This year, the Juno Awards have introduced two new award categories for Indigenous artists and groups, making way for more emerging musicians to get recognition.
The categories Contemporary Indigenous Artist or Group of the Year and Traditional Indigenous Artist or Group of the Year have a total of 10 nominees between them.
“Our music, our teachings and our way of life have been swept under the carpet for so long,” said Nimkii Osawamick of Nimkii and the Niniis (which means Nimkii and the guys).
He added the two new categories are a great place to showcase Indigenous artists.
The 51st Juno Awards are scheduled to take place in Toronto on May 15 at the open-air Budweiser Stage at Ontario Place.
Nimkii and the Niniis’s debut album Nang Giizhigoong (“star realm” in Anishinaabemowin) is nominated in the traditional category.
“I wanted to keep it real and I want to keep the truth to our roots because that’s the way that I believe we’re going to decolonize ourselves,” he said.
Osawamick is from Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory and lives in Barrie, Ont. The first song on the EP is dedicated to Osawamick’s late aunt, Lilly Osawamick. He said the whole album is influenced by his family and ancestors.
Moving forward, Osawamick said he wants to work on blending together traditional and contemporary styles. He said he’s trying to create “warrior music” leading from the heart about standing strong and being proud of who you are.
“I want to take our power back and show the world where we are exactly who we are as Nishnaabeg people,” he said.
Jayli Wolf is another first-time Juno nominee whose album Wild Whisper received a nomination in the contemporary category.
She said there was initially no intention of releasing the songs while writing them because of the deeply personal content.
Wolf, who is Saulteaux, was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness in Creston, B.C., where she lived in a trailer with her maternal grandmother.
“I don’t want to be someone who is defined by my trauma in a negative way,” Wolf said.
“I want to take the light of it. I want to take the strength.”
She didn’t know her father growing up, or that he was a First Nations man. She was able to connect with him as an adult but said the relationship is complicated, so she turned to art and music to express and process her experiences.
“I was just in a very healing state of mind where I needed to cope with the trauma and the depression that I was going through, and this is the art that came out from that,” she said.
Contemporary Indigenous Artist or Group of the Year nominees
- When The Magic Hits, Adrian Sutherland
- War Club, DJ Shub
- Wild Whisper, Jayli Wolf
- Shawnee Kish, Shawnee Kish
- Life After, Snotty Nose Rez Kids
Traditional Indigenous Artist or Group of the Year nominees
- Kakike, Fawn Wood
- Singing is Healing, Joel Wood
- Manitou Mkwa Singers II, Manitou Mkwa Singers
- Nang Giizhigoong, Nimkii & the Niniis
- Angel Eagle — Cree Round Dance Songs, Young Spirit
Also, The Halluci Nation’s album One More Saturday Night is nominated for Electronic Album of the Year.