October 29, 2020

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NICK SHERMAN ON STORIES, SONG, AND RACISM IN THUNDER BAY

NICK SHERMAN ON STORIES, SONG, AND RACISM IN THUNDER BAY

Image credit: nicksherman.ca

This week on APTN’s, AMPLIFY, Nick Sherman examines the challenges of living in Thunder Bay as an Indigenous person. The northern Ontario city is notorious for being racist towards Indigenous people—and it is deadly. It’s where 7 Indigenous youth died under similar circumstances, resulting in a 2-year inquest into their deaths and the best selling book, Seven Fallen Feathers by Tanya Talaga. It’s also where Anishinaabe mother, Barbara Kentner was struck with a hitch in the stomach thrown by a truckload of white racists as one yelled, “got one!” Barbara eventually died from her injuries. Sherman wrote a song exposing Thunder Bay in a way viewers have never seen before. Sherman shared some of his insights with MUSKRAT Magazine:

MM: What do you hope audiences take away from your episode?

NS: I hope the stories that are told in the episode resonate with everyone that hears them. The individuals that shared their experiences with racism and trauma were brave and there are so many people out there with the same experiences. I also hope anyone that watches it finds a sense of hope in the stories. Although the themes were challenging, throughout the whole process of filming everyone was so hopeful and positive. I hope people get that sense when they watch. There is strength and resilience in this episode and that’s what inspired me while we were filming.

Still from AmplifyTV, Episode 6 | Image source: AMPLIFY

MM: What was the experience like while working on the episode you were featured in?

NS: Filming this episode was empowering and inspiring. There was one day before we started filming where a group of us met and were sharing stories and experiences. A lot of the stories were about racism and hate felt in the city but so much of the conversation was about vision and change and what that looked like. I felt like that became the spirit of filming and how I was writing the song. As an artist, it was a new experience having people come into the process of writing, but I felt like that is what kept the themes fresh in my mind as we were filming and writing the music.

Still from AmplifyTV, Episode 6 | Image source: AMPLIFY

MM: What can we expect from you next?

NS: As I’m writing this, we are well into the [COVID-19] pandemic so many plans have changed, been cancelled, or are being re-worked. Right now, the plan is to find balance in all of this, keep writing songs and find new ways to connect with audiences. You also might see some other new videos come out over the winter so watch out for those.

Ojibwe Airdate: Thursday, Oct. 15th

English Airdate: Friday, Oct. 9th

Still from AmplifyTV, Episode 6 | Image source: AMPLIFY

About Nick Sherman

Singer-songwriter, Nick Sherman, gives new meaning to “the voice in the wilderness,” or rather, the voice from the wilderness. While he still calls his rural birthplace of Sioux Lookout home, Sherman spent much of his youth out on the land, moving between his hometown, the small First Nation community of Weagamow Lake, and his family’s trapline on North Caribou Lake. It was here in the depths of the Northern Ontario forest that his family members would play guitar as they tended their trapline, and Nick found himself soaking in songs and lyrics.

His songs are not only inspired by his memories of those early trapline sounds – the timeless hymns of celebration and lamentation on his reserve – but by great songwriters including William Elliott Whitmore, Ray LaMontagne, Sam Cooke, and Elvis Costello. In this way his Indigenous heritage resonates with soul-brushing candour as he sings the boreal forest blues. Sherman worked in radio for nine years, and now spends part of the year in remote Indigenous communities bringing music programming into schools. “Over the years I’ve come to realize that it’s not about what equipment or instruments are available,” Sherman says. “My main focus is figuring out how to teach young people to make meaningful connections through self-expression and show them how this can counteract the deep sense of isolation so many of them feel.”

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About The Author

Erica Commanda

Born in Toronto, Erica Commanda (Algonquin/Ojibwe) grew up in the small community of Pikwakanagan. From there she moved across Canada living in Ottawa, Vancouver and now Toronto, working in the bar/hospitality industry, mastering the art of listening to stories from her regulars while slinging and spilling drinks (at them or to them). And now through a series of random decisions and events in life she is on a journey discovering and mastering her own knack for storytelling as a Staff Writer for MUSKRAT Magazine.

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