As we inch closer to Canada’s 150th birthday, it’s important to remember that for many, it’s a stark reminder of 150 years of oppression, colonization, erasure, and violence. Many are quick to hail Justin Trudeau’s government as an ally for indigenous people, but in the last week alone, its inadequacy has been glaring; from a blundering dedication of a dilapidated embassy building, to suggesting indigenous leaders need to show “responsibility” before receiving government funding, the Trudeau government has exemplified that non-indigenous people cannot truly comprehend, speak on, and address indigenous communities.
That’s why Nunavut’s The Jerry Cans have recorded a cover of The Tragically Hip’s hit, “Ahead By A Century,” entirely in Inuttitut, an Inuit dialect. Hip frontman Gord Downie’s advocacy on behalf of indigenous communities has been well-documented, and The Jerry Cans’ rendition of Downie’s song continues the conversation, repositioning it to empower and serve indigenous people directly. It also does what non-indigenous advocates have largely failed to do: allow indigenous communities to speak for themselves. Repositioning this mainstream Canadian classic to raise awareness for and celebrate indigenous communities, languages and traditions is striking and encouraging, and regardless of if you’re celebrating this Saturday, this should be put on blast.
Nancy Mike, who sings and plays accordion in The Jerry cans, articulates the importance of the cover: “In the north we are proud, we are strong, and we are resilient. We know what is best for addressing the issues in our communities. Our version of ‘Ahead By A Century’ into Inuttitut was our way of continuing a conversation that has been going on for many many years.”
Guitarist and vocalist Andrew Morrison adds, “With all that is going on in Canada we see our version of ‘Ahead by a Century’ as the north responding to some of what Gord [Downie] said in his final concert. Especially with all the issues we see with celebrating the idea of ‘Canada 150’. The last 150 years have been the root cause of so many issues we see everyday in Nunavut. We can’t forget that.”
The Jerry Cans are on tour right now. Check out dates below.
TORONTO, ON: Nathan Phillips Square, Canada 150, June 30
TORONTO, ON: Mel Lastman Square, Canada Day July 1
SUDBURY, ON: Northern Lights Festival, July 6
LONDON, ON: Sunfest, July 7+9
KITCHENER, ON: Jultrun World Music Festival, July 8
GUELPH, ON: Hillside Festival, July 14-16
HUNSTVILLE, ON: Huntsville Festival of the Arts, July 19
MONCTON, NB: Mosaiq Multicultural Festival, July 21
TORONTO, ON: Harbourfront Centre, July 22
VANCOUVER, BC: Larwill Park, July 27
WINNIPEG, MB: The Forks, Aug 2
KASLO, BC: Kaslo Jazz Etc. Festival, Aug 4
EDMONTON, AB: Edmonton Folk Festival, Aug 11-13
KUUJJUAQ, NU: Aqpik Jam, Aug 14-16
OWEN SOUND, ON: Summerfolk, Aug 17-19
BLACK MOUNTAIN, NC: LEAF Festival, Oct 19-21
YELLOWKNIFE, NT: Chateau Nova Ballroom, Nov 18