November 24, 2017

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Dream catcher

Vivid images awaken Indigenous artist's spirit, fuel song honouring missing, murdered sisters

Indian City</p></p>

Indian City

It was a dream that inspired local musician Vince Fontaine to write local folk-pop group Indian City’s newest single, Through the Flood.

The band’s frontman says in his dream, he was walking on the path from the Manitoba Legislative Building to The Forks and as he went, rain started to fall. The puddles got larger and deeper, but the water remained clear.

As the water level continued to rise, he suddenly found himself at the Oodena Celebration Circle, near where the Assiniboine and Red rivers meet and, to him, that was a sign that he needed to write about issues facing Indigenous peoples, especially missing and murdered women and girls.

“You know, I’m Indigenous and sometimes we have dreams, and you wake up and say, ‘OK! What is the Creator trying to say?’” he says with a laugh. “Sometimes it’s nothing, but this one was something.”

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It was a dream that inspired local musician Vince Fontaine to write local folk-pop group Indian City’s newest single, Through the Flood

The band’s frontman says in his dream, he was walking on the path from the Manitoba Legislative Building to The Forks and as he went, rain started to fall. The puddles got larger and deeper, but the water remained clear.

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As the water level continued to rise, he suddenly found himself at the Oodena Celebration Circle, near where the Assiniboine and Red rivers meet and, to him, that was a sign that he needed to write about issues facing Indigenous peoples, especially missing and murdered women and girls. 

"You know, I’m Indigenous and sometimes we have dreams, and you wake up and say, ‘OK! What is the Creator trying to say?’" he says with a laugh. "Sometimes it’s nothing, but this one was something."

Fontaine shared his dream with his daughter Gabrielle and fellow singer-songwriter Don Amero — who also happens to be an alumni of Indian City — who used the imagery to write Through the Flood, a song that made it onto Indian City’s third album, Here & Now, and will be highlighted at Saturday’s Indigenous Voices, Songs and Sounds showcase at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. 

"We wanted to be sensitive about the issue, and the song is really to honour the loved ones and families. Because there are a lot of missing and murdered women still, and we wanted to make a point of it, to show our small honouring and support," says Vince, becoming emotional as he discussed the track.

It was important to him to have a young, Indigenous woman’s perspective, which is what 19-year-old Gabrielle provides, he says. 

The event is part of the CMHR’s Canada Summer Games programming, and in addition to Vince, Amero and Gabrielle, artists Desiree Dorion, Chuck Copenace, Melissa St. Goddard and Shannon McKenney will also be performing; David McLeod, general manager of broadcaster Native Communications Inc., is on board as MC for the afternoon.

"We decided to use (the event) to complement the programming of the Canada Summer Games and the amazing festival of music that’s taking place right outside our doors in the evening, so this is happening in the afternoon and we really want visitors to the city that are here for the games to come here and, of course, be exposed to our human-rights stories, but also present this musical showcase that might help them understand some of the issues for Indigenous peoples and messages of resilience and hope that can accompany reconciliation," says Maureen Fitzhenry, the museum’s media relations manager.

"The new album, Here & Now... it’s full of hope and inspiration and resilience. It’s been called an amazing album because it really addresses Indigenous concerns and issues that people are facing today and the path ahead many of the songs suggest is a way that Indigenous and non-Indigenous people can come together in a very inclusive way.

"That’s really the heart of reconciliation, right? So that’s something that really aligns with our goals and messages and makes the partnership quite natural."

Vince — who is of Ojibwa descent — says while it was coincidental timing that Canada 150 celebrations were ramping up when Indian City was working on the album, the anniversary did have an impact on him. 

"What was interesting was we had played Canada Day in Ottawa last year and so it was like, all this stuff about Canada 150, so immediately I was like, ‘Oh wow, this is going to be great!’ And then as time went on, all these issues started coming up in my head. It wasn’t the greatest 150 years for Indigenous people, so I wanted to write some of the music about that. I guess it’s like a timeline, like an imprint 150 years later; this is what Indian City imprinted from our perspective, from our whole artistic and creative voice," he says. 

"But there is hope — we want to move past. I’ll be a bit cliché here and say we want to create the next 150 footprints, starting today."

The Indigenous Voices showcase will take place in the museum’s Canadian Journeys Gallery, which features exhibits on residential schools and the REDress project (which addresses the subject of missing and murdered women in Canada), among other topics Vince and Indian City tackle in their music. 

"It’s going to be really symbolic to physically arrive in this area that’s highlighted for these particular stories... It’s going to be really emotional to be part of that and play these songs," he says.

"I hope the public that come to it are going to have a greater sense of understanding and education about these issues and how they’re real and they’re just not in an exhibit, they’re really real. But the Indian City show isn’t just a negative, downer show; we have some positive music too, so I want people to know that. I just hope that we get a chance to share our voice."

erin.lebar@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @NireRabel

Read more by Erin Lebar .

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