National Indigenous Peoples Day #NADCanada

A small sample of First Nations and Metis friends of Six String Nation Thank goodness that National Aboriginal Day (henceforth, as I understand it, to be known as National Indigenous Peoples Day - much better, I think) precedes Canada Day. It provides a little perspective on what it is that Canadians ought to be acknowledging - especially during this year when the 150 milestone ramps up the patriotism, for better and for worse. While there is, of course, much to celebrate and much to be proud of, to be reminded of the cost paid by the indigenous people of this land for the formation of this country - and the cost that so many First Nations, Inuit and Métis individuals and communities continue to pay - should be seen as an opportunity for reconciliation and as a step on the path to being the better country we know we can and must be.

From the inception of the Six String Nation project back in 1995, it was my intention to make sure that indigenous contributions would inform the very fibre of Voyageur. There was no grand vision of atonement behind that intention - I simply wanted to make sure that inclusion was the lifeblood of the project. I also wanted to make sure that the participation of First Nations, Inuit and Métis contributors wasn't some special accommodation or some afterthought or some ghetto of pieces but that these would be woven through every aspect of the project in the same way that indigenous cultures and points of view should be woven through every aspect of our political, cultural and social life in Canada every single day. This country would not have made it to one year - let alone 150 - without the support, the guidance, the knowledge and the example of the original inhabitants of this land.

I feel the same way about the Six String Nation. It would not exist and it would not be the kind of project it is today without the support, the guidance, the knowledge, the example, the contributions and the participation of FNMI Canadians. Almost 25% of the materials that make up Voyageur and adorn the case and strap are of FNMI origin - including the two that always elicit the most profound responses from audiences at the presentation: the Golden Spruce of Haida Gwaii and Joe Labobe's oyster shucking knife. And, of course, this guitar has been played by many extraordinary FNMI artists in venues large and small across the country and we've been welcomed in indigenous communities from Haida Gwaii to Piikani to Fort Erie to Natuashish. Of all of this I am immensely proud and immensely grateful. But on this particular day I want to acknowledge a particularly special gift and honour:
Six years and one day ago I was a guest - for the second time - on William Greenland's radio show on CKLB, the Voice of the Dendeneh, in Yellowknife. Greenland is a Gwich'in elder and a musician as well as a radio host. He spent a little time playing Voyageur - both on and off the air - and before I left the station he presented me with an eagle feather that he himself had carried to First Peoples conferences all over the world. The gift of an eagle feather is truly a high honour and I am forever in awe that he considered me and the project worthy of such a gift. The feather has been secured into the case nestled next to the waist of the guitar and I only hope that I am sufficiently fulfilling William's intention of having me "continue the journey" of this eagle feather as I share the stories of the Six String Nation wherever it may take me.

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