Jeremy Dutcher is a Leader of Indigenous Renaissance

Tobique First Nation brings the prestigious Polaris Music Prize home

Jeremy Dutcher takes home the 2018 Polaris Music Prize award and declares the nation is in the middle of an Indigenous renaissance. The musician, who grew up in Tobique First Nation, is at the forefront of this renaissance having contributed what is arguably the most notable Canadian album of the year. 

Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa is the name of the album that has swept the nation off its feet. The album preserves and revitalizes a fragment of Indigenous culture in the voice and piano playing of a classically trained operatic tenor. 


The name of Dutcher’s album translates to Our Maliseet Songs. The vocals and melodies feature Dutcher’s singing and musical interpretation of wax cylinder recordings from over a century ago.  

Dutcher studied 110-year-old wax cylinder recordings of his ancestors that were kept at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Québec. The recordings were preserved by anthropologist William H. Mechling who lived with the community for seven years between 1907 and 1914. On top of recording songs, jokes, dialogues and various social interactions between the Wolastoq people in wax phonograph cylinders, the following photograph was taken by Mechling at Tobique in 1911. 

While speaking with Exclaim!, Dutcher admits that more than 20 percent of 100 songs had deteriorated to the point of being indecipherable. Most had been forgotten by his community, due to lack of access to the materials since the Indian Act of 1876.

The language of the Wolastoqiyik, whose ancestral territory is all along what is now known as the Saint John River in New Brunswick, is now spoken by fewer than a hundred fluent speakers. 

Dutcher is a graduate of Dalhousie University with a BA in Music and Social Anthropology. Research for Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa had begun long before graduation from the program in 2012. Respected elder Maggie Paul inspired Dutcher to pursue the transcription of these cylinders which eventually developed into the studio album.

Chief of Tobique First Nation, Ross Pearle, commended Jeremy for preserving the language of the Wolastoqiyik, “The chief, council and community of Neqotkuk are very proud of Jeremy receiving the Polaris award. Taking wax recordings in our maliseet language that survived the years of forced assimilation of our people and adding his musical talent to showcase internationally is very admirable. Jeremy deserves this recognition for all his hard work.”

Dutcher’s talent is reaching audiences all over the globe. After the traveling musician played the Halifax Pop Explosion at The Marquee Ballroom in Halifax on October 17, Dutcher took flight to Las Palmas, Spain to play at The World Music Expo (WOMEX). 

WOMEX is the biggest conference of the global music scene attended by thousands of professionals in the field. There is a trade fair, talks, films, a showcase festival at each annual conference. 

Over 2,600 professionals (including 303 performing artists) come together every October from more than 90 countries, making WOMEX not only the number one networking platform for the world music industry, but also the most diverse music meeting worldwide.

A collaboration with pop artist Casey MQ led to the “Pomok Naka Poktoinskwes” remix of Dutcher’s water rights’ anthem. MQ’s spin on the tune has a much faster electronic beat. While it honours the precedent, it strays away from the mellow distinguished piano and powerful vocals of Dutcher. 

The Polaris Music Prize was last won in 2016 by Colombian-Canadian electronic musician Lido Pimienta and in 2017 by Louis Kevin Celestin who is a Haitian-Canadian DJ and record producer. Dutcher’s victory harkens back to the 2015 Buffy Sainte-Marie’s Power In The Blood win. Dutcher’s album is up to par with the albums of these greats and available for purchase at Sunrise Records, iTunes and Spotify. 

A Silver Star in the Cote First Nation


Brigette Lacquette is an inspiration for all First Nations’ athletes

As Team Canada collapsed to the ice, heartbroken after losing in a shootout to their vaunted rivals, the feeling of silver was a bitter one to swallow, at least temporarily.

The game was the gold medal match of the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. There was one specific individual on the ice who had plenty to be proud of, that being the Cote born Brigette Lacquette.

Asked if in time, the silver medal will be something she will be proud of Laquette responded “Maybe with time.” Lacquette was the first First Nations hockey player named to Canada’s National Women’s team, and she played key minutes in the final match.

She tallied one assist during the Olympic games as well. The accomplishment was a long time coming, as the 26-year-old had a successful three-year career at the University of Minnesota Duluth. There, the defenceman tallied 69 points in 106 games and racked up 166 penalty minutes as her physicality was on full display.

She was born in Mallard, Manitoba, a tiny community of 150 residents. However, her roots are embedded in the Cote First Nations community, located near the border of Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Speaking with CBC, Lacquette said “My mom’s from Cote and that’s where she grew up.”

Unfortunately, she suffered from a bad form of eczema when she was young, and hockey was her refuge.

