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Saturday, February 14, 2015

#shutdownCanada Honor and Shame

I had heard about #shutdownCanada in advance of February 13. I knew that it was another day to try and bring the national crisis, the national tragedy, the national shame that is Murdered and Missing Native Women in Canada to attention of the world.

I was not sure about the date of this event in comparison to other actions and days around the issue, but it didn't matter. It had my support. This must stop.

When the day came I had forgotten about it and went into the radio station for my afternoon show with the intention of playing four hours of sweetheart songs. It was going to be my first Valentine's Day.

Not soon after arrival at work a council member for the First Nation said that Highway 21 at Aazhoodena was closed down and people had to drive around. I asked what for and he said it was for Murdered and Missing women ,and he told me, as though it was news that he himself could not believe, "they say that that there are thousands across the country."

I did spin songs for sweethearts and the sweethearted and I played songs for the broken hearted. I went into my first break after my intro and I was going to talk about #shutdownCanada. I said that it was a national campaign that was driven online with the hashtag #shutdownCanada and I did not offer specifics on actions but began to talk about the national tragedy that sparked the day. When I got to the word "Thousands", I could no longer speak. It was though, I too, could no longer believe the words that I was saying. I could not go any further.

I hit off on the mic and the red light went out. Dead Air. I tried to speak but it wasn't going to happen. Thank God for Music. I hit play and Pray Sister Pray by Crystal Shawanda begins and she tells the story as honestly and as harshly as it needs to be done. I have a good cry and keep going.

I go online to see if I can get any details on what was happening but there was no stories coming out and when I went to the hashtag on twitter it seemed to have a lot of haters. In my facebook circles I didn't see much action. I posted the hashtag and played the music along with songs to round dance and slow dance.

If people were listening down the road at Aazhoondena that were taking action, I wanted to inspire them and for our non-Native audience I wanted to speak from the heart about this great pain in our country.

Later in the day I was home with my wife and grand daughter. My wife asked me if we could see any images from events across Canada on Youtube. There were only a couple videos posted to the hashtag, one was blocked, one looked like a rant and the first actual action from Montreal. In the video a group of men in black stormtrooper outfits blockaded a road. The men in black are speaking and acting aggressively. They are bearing signs in English that I did not understand. I didn't see anything about our women.

There was a "Bill C- something, something..." I didn't know. My wife said it was the new terrorism surveillance bill. I asked what this had to do with the Murdered and Missing. It was a farce. I felt I could see what those faces underneath looked like and deeper into what their true motives and spirit expressed. I felt ill.

We went back to our search and went to the only other video that looked to be a live event. It was a round dance in BC. Once again in an intersection and once again the traffic was stopped. The women are leading the drumming and singing and it looks to be a gorgeous day and I don't have to imagine what their faces look like under their masks and I can see them smiling and singing and there is no twisting undercurrent of threat and violence and anarchy.

I also know one thing there are people in that circle who have lived with this national nightmare and that their sister, daughter, cousin, friend, mother, wife or lover is gone forever in violence or mystery and no one seems to care.

Men in stormtrooper gear and with hidden faces using the threat of violence do not get to co-opt a movement that is the national crisis, the national shame, the national tragedy of Murdered and Missing Women in Canada. Whoever those men were behind those black masks. Shame on you.

To all of those who danced and sang in the spirit that honours our Missing and Murdered I am grateful that we continue to show the world how to stand against violence in peace.

They say that the only thing to allow the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing. Good united becomes great.


Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 - Year in Review - SPORTS

(Warning: Language suitable to a closed locker room)

Me and the NFL
  
I quit the national football league this year. It was my solitary protest to the hateful and racist name of the Washington Football team. I love the game. Everyone who knows me knows I love the game. I felt a kindred spirit to the men. I would tell my daughters, “you see that…those men are crying…that is a beautiful game that will take all that you have and let you cry like a man.”
I loved that it had a place for men all sizes and shapes, even the frail intellectual who can kick the ball. I dreamed of a day when the great Grandchildren of Jim Thorpe would rise up and dominate the gridiron again.
I quit the NFL but the NFL did not quit me. It was the year in which the NFL was always in the news and for all the worse reasons. Ray Rice’s vicious attack on his then fiancĂ© in a hotel room elevator is the most despicable act I have ever seen in a close circuit security camera video. This man needs to be in jail. He needs to serve some time for what he did and if the league will have him back after he paid his dues he should be allowed to go back to work. He can’t just go back to getting paid to play. That shit ain’t right.

