Home Feature 5 songs of empowerment for National Indigenous People’s Day

5 songs of empowerment for National Indigenous People’s Day


We were trying to decide how to celebrate National Indigenous People’s Day here at Roots Music Canada when that word “celebrate” kinda jumped out at us.

Indigenous People’s Day is often described as a celebration of culture and resilience, so we decided to feature a few songs by Indigenous artists that are both celebratory and empowering.

Chances are, none of these songs are new to you, and that’s kind of the point.

They’re the ones many of us come back to to reignite hope for a healed world.

Here are some of our favourites.

Digging Roots – ‘The Healer”

This song, from the duo’s latest album, Zhawenim, is a literal “fuck you” to centuries of oppresion. It’s also a promise to future generations that better days are coming, and they will one day dream in their language again. The driving beat and mantra-like repetition of “no more, no more suffing” give this song the intensity of a revolutionary anthem.

Buffy Sainte-Marie – “Starwalker”

Before there was “The Healer,” there was “Starwalker,” originally released on Buffy’s 1976 Sweet America album. She said she wrote it in response to watching people heal from the after-effects of trauma, such as alcoholism. She told CBC it captures the “incredible energy” of contemporary Indigenous people, adding, “Because of what our ancestors went through for us, I sing ‘Starwalker’ for all our generations past, and all our generations yet to come.”

Julian Taylor – “Seeds”

This song, from Julian’s latest album, Beyond the Reservoir, was inspired by a message from his cousin after a ground-penetrating radar search turned up evidence of children’s remains burried on the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. It contained the phrase that became the lyrical hook in this song: “they tried to burry us, but they didn’t know we were seeds.” Nuff said.

Midnight Shine – “Survivor”

Originally released on the band’s 2018 album High Road, “Survivor” was rereleased as a single in 2021 following the discovery of the remains of 215 children at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. This time, it was dedicated to Residential School survivors. The song is a powerful, moving anthem about never giving up hope.

Eagle and Hawk – “Sundancer”

Originally released on the band’s 2008 album Sirensong as “Song for the Sundancer,” it was reworked in 2021 and dedicated to frontline workers during the pandemic. The late Vince Fontaine said the song was writen “for the Sundancer in our Community, the Sacred People that are doing the sacrifice, commitment and prayer for us, keeping the tradition.”





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