JEREMY DUTCHER,

Exclaim! - - TABLE OF CONTENTS - words MELODY MCKIVER pho­tos ASHLEA WESSEL

“Whether it’s writ­ing or vis­ual arts or mu­sic, our peo­ple are cre­at­ing im­por­tant pieces of work that are speak­ing to very im­por­tant truths in this coun­try.”

“I don’t know what re­nais­sance means.

But the thought that I had when [Jeremy Dutcher] said that was, ‘We need to de­liver a mes­sage to the peo­ple. And the mes­sage is love, the mes­sage is mu­sic. The mes­sage is we have been here ever since time be­gan. We were here when you came. We wel­comed you, we're still here to­day and we're singing for you.'”

Mag­gie Paul, a Pas­samaquoddy El­der liv­ing in St. Mary's, NB, is speak­ing about com­poser Jeremy Dutcher's tri­umphant mo­ment win­ning the 2018 Po­laris Mu­sic Prize for his al­bum

Wo­las­to­qiyik Lin­tuwakon­awa. Paul is a beloved knowl­edge keeper in the At­lantic First Na­tions com­mu­nity, and she's known — and men­tored — Dutcher since he was a child.

“You can't talk about Indige­nous mu­sic in the East coast with­out talk­ing to Mag­gie Paul,” Dutcher says. “It just doesn't make sense.”

Paul was present when Dutcher won the Prize and de­clared: “Canada, you are in the midst of an Indige­nous re­nais­sance. Are you ready to hear the truth that needs to be told? Are you ready to see the things that need to be seen?”

Also in at­ten­dance were the Snotty Nose Rez Kids, a Van­cou­ver-based hip-hop duo that proudly rep­re­sent the Haisla Na­tion; they were short-listed for the Prize for their al­bum, The Av­er­age

Sav­age. Dar­ren “Young D” Metz says that the Po­laris ex­pe­ri­ence was “a bit sur­real. We re­leased The Av­er­age Sav­age al­most ex­actly a year be­fore the Po­laris hap­pened. So it was al­most like ev­ery­thing com­ing to­gether full cir­cle.” Quin­ton “Yung Try­bez” Nyce, the other half of the duo, adds that “We al­ways used to dream of be­ing on stages like that, see­ing all these artists bring­ing ev­ery­thing to the ta­ble and put it all out on the stage. We were able to do that by get­ting the Dakhká Kh­wáan dance group up there and re­ally be­ing able to show­case what we are as West coast artists.”

When asked what Dutcher's dec­la­ra­tion meant, Metz shares

IF YOU WANT TO KNOW WHAT WAS HAP­PEN­ING HERE, IN OUR LAN­GUAGE THAT COMES FROM THIS LAND, YOU NEED TO GO TO THE MU­SEUM. JEREMY DUTCHER

that “It def­i­nitely made me feel like it's an un­for­get­table mo­ment in Cana­dian mu­sic his­tory. Be­cause even though we came up short, like Try­bez said, we still had that strong sense of pride. It kind of feels like when one of us win it, we all win it.” (The Po­laris Mu­sic Prize was awarded to Inuk throat singer Tanya Ta­gaq in 2014; Cree singer Buffy Sainte-Marie won in 2015; and Ot­tawabased Indige­nous col­lec­tive A Tribe Called Red were short­listed for the prize in 2013 and 2017.)

That sense of pride can be hard-won for Indige­nous youth grow­ing up un­der the weight of Canada's colo­nial bag­gage. Nyce ex­plains that “It wasn't un­til a few years ago that we were ac­tu­ally truly proud to be First Na­tions. Be­cause grow­ing up in Kiti­mat [BC], there was a lot of racism thrown our way. In that mo­ment, I felt so much pride and so much hap­pi­ness for who we are.”

When asked to con­tex­tu­al­ize his coin­ing of the “Indige­nous Re­nais­sance,” Dutcher clar­i­fies that it was an im­promptu phrase, not a pre­pared speech, and that “This is noth­ing new, but a con­tin­uum of artis­tic Indige­nous ex­cel­lence. This is some­thing that I was im­mersed in grow­ing up. My mother was very, very in­ten­tional in en­sur­ing we had a lot of role mod­els around. It was nor­mal for me to see our peo­ple as artis­tic cre­ators.

“Re­nais­sance is a tough word, with colo­nial bag­gage,” Dutcher clar­i­fies, given its as­so­ci­a­tion with a spe­cific pe­riod in Euro­pean art his­tory. “But what is at the cen­tre of that word is that across ev­ery genre, whether it's writ­ing or vis­ual arts or mu­sic, our peo­ple — and I mean this in­clu­sively, cap­i­tal-I Indige­nous peo­ple — are cre­at­ing im­por­tant pieces of work that are speak­ing to very im­por­tant truths in this coun­try.”

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