The stories and charges of abuse continued to flow for most of the season. I love the game but now that I have seen it without blinders, I am not sure if I can come back.


The Oiler's Walk of Derision

If you haven’t seen the video that went viral earlier this hockey season, you are probably better off. The Edmonton Oilers are slogging through their first long losing streak of the season. After another home loss, they have to walk past an opening where the fans can gather and see them into the dressing room. It was imagined, one imagines, a place where the loyal fans could gather and see the home team one more time. On this night the barricades held back a seething pit of vipers screaming derision upon the young men who carry the banner of their team.
It was sad. You can cheer and yell all you want from your couch and your favourite bar stool, if that’s how things roll in those places, have at it. But these young men didn't deserve the be treated with such bitterness and disdain.

Jersey Throwing Bastards

At the arena, I think you should be there as a fan. I’ve been lucky enough to see the Toronto Maple Leafs four times. All in the old building, the Maple Leaf Gardens, they only won one of those games. It was a beauty. CUJO was in net and we were in the standing only section underneath the seats and behind the goalie. The Leafs won. It was a beautiful thing.

That's how it is, a real fan has to survive all the shit that the team will go through with the belief that maybe one day.

Those Maple Leafs “fans” who have the money to buy a jersey attend the game and throw your jersey on the ice. FUCK YOU. Your not a fan. Most of us will never be able to attend a game at the Air Canada Centre and many of us can't afford to wear a quality Maple Leafs jersey. I can't imagine going to a game and making a show of throwing my jersey on the ice. If you can do that you are no fan.

World Cup Fever

It was most enjoyable and I got the whole thing but come on boys Instant Replay one flag per team. The acting and phantom penalties are undermining any possibility that the sport will be taken more seriously in North America.   

Canada's Football League 

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers had a shit season. I guess my locker room speech after the loss to the Hamilton Tiger Cats did not help. The Bombers season turned into a nightmare and the Tiger Cats had a near fairy tale season. The Cats did not lose a game in their new stadium and came one flag away from the most magical ending in when Brandon Banks who is literally 150 pounds soaking went ran a punt back for a touchdown. It would be his third return for touchdown in two playoff games. It would be the upset of the year and the Hollywood ending. It was not be.

This is when the penalty should not be a penalty. Did it really make a difference in the play? Was it that egregious? I think not. This is an area where I think a challenge should be available.

The Canadian Football game is great and I don’t understand why won’t it expand. When is there going to be a team in Halifax or Moncton, What about Windsor, What about Quebec. Wherever there is a University Football team that has a decent stadium a CFL team should be considered. Brandon should have a football team to take on the Bombers monopoly. There is room for a lot more competition in this league.

I’m not just saying that because I have NFL withdrawals.

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2014- Year in Review - Politics

Idle Reward

The National Chief walked away from the job to ride a motorcycle across America and no one noticed. That did not bode well for the Assembly of First Nations as a voice of the people and for Idle No More as an instrument of change. Foreshadow came to pass. 
The Former National Chief no longer wanted the job when an internal revolt took advantage of a backlash against the AFN that was spreading as part of Idle No More. 
In their commitment to the philosophy of a leaderless movement, Idle No More had refused to identify and thus create leaders. Part of the vision was speaking out and rejecting the institutionalized  patriarchy that is the dominant form of government on First Nations and within representative organizations like the AFN and in particular the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians where Idle No More began.

The Old Boys Network would have the last laugh. When election time came there would be no fresh faces to vie for leadership. The challengers were all political lifers, Leon Jourdain, Ghislain Picard and eventual winner Perry Bellgarde. They all knew the secret handshake. The whole thing was smoke and mirrors with the right amount of overacting. Before leaving the spotlight in defeat Jourdain laid a curse on the whole shindig saying that the events of the day “would haunt us all.” Someone should have said, “You’re haunting us right now…get off the stage.” Newly Elected National Chief laid out some bafflegab about what’s the other. Does the Turducken still go quack? 

Bellegarde had been elected despite being called out during the election by Idle No More co-founder Sylvia McAdam. The future National Chief shut her up with the classic "why you bring this up now, Women." He told APTN, "Look at the timing of it all and then you question the sincerity of dealing with the issue." He was running for National Chief and he was being asked what role he played when he was at the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Chiefs and the province began taxing First Nations. He told the co-founder of Idle No More to go Idle.

