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Indigenous Musicians

June is National Indigenous History Month. A month to remember the injustices committed against Indigenous people in Canada’s past, issues that still affect Indigenous people to this day. It is also a month to celebrate and support all of the wonderful Indigenous musicians that have shaped Canada’s music and its culture. Indigenous people have been and continue to be oppressed in this country and it is important to remember this during June and throughout the year.

Each week in June, Bandology will be highlighting an Indigenous musician. Please research and support these artists, along with all of the other great Indigenous artists that share their stories with the world. Bandology is committed to truth and reconciliation in June and every month of the year and we encourage everyone to do the same.

Twin Flames

twin flames

Twin Flames is a Canadian band from Ottawa led by husband and wife duo Jaaji and Chelsey June. Their music blends First Nations and Inuit music with folk-rock. Jaaji comes from Mohawk and Inuk heritage, while Chelsey has Métis of Cree and Algonquin heritage. They were both successful and award-winning solo artists before meeting on the set of APTN’s Talent Autochtones Musical (TAM), a live showcase for Indigenous musicians. They were married in 2015 and released their debut album Jaaji and Chelsey June. Both Jaaji and Chelsey act as songwriters and lead singers for the band. Twin Flames is highly decorated, having received nominations and awards from the Canadian Folk Music Awards, the Native American Music Awards, the Indigenous Music Awards and more.

The group is dedicated to raising awareness about mental wellness and has participated in many community wellness campaigns for mental health, healthy relationships and sober living. They also strive to educate others about Canada’s past in regards to its relationship with Indigenous people and the land.

Susan Aglukark

SusanAglukark

Susan Aglukark is an Inuk singer-songwriter. Her music blends Inuit folk music traditions with country and pop songwriting styles which have given her great recording success in Canada. She has released seven studio albums over the course of a 25-year career and earned three Juno Awards. Other awards include the Officer of the Order of Canada, the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards, the Humanitarian Juno Award in 2022, as well as several Honourary Doctorate degrees. Aglukark was singing alongside her full-time job as an executive assistant in the Northwest Territories when she attracted the attention of the CBC, who was putting together a compilation of Arctic performers. From there she started to release albums and garner success throughout Canada. In 1995, the debut single “O Siem” from her breakthrough album This Child went to number one on the Canadian adult contemporary and country charts. She was the first Inuk performer to have a Top 40 hit.

Aglukark is a spokesperson for several non-profit groups that work with Indigenous and Inuit youth, as well as advocating for Northern Canada’s food crisis. She is a proud spokesperson for these issues and pushes for a universal message of self-respect and strength that people from all cultural backgrounds can relate to. Aglukark currently resides in Halton.

Tanya Tagaq

Tanya Tagaq is an Indigenous improvisational singer, composer and author from Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. She is well known throughout Canada and beyond for being an advocate for social and political change for Indigenous people and environmental issues. Since her rise to fame in the early 2000s, Tagaq has been the recipient of many awards, including two Juno awards and several nominations, the Polaris Music Prize and the Order of Canada. She released her first book Split Tooth in 2018; it is a blend of fiction and memoir. Tagaq is known primarily for her throat singing, an Indigenous vocal practice, but also for using her music to take bold stands for causes that she believes in. Some of these causes include fighting systemic racism, bringing attention to the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada and her support for Indigenous cultural preservation.

Throughout her career, Tagaq has proven that being popular or well-liked is not as important to her as being true to herself and advocating for the issues that are close to her heart. She has also proven that this approach can still bring great success – her 2016 show in Toronto was sold out.

Buffy Sainte-Marie

Buffy Sainte-Marie is an Indigenous singer-songwriter, composer, visual artist and social activist. Her work centers around issues facing Indigenous peoples of the Americas, using subjects of love, war and religion. She was born to Cree parents in a small hamlet in Saskatchewan called Piapot, then adopted by a couple of Mi’kmaq descent in Massachusetts. Sainte-Marie began touring small coffee shops, concert halls and folk music festivals in the 1960s, developing her skills and finding her voice. By 1964 her popular songs “Cod’ine” and “Universal Soldier” had landed her as Billboard  magazine’s Best New Artist. Over the course of her career, she has received such awards as the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1983 (the first Oscar awarded to an Indigenous person), a place in the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, five Juno Awards, Officer of the Order of Canada, a number of Honorary Doctorates, the Polaris Music Prize and the Polaris Heritage Prize.

Sainte-Marie refuses to sugarcoat the truth or stray away from hard realities. Her protest songs are considered divisive, they include her pacifist views as well as her outspokenness about the poor treatment of Indigenous people throughout North America. In 1996 Sainte-Marie founded the Cradleboard Teaching Project, which develops curriculums with the intention of raising self-identity and self-esteem in generations of Indigenous children by exposing them to enriching and accurate information about their culture.

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