In 2018, I started working for an indigenous arts programming organization, that was founded by friend, called inPath and its umbrella organization N’we Jinan which is a Cree phrase, roughly meaning ‘this is our home’.
These organizations hire artists to do residencies and workshops based on their art practice; teaching, collaborating and creating a project with indigenous youth all over Canada. I go into communities and do songwriting, recording and music production residencies and projects.
Sometimes I stay for up to 6 weeks and make a whole album and other times I travel with a videographer for short 4 day music video projects, where we create an original song and music video in 4 days with a small group of youth.
I’ve worked with indigenous kid’s aged 4 to over 18. I have facilitated, produced and co-written over 100 songs with dozens of youth in more than 20 schools over the past 5 years. Here are a few links to albums and music videos:
Nemaska, Quebec – Elementary Album (2022)
BRAND NEW compilation album of all music video projects from the last 3 years (2023)
I produced/co-produced 17 of these songs.
This work has completely changed my life. Up until 2018, I was ignorant to Canada’s colonial history and the genocide of indigenous peoples and cultures. I now have an awareness that has changed the way I relate to Canada and indigenous people.
Similar to the indigenous people’s of Australia, Canadian native people have lived on this land for thousands of years, in a sustainable way. Colonizers from Europe came with the eventual goal of getting rid of all indigenous people and stripping them of nearly all their rights.
Those that remained were to be assimilated. There is so much I could share about the atrocities committed to indigenous people over the last 500 years and the on going ones.
I deeply encourage everyone to try and educate themselves to eradicate ignorance. One easy form of reconciliation, for everyone that is living on and benefiting from indigenous land, is to learn what traditional territories you live on. Acknowledging the land is a simple but powerful way to recognize that you are on land that was stolen and is a part of a traditional indigenous territory. I am from and live in Tiohtià:ke (roughly pronounced jo-jaw-gay) also known as Montreal, which is on various traditional territories, including the Kanien’kéha Nation and Anishinaabeg peoples.
An indigenous youth worker from the Tahltan Nation in northern British Columbia once told me that art plays a huge role in healing trauma. Indigenous people are living with deeply rooted, trauma; both intergenerational trauma and ongoing new traumatic experiences.
These music projects help these youth heal. Most of the youth I work with have rarely, if ever, expressed their feelings to anyone. Music is a beautiful, communal, and traditionally ceremonial, way for us to continue healing.
I’ve written and recorded many of my songs in my free time while working with these youth all over the country, which has contributed to my own personal healing.
I am endlessly grateful to be a part of these songs. Endlessly grateful to play a small role in reconciliation. Endlessly grateful to get to know these youth. And above all, forever grateful to continue learning.