Original Photo: Kristine Quandee
As MUSKRAT looks forward to a new year of Indigenous people making headlines, we thought we’d take a look back on the Indigenous headliners of last year, and who’s going to rock it in 2015.
- A Tribe Called Red
Their album Nation II Nation won a Juno Award for Breakthrough Group of the Year. Add to this Caucasians t-shirts; DJ NDN’s successful takedown of the Nepean “Redskins” Football club; Tribe’s controversial cancellation of an appearance at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights—because of the Museum’s omission of the interpretation of “genocide” against Indigenous Peoples by the Canadian government—propelled these performers and role-models into the headlines. The trio was the first Indigenous group to win a Juno outside of the Aboriginal category. We suspect and hope they will continue to dominate in 2015.
- Christi Belcourt
Named 2014 laureate of the Ontario Arts Council Aboriginal Arts Award, this Métis artist, author, and lead organizer for Walking With Our Sisters—a travelling exhibit of moccasin vamps (tops) to raise awareness of the 1100+ Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in Canada. Belcourt was also named Finalist for 2014 Premier’s Awards for Excellence in the Arts.
- Cindy Blackstock
Gitxsan activist known best for her support of child welfare. In 2014, the closing arguments were held for the landmark child welfare discrimination case she began in 2007. Blackstock continues to hold the feds accountable for treatment of Aboriginal children and chronic underfunding of education despite allegedly being under intense government scrutiny. By all accounts she’s not stopping her work anytime soon.
- Joseph Boyden
This award-winning Métis author with Irish, Scottish, and Ojibwa roots has taken the stage by storm with his piece Going Home Star, inspired by Canadian residential schools and performed by the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. His book The Orenda also won the CBC’s 2014 Canada Reads competition.
- Makayla Sault
A young Ojibwa girl from New Credit First Nation created throngs of controversy as she and her family announced they would be leaving chemotherapy treatment in May 2014. Amid threats of apprehension by the Children’s Aid Society by McMaster University, Makayla and her family chose to fight her cancer through a specialized diet and a variety of natural remedies. We were sad to hear that Makayla passed away early this year, though the legacy she left behind was to open a space for important dialogue on Indigenous health and well-being.
- Patrick Brazeau
Curiouser and curiouser best describes the downward spiral of this former handpicked conservative Senator and member of the Kitigan Zibi First Nation in Quebec. Brazeau first made headlines in February 2014 when he was arrested for breach of trust, and fraud related to inappropriate Senate expense claims, followed closely by arrests on at least two counts of assault. He’s also been ordered to attend drug and alcohol rehabilitation after another alcohol-related arrest in late 2014. Political prospects for 2015: Nil.
- Rinelle Harper
After being brutally beaten and left for dead in early November 2014. In December 2014, this soft-spoken Garden Hill First Nation teen stood in front of thousands of national leaders, delegates, and community members calling for a national inquiry into violence against Indigenous women.
- Shawn Atleo
Former Assembly of First Nations (AFN) leader stunned crowds as he announced his resignation in May 2014. Atleo faced intense heat from other chiefs in the AFN leading up to the announcement of the controversial First Nations Education Act (FNEA). The FNEA has since been placed on hold, its future uncertain. Atleo now facilitates discussions between the First Nations in British Columbia, industry, and the government.
- Tanya Tagaq
Proud mother and seal hunting advocate Tagaq put forth a spellbinding performance at the 2014 Polaris Music Prize awards. The artist created even more buzz as her album Animism won the coveted award. Advocate for the Inuit right to the seal hunt, and Indigenous women, Tagaq said it all as quoted by CBC, saying, “We can’t be pushed away anymore.” Tagaq is nominated for two Juno awards this year, including Alternative Album of the year and Aboriginal Album of the Year.
- Thomas King
From Cherokee, Greek, and German descent, this powerful author is still writing and still reaching beyond racial boundaries and into every home. King’s recent achievements include The Inconvenient Indian winning British Columbia’s National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction, and The Back of the Turtle winning the 2014 Governor General’s Award for Fiction.
- Wab Kinew
A member of Onigaming First Nation, and host of CBC Television’s 8th Fire series, Kinew gave an outstanding defense of Joseph Boyden’s book The Orenda at last year’s Canada Reads competition. He was a recent guest host at CBC Radio One’s Q, and the recipient of an honorary doctorate from Cape Breton University. Presently, Kinew is the associate vice-president of Indigenous affairs at the University of Winnipeg.