By: Nicole Da Costa
One of the central themes discussed during the creation of A Walk-Through Indigenous Memory: A Student Exhibition was maintaining the presence of Indigenous excellence. To honor this theme alongside the exhibit’s central goal of sharing the names and histories of Indigenous peoples across Turtle Island, here is a re-cap of some, but definitely not all, of the Indigenous excellence featured at the 2022 Juno Awards.
Indigenous musicians are eligible to be nominated in any music category at the Junos, with two categories reserved exclusively for Indigenous music, Indigenous Contemporary Artist of the Year, and Traditional Indigenous Artist / Group of the Year.
This year Indigenous artists took home multiple wins, including Fawn Wood who won Traditional Indigenous Artist of the Year. Indigenous Contemporary Artist of the Year was taken home by DJ Shub, and Inuk singer-songwriter Susan Aglukark received a special Humanitarian Award Presented by Music Canada.
You can check out the biographies of this year’s Indigenous winners and some of the nominees below.
Fawn Wood– Born into the respected multi-generational traditional singing Wood family, Fawn Wood’s singing reflects her Cree and Salish tribal lineage. At an early age Fawn would sing her heart out at pow-wows alongside her mother and father. In 2006, Fawn was the first female to win the Hand Drum contest at the Gathering of Nations Pow Wow. In 2009 she opened the show at the 11th Annual Native American Music Awards (NAMMYS). In 2010 she sang with her partner, Dallas Waskahat for the opening of the Aboriginal People’s Choice Music Awards in Winnepeg, Manitoba.
Dj Shub– Considered to be the Godfather of PowWowStep, DJ-producer Shub, whose real name is Dan General, is a Mohawk of the Six Nations reserve located in Ontario, Canada is also a husband and father. Since the creation of PowWowStep, he has grown more aware of the Indigenous way of life through his music and merged his heritage with his craft, something most musicians aren’t able to say they’ve done. DJ Shub has had music featured in TV, film, and advertising. Shub has stood on his own since winning a Juno Award with A Tribe Called Red in 2014 – performing all over North America and inspiring other artists.
Susan Aglukark– During a career that has spanned more than 25 years, Susan Aglukark’s journey as a singer-songwriter has led her to reflect on who she is, where she comes from and the importance of discovery – discovery of history, culture and self. Susan is the first Inuk artist to win a Juno (3) and a Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for lifetime artistic achievement, she is an officer of the Order of Canada, holds several Honourary Doctorate degrees and has held command performances; but Susan also acknowledges the path has not been easy.“Here I was, living a life I never imagined, but I was struggling to understand who I was. There was no opportunity growing up to learn about who we were, the Inuit, from our own perspective. In essence, we were institutionalized by being told who we were, how we would live and when you are told a story for so long, you learn to believe it,” explains Susan. For Susan, art has played a significant role in her healing journey and in the re-writing of her narrative, she believes it plays an important role for indigenous youth who are dealing with contemporary identity issues today.
Adrian Sutherland – Indigenous contemporary artist / group of the year 2022 nominee. Adrian Sutherland is a roots-rock recording artist with heart from Attawapiskat First Nation on the James Bay in Northern Canada. He’s a singer, songwriter, musician, speaker, author, and advocate. He’s a father of four, a grandfather to four, a traditional knowledge keeper, and respected cultural leader, fluent in Mushkegowuk Cree.
Jayli Wolf– Indigenous contemporary artist / group of the year 2022 nominee. Jayli is an Anishinaabe / Cree, LGBTQ+ artist born in Creston, B.C. She has released a solo EP entitled “Wild Whisper” about her personal history, along with the Single “Child Of The Government” which exhibits her family’s experience during the Sixties Scoop, where the Canadian Government and Catholic Church were responsible for taking or “scooping” more than 20,000 First Nation, Métis, and Inuit children from their families and communities in the 1950-90s. The children were placed in foster homes, adopted, or sold into non-Indigenous families across Canada and beyond. Many experienced sexual, physical, and emotional abuse, and along with the loss of cultural identity, the government changed many children’s true ethnicity on file. Wolf’s father was one of these children. The single arrived alongside a short film that was directed by Wolf herself. The short film won ‘Best Music Video’ at Venice Shorts and the single hit #1 on CBC and Indigenous Music Countdown charts.
Shawnee Kish– Indigenous contemporary artist / group of the year 2022 nominee. Shawnee is a proud Two Spirit Mohawk artist who has achieved significant career growth during the past 18 months. Named the 2020 winner of the CBC Searchlight national talent search, Shawnee followed up this breakthrough by releasing her debut self-titled EP in June 2021. A highly-sought after collaborator, in 2021 Shawnee worked with the National Arts Centre and the NAC Orchestra to create a ground-breaking show called Undisrupted (CBC Gem), where she functioned as curator and vocalist for the NAC. She also travelled to Dubai to perform and represent Canada at the 2021 World Expo. Shawnee is an outspoken advocate for Indigenous youth and LGBT2Q+ communities. Her extensive work for organizations such as We Matter and the Kids Help Phone continues to confirm that her passion and career is driven by empowering young people.
