@The Feldman Agency
Indigenous tenor Jeremy Dutcher uses time onstage at the Junos to speak on music and reconciliation
There is one speech from last night’s Juno awards that everyone’s still talking still about today (March 18).
It came when the Arkells received the night`s award for best rock album, but was actually delivered by Tobique First Nation tenor Jeremy Dutcher, who earlier had received the 2019 award for Indigenous album of the year for Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa.
Dutcher began his acceptance speech in his native Wolastoqey language.
"Psi-te npomawsuwinuwok, kiluwaw yut," he said, which, according to CBC News, translates to, "All my people, this is for you!"
"Our music is not niche," Dutcher said in reference to his fellow nominees in the category of best Indigenous Album. "Our music is saying something. I love you all, thank you so much for the art that you make. And I`ll thank you all in person later.
The Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet) member of the Tobique First Nation then used his microphone to talk about reconciliation and addressed the Prime Minister directly.
"Justin, Mr. Trudeau," Dutcher said, "a nation-to-nation relationship does not look like pipelines. A nation-to-nation relationship does not look like sending militarized police force into unceded territory. And a nation-to-nation relationship does not look like, in 2019, our communities still on boiled-water advisory.
"This means so much to me," he continued. "I hope to continue to share and use this platform to tell truth. We can all do better. Reconciliation—" At that point, music began to play to signal to Dutcher that his time was up. "Well, there we go. Thank you so much," Dutcher said before walking off stage.
Then, toward the end of the evening, the Arkells won the award for best rock album. And instead of making a speech for themselves, frontman Max Kerman invited Dutcher back up to the stage.
"This is what holding space looks like," Dutcher said, beginning his second speech of the evening.
"As I was saying, réconciliation. Reconciliation. It’s a lofty goal. It’s a dream. And it doesn’t happen in a year. It takes time. It takes stories. It takes shared experience. It takes music. I have hope. I have to. That we can come to right relations with each other.
"If we’re not on the same page, at least we’re in the same book.
"I just want to say this," Dutcher said. He then switched into the Indigenous Wolastoqey language, and continued: "Nihkaniyayon ktpitahatomonen, ciw weckuwapasihtit. Nit leyic," which, according to CBC News, translates to, "When you lead us, think of all of us, for the ones yet born. May that be the truth."
Later still, answering reporters’ questions backstage, Dutcher spoke more about connections between music and reconciliation.
"I feel an immense sense of responsibility to do this work, and to have a spotlight and a platform to share truths and to talk about the difficult dream we have in this country," he said. "Of actually working together. I hope to make that a reality, but I think we need to be on the same page first, and so there is some things we need to sort out. And so I hope to step into that role as a truth teller, to share music. Because I feel like, actually, it’s in beauty that we move forward, you know?
"We can sit and we can hold signs and shake fingers, and this is important," Dutcher continued. "It’s important to take space. But when we change hearts, it comes in beauty. And so for me, I take the responsibility of being a conveyor of beauty very seriously."
Travis Lupick is a journalist based in Vancouver and the author of Fighting for Space: How a Group of Drug Users Transformed One City`s Struggle with Addiction. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.