Supreme Leader

You have to admit it though. At least the AFN maintained some illusion of democracy, the President of the Manitoba Metis Federation was elected by acclimation. I think maybe the title should be Supreme Leader or something more befitting that kind of election. 

Missing in Action on the Missing and Murdered

I believe that we must make sure our homes and communities are safe. It is our responsibility as Native Men to must do more to stand up to the violence. We must be ready to take our place in order to protect our women and children. Our young men have become IED within our communities. Our leadership fails.

The horrific attack on the 6 year old girl at the end of the year reminded us all the truth its not all the White Boogeyman. She should be our Eric Garner. 

It is disappointing that the provinces continue to watch the carnage and do nothing but call on the federal government to have an inquiry. It is especially disappointing that Manitoba with such a high percentage of these cases continues to do nothing. The Minister of Aboriginal Affairs is First Nations, the government is NDP which acts as though it is some kind of friend to Native People, what is going on under the Golden Boy. 


Stephen Harper is King

Stephen Harper can do whatever he wants and no one is going to stop him. The Liberals are trying to convince people that they have the second coming of Pierre Trudeau and we all know it is more like the second coming of Margaret Trudeau. Not the reflective Margaret of later years but closer to the "No panties waiting outside the Rolling Stones dressing room while my husband is the Prime Minister of Canada" Margaret.

Thomas Mulcair. Shave off your beard. I don’t what else to say about that guy but he scares the shit out of me and I think maybe it’s because of that fucked up beard.  The NDP could have made a better choice.

The opposition sucks and the Conservatives will have all the money in the world to convince people that all looks no brains Liberal and bearded NDP are not to be trusted with the keys to the kingdom.
The devil you know. You know.

Obama's Lincoln Moment

South of the Border it looks like President Barack Obama had a good year on many fronts, the Affordable Health Care Act, Executive Action on Immigration and Naturalization and Normalizing relations with Cuba. The Health Care Act is commendable although my personal belief is that the people need less health care. I do wish I traveled to Cuba before they let the Americans back in.

It is the Immigration Act that will forever change North America. These are Indigenous Peoples. It was just before American thanksgiving and it seemed like President Obama was returning the favour to the Indigenous Peoples of North America in one bold and historic action. It will be his Lincoln moment. He has made them Human Beings in the U.S. and they are still children of Mother Earth and that means we have a chance.


War of 1812 Re Dux

Here at home, the First Nations made an aggressive expression of their ownership of the beach from Kettle Point all the way to Stony Point. I don’t know the details but one day the First Nations had road crews remove the barriers that blocked access by vehicle to the beach. The barriers were large poles about the size of telephone poles and a backhoe was used to pull them out of the sand.
You could now drive down the beach that had been easily accessible only to the private land owners. They were upset and were talking about boycotts and at one feisty meeting broadcast on the London TV News a resident was calling for “WAR”. The man dared use the “W” word.

It is shameful that the average Canadian is so woefully uneducated that few acknowledge that the reason this strip of land that extends far south of the 49th and boasts some of the most important agriculture and industrial lands in all of Canada are still Canada because of these First Nations and the sacrifices made by their ancestors in the War of 1812. Racism is the highest expression of ignorance.

Perhaps, I should not so quickly put the blame on the Canadian education system, it is possible that this upset owner had crossed the border from the US as many of the largest homes are owned by non-Canadians.

Enough about the past, that’s what they always say. What I do know is that the average folks around these parts are all intermarried and intermingled with the First Nations. It’s not just familial it is cultural and economic, they love our cheap smokes, cheap gas, tax free groceries, auto parts and hardware (yep tax free to all) and radio bingo.
We put millions of dollars into their businesses and the ones who know what what’s what know what’s up. There are few towns in this region that would not benefit immensely from have a First Nations in their region. That is an economic fact.
The one percenters who own land along the beach front have the media jumping and the trolls working overtime online, but there's nothing on fire. Once again it's all smoke and mirrors.


Two Crazy White Men let the Crazy White Man in Charge Go to War

It became known as acts of terrorists that were somehow connected to the web of international terror and the rise of radical Islam; but it was Two crazy White Guys. The actions of these individuals struck to the heart of Canadian society but it was still just Two Crazy White Guys. Two Crazy White Guys seen crazy shit from Crazy people and they murdered. It had nothing to do with anyone else other that these were terrible men and their minds were driven by and with hateful insanity.
The Stephen Harper government used the actions of Two Crazy White Guys to commit our country to war against ISIS and enact who know what laws to limit our speech and our dissent. These are dangerous times.



