Today, June 21, is National Indigenous Peoples Day here in Canada and what is driving my creativity today is this amazing Inuk musician: Riit. Coming to us from Panniqtuq, Nunavut, Riit’s cover of AWOLNATION’s “Sail” is living on repeat, rent free in my head right now. This is a case where the cover vastly exceeds the original.
One of the most compelling aspects of her version is her use of throat singing. Those of you who are familiar with Tanya Tagaq will be familiar with the sound that can be hauntingly beautiful one moment, and then stripping you down to the bone with power the next. We were fortunate to catch a performance Tanya Tagaq did with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra before the pandemic and it was a transformative experience.
CBC Music has posted videos of Riit performing a number of her songs which will give you a good idea of what I’m talking about. You will also get to hear her singing in Inuktitut which is a beautiful, beautiful language. Here’s a link to one of my favourites:
Today is an important day. It could be, should be, Canada’s equivalent of Juneteenth. A lot of the horrifying history of how Settlers have treated Indigenous and Metis peoples in Canada have been coming to light in the media lately. Finally. It is our job to keep the momentum going, to keep the issues, the need for real action, the drive for fundamental social change, going.
You can do that by being active, by speaking out, publicly or in your own social circles. You can support by spending money, spending attention, learning, changing your brain, your way of being in the world, You can change things through art, both creating it and experiencing it.
Art is the only hope we have. It is the only thing that is going to save our lives, save our planet. It is the only way we can truly connect with people outside of our heads.
Your call to action today is to go to Riit’s website, or your local music retailer, or streaming service, and pay some money for her stuff.
A second but equally, if not more, important call to action is to educate yourself. Start here: https://www.canada.ca/en/canadian-heritage/campaigns/indigenous-peoples-day.html and work your way outwards from there. There is more information and there are more resources out there than you can imagine. You just need to start.