Some of Canada’s most admired Indigenous musicians will perform on traditional unceded territory of the Squamish Nation / Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw. The Snotty Nose Rez Kids, Blackie & The Rodeo Kings, Digging Roots, and Aysanabee will be at Ambleside Park on Sunday (July 23) for the 100th Amalgamation Day Festival.
The free, all-ages event runs from noon to 10 p.m. The event will celebrate the centenary of when 16 Sḵwx̱wú7mesh villages amalgamated in 1923.
One of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh’s great leaders, Andy Paull, helped draft proposals for amalgamation, according to an article in the Tyee. Paull learned how to practice law working in a legal office. However, he never became a lawyer because that would have meant giving up his Indian status.
At the July 23 festival, several Squamish Nation / Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw artists will also be on-stage, including the rock band Bitterly Divine at 5:30 p.m. Other Squamish / Sḵwx̱wú7mesh performers, Sekawnee, Sekyoya, and Sierra Baker and DJ O Show, will entertain the crowd at 3 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., respectively.
Earlier in the day, there will be community drumming and singing, as well as performances by the Welth Tima Kexwusem Dance Group and Xwmélch’tstn Powwow Dance Crew.
The festival comes shortly after the headliner, Snotty Nose Rez Kids (845 p.m.) and Aysanabee (4:35 p.m.) both made the shortlist for the prestigious Polaris Prize. Snotty Nose Rez Kids—comprised of the Haisla duo Quinton “Yung Trybez” Nyce and Darren “Young D” Metz—are nominated for I’m Good, HBU?. Oji-Cree recording artist Aysanabee is recognized for his debut concept album Watin.
Amalgamation Festival includes JUNO winners
This marks the fourth time that Snotty Nose Rez Kids have been shortlisted for the Polaris Prize, which comes with a $50,000 cheque. Snotty Nose Rez Kids and Aysanabee will both perform at a gala on September 19 at Massey Hall in Toronto where the winner will be announced.
Snotty Nose Rez Kids recently secured four nominations for Western Canadian Music Awards, which will be presented in October. They’re up for Indigenous Artist of the Year, Rap & Hip Hop Artist of the Year, Recording of the Year for I’m Good, HBU?, and Songwriter(s) of the Year for “Hot Planet”.
Meanwhile, the JUNO-winning Blackie and the Rodeo Kings (7:35 p.m.) was not thought of as an Indigenous band for many years. That’s because co-founder Tom Wilson didn’t learn about his Indigenous heritage until he was 53 years old.
Watch Blackie and the Rodeo Kings’ cover version of “If I Had a Rocket Launcher” by Bruce Cockburn.
Digging Roots send a message of hope
Wilson’s memoir, Beautiful Scars: Steeltown Secrets, Mohawk Skywalkers and the Road Home, tells the story. He often visited his grandparents in Kahnawake without knowing their true connection to him.
Another big draw at the festival, Digging Roots (6:35 p.m.) captured the 2023 JUNO for Contemporary Indigenous Group of the Year. One of its founders, ShoShona Kish, has also gained great respect by co-creating the Indigenous and female-owned Ishkodé Records with singer-songwriter Amanda Rheaume. They signed Aysanabee, a former CTV journalist, to Ishkodé.
As musicians, Kish and her husband, guitarist Raven Kanatakta, write hopeful songs that speak to Indigenous experiences. Their song “AK-47”, for example, was inspired by the Oka Crisis in 1990. Check it out below.
Watch the video for “AK-47” by Digging Roots.