like I have no right to even talk about this subject but I don’t want that to stop me. I try not to let the fear of saying the wrong thing silence me.
I think talking with my settler peers is a small thing I can do. When I say talking, I unfortunately mean arguing with those who do not wish to pursue equality in Canadian society. These people seem to be everywhere.
I think supporting First Nations artists is another small thing I can do. Music and art are important for so many reasons. For healing, for understanding, and for celebration. I can buy albums, attend and write about shows and lend everyone I know my copy of Hidden in Plain Sight.
I hope these small actions give the community more power but I know that no matter how many albums or tickets I buy, the balance of power will not shift the way it needs to.
I can try to always keep my heart in the right place, avoid appropriating the cultures I try to support and listen when people tell me what more I can do. Keeping in mind, I should not expect others to tell me what I can do. Despite feeling inadequate or like I can’t really help or know what I’m talking about, I need to constantly seek out what more I can do, on my own.
I feel sheepish and stupid as I type these words but I’d rather someone point out my ignorance than not try to talk about it.
All the white people I’ve argued with over the last week, I don’t think they would feel the way they feel if they had been with me on February 9th at the NAC. Or rather, I hope that they couldn’t. So let’s talk more about the show …
Native North America (Vol. 1) is a Grammy-nominated compilation album featuring Inuit, Métis and First Nations artists. All the songs were recorded during 1966 – 1985. Such an epic album!
This event was to celebrate that album and the work of Willie Dunn. You can watch three of Willie Dunn’s films at the following link, thanks to the National Film Board of Canada: https://www.nfb.ca/directors/willie-dunn114644/
Filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin performed and had people getting out of their chairs to clap, for good reason. She was awesome and powerful as I am sure she always is.
The evening also featured an excerpt from Alanis Obomsawin’s 1977 film Amisk. Which you can read about here: http://onf-nfb.gc.ca/en/our-collection/?idfilm=13439
And here is a great portrait of Alanis …
Leanne Betasamosake Simpson performed along with Nick Ferrio and her sister, Ansley Simpson, who is a singer and songwriter currently residing in Toronto. Their set was incredible and featured a cover of Willie Dunn’s song, I Pity the Country.
Leanne’s set also included her song Road Salt which you can watch her perform below with Nick and Ansley.
Willy Mitchell put on an awesome performance. His song Big Police Man was part of his set, which is all about the time an officer of the law shot him when he was just fifteen. Here’s one of Willy Mitchell’s songs off of the Native North America (Vol. 1) compilation.
You can learn more about Willy Mitchell in this interview he did with Noisey Music: https://noisey.vice.com/en_Ca/article/rkaenw/a-conversation-with-willy-mitchell
Leland Bell, Eric Landry and Duke Redbird also performed and the evening finished with Willie Thrasher and Linda Saddleback’s set, where all the artists returned to the stage and the crowd gave a well-deserved standing ovation.
Here is a Willie Thrasher song for your listening enjoyment!
A huge thank you to MEGAPHONO, Voluntary in Nature, the NAC and all the wonderful artists, for an evening I will never forget.
This show was the type to make your hands itch from clapping so much and your face hurt from all the humour the artists dished out.
You can purchase Native North America (Vol. 1) at the following link and I highly recommend that you do!
I also highly recommend following MEGAPHONO and attending any of their events that you can!