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Thursday, December 18, 2014

2014 - The Year in Music

2013 was the year Idle No More smashed Canadian complacency like a huge rock landing in the middle of a calm lake. 2014 saw a Tidal Wave of Native Music washing from sea to sea to sea created in that wake up call.

Canada's Conscience Award - Neil Young took up the challenge to Canada and rock n roll's conscience brought the message home. Young kicked off the year with the Honor the Treaties Tour on Sunday, January 12 at historic Massey Hall in Toronto. Young raised awareness but also money for the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation to hold back further Tar Sand developments on their territory. Dianne Krall joined in with Young for some of the tour dates although support from Canada's music and entertainment community was sadly lacking.

Worth the Wait Award - In March, the Juno's recognized George Leach with Aboriginal Album of the Year and it was well deserved. Leach's Surrender came 12 years after his much loved debut album "Young Enough". It showcased a musician and songwriter expressing his art at the height of his talents. He continued to exercise his love of traditional and gutbucket blues while spicing up the disc with straight up rockers and more experimental sounds that veered into the pop polish of Coldplay. It was a great second album. Hey George, don't make us wait so long for the next one.

MTV's Rebel Music - MTV chose Supaman's Prayer Loop Song for it's video of the Week in March of this year and it signaled that the Music broadcaster south of the border was seeing rumblings of a musical revolution. MTV followed up that promise later in the year with the broadcast of Rebel Music which showcased Witko, Inez Jasper, Frank Waln, and Nataani Means.

Breakthrough of the Year Award-  The Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Science gets the breakthrough of the year for awarding A Tribe Called Red the Juno for Breakthrough Group of the Year. Perhaps the glass ceiling won't be completely repaired by the time the Juno nominees are decided for 2015. If all the Native Artists are in one category and there is no room for us in the other categories then we will know.

Idle No More Anthems - Tara Williamson's Come My Way makes me want to blockade the railway and fall in love all at the same time.
Nadjiwan released Broken Treaty Blues which brought the message with a bumping guitar riff, war drum beats and angry chants.

Songs for our Missing and Murdered - Pray Sister Pray was the first single released from Crystal Shawanda's The Whole World's Got the Blues and it was no doubt intentional. In this powerhouse song Crystal lays down one of the harshest lines of the year a cold hard slap in the face of Canadian false humility. "They're just glad another is gone." The prayer at the end of the song is for all of us.
In the song Bella from Leela Gilday's fantastic disc Heart of the People, she sings, "They say we're still to blame for the things that happened to us." It was the truth and it was painful and defiant.
Shawnee who released one of the year's best rock EP's Let It Burn also released a single Canadian Cry to speak out against the silence and asking, "How can you sleep at night?"

Heart Tugger of the Year Award - Rellik's Hank Williams meets Tupac Shakur ballad The Hour about his late mother is beautiful and sad in all the right ways. The guitar is simple and soulful, Nathan Cunningham adds the hook and you have a song that deserves the names referenced.

Biggest WTF Moment of the Year 
- In June, Billy Ray Cyrus is the headliner at Aboriginal Day Live. The organizers must have thought this would bring some much needed mainstream media attention to the event. The only way that would have happened with Billy Ray Cyrus as a headliner is if he twerked his bum against Robin Thicke's crotch during the performance. This is one of the great years for Aboriginal Music and...and...WTF?

B-O-M-B of the Year - A Tribe Called Red dropped a bomb right on American Thanksgiving when they released Burn Your Village to the Ground. The single was trending on Twitter that day and the Huffington Post had it on their front page. The single builds around a speech by Wednesday Addams from the movie Addams Family Values. Wednesday shares that the Native Americans have learned the true intentions of the settlers and will now burn their village down. It is hilarious and menacing and you can dance to it. It may well become a Thanksgiving Classic.

How We Got our Groove Back Award - This was the year in which Native music reclaimed it’s sexuality in a big way. Meet Me at the Pow Wow by Lightning Cloud and Leonard Sumner was filled with cultural references, inside jokes, questionable pickup lines and a singalong chorus for the Men and for the Women. It was the Snagging Anthem of year. Digging Roots goes All Night Long to kickoff their For the Light album. Raven is singing about going deep enough for you baby and he doesn't mean his baritone. I played Crystal Shawanda's Cry Out For More at 2 in the afternoon on my radio show and I was blushing....my, my, Crystal.
It would seem to be some kind of cosmic karma that the original Native American come-on classic would make a comeback forty years later. It was certainly cosmic.

