Sitting in front of his piano under a ceiling filled with lights Jeremy Dutcher put on a culture-rich performance with the help of his ancestors.
From Tobique First Nation, Dutcher combines his power opera vocals and piano with archival audio clips of his Wolastoqiyik ancestors. The Polaris Prize winner was one of the 50 artists who performed for the Shiverings Songs Festival last week.
Samaqani Cocahq and Maggie Paul opened Dutcher’s performance at Wilmot Church by hand-drumming and singing in Wolastoq. “A good way to start the show is to bring our language in and let it live on this land,” said Dutcher.
Partway through each song, Dutcher would play audio clips of his ancestors singing and talking in Wolastoq. Dutcher found this archival material, recorded over 100 years ago on wax cylinders, at the Canadian Museum of History. He incorporates the voices of his ancestors to revive Indigenous culture and bring the Wolastoq language back to his community.
During his performance, Dutcher made a light-hearted joke about the lack of respect towards Indigenous communities.
“We’re all related, we’re all brothers and sisters, so let’s act accordingly,” said Dutcher. The crowd roared with laughter and applauded in response.
Dutcher spoke to the tragic loss of the Wolastoq language, saying that there are less than 40 fluent speakers left. To involve his audience in the preservation of Wolastoq, Dutcher invited them to participate: “We’re going to learn one word tonight, woliwon, it means thank you.”
Members of the crowd began saying the word, echoing louder with each repetition, and were soon accompanied by the voices of Wolastoq song carriers from decades past.
For more information about Jeremy Dutcher and his story, read here.