Singers and songwriters from U.S. tribes and Canada’s First Nations are using their art to honor and raise awareness of missing and murdered indigenous people. The following is a small sampling of their efforts.
The stop-motion animated video featuring the song “Little Star” was produced by Ontario filmmaker Sarah Legault.
Sung by Cree singer and songwriter iskwē, or “blue sky woman,” the song was written to protest injustice surrounding the murders of two indigenous youth in Canada — 15-year-old Tina Fontaine, a member of the Sagkeeng First Nation in Manitoba, whose body was later pulled from the Red River in Winnipeg in 2014; and Colten Boushie, 22, a member of the Red Pheasant Cree First Nation in Saskatchewan, who in 2016 was fatally shot by a white farmer. In both incidents, the cases against their accused murderers were dismissed.
Singer and composer Joanne Shenandoah is one of the most critically acclaimed Native American artists today. A member of the Wolf Clan of the Oneida Nation of the Haudenosaunee Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy and based in Syracuse, New York, Shenandoah is a founding board member of the Hiawatha Institute for Indigenous Knowledge. The song “Missing You” is an original composition, written to honor tens of thousands of missing and murdered indigenous women. The video was produced by Television, Radio and Film graduate seniors Peter Conway, Elijah Goodell and Sarah Rebetje at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.
Written by Theresa Bear Fox, a citizen of the Akwesasne Mohawk Nation whose Mohawk name is Kenkiohkoktha, “at the end of a long line,” the song is in remembrance of everyone, including the missing and murdered, who have passed on. This version of the song, with lyrics in English and Mohawk, is sung by Teio Swathe, also Mohawk. Christian Parrish Takes the Gun, an Apsáalooke (Crow) rapper and dancer known professionally as Supaman, performs the fancy dance, a style performed for nearly a century at Native American powwows.
“Through the Flood”
The Winnipeg-based Indigenous pop band Indian City, which includes guitarist, songwriter, producer and festival curator Vince Fontaine and country/folk singer/songwriter Don Amero, both Ojibwe, released “Through the Flood” in 2017. Amero has called the song a “prayer and petition for all those missing and murdered Indigenous women.”
“Pray, Sister, Pray”
The murder of a young mother from the Mikisew Cree First Nation inspired Crystal Shawanda of the Wiikwenkoong First Nation of Manitoulin Island in northern Ontario to write the song “Pray, Sister, Pray” to raise awareness about the plight of missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada. The video for the song was directed by Joseph Osawabine. The director of photography was Matthew Manitowabi. Both are fellow residents of Wiikwenkong.
“Song for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women”
Antone R. George, a citizen of the Lummi Nation in western Washington state, composed “Song for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women,” whose lyrics are a prayer: “Every day and every night, I pray, pray for you, I love and miss you. Sister, come home. Please God, please God, bring her home.” The video features the West Shore Canoe Family, one of many canoe families who participated in this year’s annual Canoe Journey, a gathering of indigenous nations from Washington state, Alaska, Canada and other locations, which this year the Lummi Nation hosted. Red hands are painted across the women’s mouths, as a symbol of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) movement. The video was produced by Children of the Setting Sun. The music was arranged and recorded by Mark Nichols.