Come back of the Year - Red Bone's Come and Get Your Love was featured in Guardians of the Galaxy which became the biggest movie of the year and the top selling soundtrack of the year.
RedBone's funky classic kicked off the movie that many people are calling a Star Wars for a new generation. The song written by the late Lolly Vegas was the first song by a Native American group to reach the top of the billboard charts. Ring up a few more number ones to that list after this year.

Debut of the Year - Rikki Linklater's The Last Time sounded like Taylor Swift was making the kind of music that made us fall in love with Taylor Swift in the first place.

Album of the Year – Crystal Shawanda – The Whole World’s Got the Blues. This is the best album in a very, very good year. Not just for Native Music but for Canadian music. It is the Golden Age. The star on this glorious year in music is Crystal. I don't think it was easy to make this record. A continuation in the new country genre would be the critical and commercial safe bet. Crystal broke down all the barriers and released the album that sounds like the record she was born to make...bluesy, ballsy, hot and heartbreaking.
Crystal may have come up in Country but her voice always had a raw edge that was too much for Country to contain.  She's more Janis Joplin and Etta James than Martina McBride and "The Whole World's got the Blues" let's us hear that voice. This isn't computerized. The pain, the anger and the pleasure; it's all right here. The lyrics delve into the deepest darkest regions of the soul of Canada itself. It is the best album of the year in Canada. It may be the best album of 2014.

Collaboration of the Ages Award - Dawn Star Rising is the first truly Canadian contribution to the world of ballet. The story of the two young Native People who find that their lives in the city remain imprisoned in the cycle of violence and rape that began in the Indian Residential Schools. There are many moments of breathtaking beauty and heartbreaking silence in this historic work. There is a moment towards the end of the performance. A women is singing a solo hand drum song and it is filled with hope and is gorgeous at the highest. Then the strings come in. The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra joins in with the drum and it takes all I have not to break down and start crying. Maybe there is hope for us to make something beautiful together after all.

Tanya Tagaq Wins Polaris Prize- It is the most prestigious award in Canadian contemporary music and this year the winner was Tanya Tagaq's Animism. Tagaq's selection continues the tradition of the Polaris where winners are often the most complex and challenging music of the year. I am not going to lie to you. I didn't get Tanya's music. I understood it. I respected what she was doing. But that's not what music is about. That is not what art is about. If you can't feel it, you don't get it. 

I was fortunate to be in the audience when Dawn Star Rising made it's debut. In the beginning of the second act after you have been introduced into the reality of the residential school legacy the second half takes you into the horrors of the past. In the darkness the voice beats and we see Tanya centre stage. She moans and grunts and screams and each breath and gasp and rise and fall and fire and will and life define what words cannot. I got it.

The Tour of The Year - Red Ride 2014 featured Kristi Lane Sinclair and Cris Doerksen two artists who are making some of the most dynamic music around. They performed with special guests including George Leach, Iskwe, Nick Sherman and others on every stop of the tour and we can only hope that the Red Ride continues to roll and grow.

Industry Builder We're Gonna Miss Her Award - Miss Melissa is heading to the Desert and a new gig at a rock n roll station in Phoenix Arizona. She built Streetz FM with her bare hands and the proverbially blood, sweat, and tears. The National Aboriginal Music Countdown is an institution that was built on the credibility of her voice and personality. 

Language in the Music Award - Tall Paul put his Prayers in a Song and showcased the struggle to maintain your identity in this world and threw down a challenge for our own community when he rapped how culture is "More than Frybread and Contest Powwows." Digging Roots brought in the flavour of the language to the title track of their album To The Light.

Drop the Mic on 2014 Award: The year ended with Derek Miller dropping his latest disc Rumble. Miller covers the Link Wray classic Rumble which has the distinction of being the only instrumental to be banned from the airwaves for being dangerous. That's how you end a year.


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This is just what I heard. Great new music from a number of artists that didn't make the list but deserved to be heard such as Teagan Littlechief, Hugh Poorman, Janet Panic, Donny Paranteau, Gary Farmer and the Trouble Makers, Murray Porter, Kinnie Star and on and on. Here are other lists of artists and music that you might want to check out.

RPM's Best Indigenous Music 2014

RPM'S Best Indigenous Videos 2014