Her dad, Terance Lacquette, of Métis heritage and the O-Chi-Chak-Ko-Sipi First Nations, saw firsthand how tough it was for her and said to CBC, “When she was sitting in class, it would get itchy and she’d sweat. When she got onto the ice, she was able to hide her arms and scars and everything with her hockey equipment and she felt like just another person out there.”

She was also subjected to racist taunts, at the young age of 12. Her Dad remembers it well.

“Girls that age, you know, sometimes they get nasty and say things that they don’t mean. And on this occasion the one girl - actually a couple of them - starts saying something about Briggie and calling her a ‘dirty Indian’, ‘Go back to the reserve,’ and comments like that.”

“I could see when she came to the bench that something was bothering her, and she would have tears in her eyes, and it wasn’t the same joy that she had”.



Her perseverance through these hardships is what made her so special. One of her idols, and the reason for her love of hockey, is because of the former NHL player Jordan Tootoo. He is of Inuk heritage and the first player to grow up in Nunavut to play in an NHL game. She spoke to CBC about his impact, “Honestly, when world juniors happened in ’03, and Jordin Tootoo came on the scene, that’s when everything started. I was super amazed. He’s from up north, and he actually played in Brandon at that time too… it was a junior A team in Northern Manitoba, and I loved them.”

She also had the honour of having her Olympic hockey stick included in the Hockey Hall of Fame diversity exhibit earlier this year.

She used to be in awe of the great Canadian Women’s players like Hayley Wickenhesier, but she never had a First Nations player to look up to. Now, she is that player. She is very active in her community and surrounding tribes, knowing that all it takes is an opportunity for the next Brigette Lacquette to be found.

“It’s just very special for me to be that role model for young First Nation girls across Canada, Indigenous kids across Canada. I’m just super excited to be that person for them.”

Her father adds that “She basically kicked that door over and knocked it down and it’s not a barrier anymore in her life, and that’s something that’s important for not only her but anybody who’s faced a barrier in their life.”

The odds of a young First Nations girl from a community of 150 growing up and making   the national hockey team were miniscule. Lacquette shattered those odds and earned a silver medal while inspiring indigenous women.


Hockey Players Called "savages" and Told "go home


Racism not a thing of the past for young First Nations’ athletes

In a time that can be seemingly progressive and unprejudiced, it wasn’t the reality for a group of young boys attending a hockey tournament in Québec City this past May 2018.

The First Nation Elites Bantam AAA team was made up of players 13 and 14 years old coming from different communities across Canada.

While most of this team is made up of boys from many Cree, Atikamekw and Algonquin communities in Québec, others came from surrounding provinces including Ontario and Nova Scotia.

At the Spring hockey tournament, players and parents claimed to have been victim to racist taunts and unfair treatment by the tournament organization, including the referees. This tournament, The Coupe Challenge Quebec AAA is an annual tournament that took place for three days in late May.

Players were called “savages” by other teams’ coaching staff. In addition to such, the team’s opponents would imitate and stereotype the team by doing “war cries” on the ice and making tomahawk motions behind their backs.

Elites manager Tommy H.J. Neeposh said that this taunting was the worst he’d ever seen. To make matters worse, he said that refs, coaches, and parents simply watched it happen, and allowed it.

Neeposh managed to film some of this unacceptable behaviour in the team’s semi final game. The video itself proves that the behaviour taking place was unacceptable and repugnant in the video. The video also shows bias of the referees against the Elites. At one point, the referees had four Elites players in the penalty box at the same time.

The end of the video clearly displays a spectator, assumedly a parent, scream out the offensive words, “gang de sauvages.”

One mother, Christina Gull, told CBC that what she witnessed was hurtful and angering. “I was thinking, ‘Does this still exist. Are we in the 80s or 90s?” said Gull to CBC. She went on to tell of how the DJ of the games was playing powwow music, and other parents continuously told them to go home.

This awful behaviour was brought to the attention of the Organizer of the Coupe Challenge Québec AAA, the Bulldogs de Québec. The vice president and organizer for the Bulldogs is Richard Sevigny, who explained that what happened in the rink was out of his control.



Sevigny did explain that the situation was highly unfortunate, but that he did do a lot for the First Nation Elites before the tournament even took place. This included registering the team when the tournament was already full. Sevigny said that with regards to the referees, he would simply not hire back those specific officials.

Sevigny’s short response and quickness to accept the behaviour of the players on a “boys will be boys” mentality is not enough to oblige to these families and hockey players that were subject to atrocious racism by opponents, parents, and referees.

Unfortunately, this isn’t an isolated incident. This happens everyday in communities across Canada, and it is completely inacceptable.

Neeposh spoke to the boys following the tournament. As reported by CBC in May 2018, he told the boys “You are going to face this for the rest of your lives.” This shouldn’t be something so prevalent in the world we live in today.

This shouldn’t be the reality we are living in. These young boys will face this for the rest of their lives, but it doesn’t have to be that way.