Snotty Nose Rez Kids– Indigenous contemporary artist / group of the year 2022 nominee. Formed in 2016, the duo released back-to-back albums in 2017. Notably, “The Average Savage” was shortlisted for Polaris Prize, and Juno nominated. They followed up with TRAPLINE (2019), scoring WCMA and Indie awards and another Polaris Shortlist. They concluded 2019 performing 100 shows in Canada, US, Mexico, Europe and Australia. In 2020, SNRK joined Amazon Music’s Rotation North playlist launch, were listed in Complex’s ones-to-watch and booked their first headline US tour. Derailed due to Covid, they wrote their next album, Life After. SNRK rebooked their US tour with 13 dates in fall 2021 to coincide with the release of “Life After” and released four advance singles, with stand-out Uncle Rico’s music video landing in rotation on MTV and BET. To date, they’ve accumulated over 16,000,000 streams worldwide. The group have their music in ‘Inconvenient Indian,’ Syfy’s ‘Resident Alien,’ & CBC’s ‘Trickster,’ ‘Diggstown,’ ‘Eaux Turbulentes,’ and ‘Pretty Hard Cases.’ They have multiple #1’s on the IMC Chart and were selected as guest curators for the Indigenous playlists for both Spotify and Amazon Music.
The Halluci Nation– Electronic Album of the year 2022 nominees. As they enter a new cycle, Bear Witness and Tim “2oolman” Hill of A Tribe Called Red are reintroducing themselves as The Halluci Nation, to reflect the evolution of their music and mission. The late artist, poet and activist, John Trudell, coined the expression the Halluci Nation to describe the global community who remember at their core what it means to be human, and live life in line with Indigenous values. Trudell recognized the connections between what he’d accomplished, and what ATCR did intuitively through music and art that helped these ideas to resonate. Trudell’s voice will be the first heard on The Halluci Nation’s upcoming record, One More Saturday Night, a genre-oblivious homage to the Electric Pow Wow gatherings launched at Ottawa’s Babylon nightclub in 2007 by the DJ crew.
Joel Wood– Traditional Indigenous Artist / Group of the Year 2022 nominee. Joel is a Plains Cree artist from Maskwacis, Alberta who is no stranger to the music industry as he’s also been a part of the widely recognized powwow, round dance drum group, Northern Cree, which was co-founded by his father, Steve. Now pursuing a solo career, his debut solo album titled Singing is Healing came as a result of his work in 2020 when he participated in various online virtual music contests. Some of the events required participants to provide original work, which helped start the creation of his project. After winning Hand, Drum, Fiddle, Instrumental Album of the Year at the 2021 Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival, he’s hopeful the spotlight on himself and fellow artists will help his Indigenous community take pride in their identity and cherish their roots. “It’s not only representing my community, I feel like I’m representing all First Nations across Turtle Island,” he stated. “Having our style of music be recognized at such an event in the category of Traditional Indigenous Artist or Group of the Year, I can’t say enough how proud I am to be representing our people. Our music is beautiful, our music has medicine, our music has a spirit to it. There’s nothing like it. It’s just so much bigger than me…”
Manitou mkwa singers– Traditional Indigenous Artist / Group of the Year 2022 nominees. Manitou Mkwa (Spirit Bear) hand drum singers are from the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation. This is a family that have been established and singing their whole lives. They sing traditional songs and have been comprising their own songs for over 10 years. They are also traditional dancers and sing around the Big Train drum group and travel all over Northern and Southern Ontario. Their songs are sung and composed with the intent to uplift the spirits of the people.
Nimkii & the niniis– Traditional Indigenous Artist / Group of the Year 2022 nominees. Nimkii is backed up by the niniis, who all come from world class drumming groups.
Young spirit- Traditional Indigenous Artist / Group of the Year 2022 nominees. Founded in 2001 in the Frog Lake Cree First Nation, Alberta, Canada, Young Spirit (oskiyak kīsik in Plains Cree) has quickly become one of the most in-demand and respected groups on the Pow-Wow trail and the Round Dance circuit. The group was created with the goal of empowering Indigenous/Native American/First Nations youth with music and language. Noted for extensive use of the Plains Cree language in their Round Dance and Pow-Wow songs, Young Spirit view its music as a dynamic catalyst for sustaining Indigenous culture and sharing its importance with the world. Amongst the many singing championships Young Spirit has won over the years, the drum group earned the 2013 and 2018 Worldwide Championship title at the Gathering of Nations Pow-Wow in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Their album Mewsinsational – Cree Round Dance Songs earned them an Indigenous Music Award for Best Hand Drum Album in 2018. The same album received a nomination in the Best Regional Roots category at the 61st Annual Grammy Awards. Young Spirit created a viral media sensation when they performed one of their acclaimed Round Dance songs live on the Grammy red carpet, taking Indigenous music to a place that it had never been shared before.