Buffy Sainte-Marie takes us behind the Juno Awards' first televised land acknowledgment
'I was handed a piece of paper and I was asked to read it. It was in lawyer talk, and I objected,' she says
In 2017, the Juno Awards asked Buffy Sainte-Marie to read a land acknowledgement to kick off the broadcast — the first time an acknowledgement would be included on the broadcast. As such, Sainte-Marie wanted to make sure to get it right.
"There's really a backstory to that because in the morning of the awards presentation, I was handed a piece of paper and I was asked to read it. It was in lawyer talk, and I objected," she says.
Sainte-Marie dropped all the legalese and put it in her own words, beginning by recognizing that they were in Ottawa, "on unsurrendered territory of the Algonquin Anishinaabe nation.... whose families have lived on this territory for thousands and thousands and thousands of years and whose cultures and presence have nurtured and continue to nurture this land."
Dropping the formal speech and making it more personal not only made for a more significant moment, but Saint-Marie says it also helps "people understand it more, and I think a lot of people have followed suit."
Following the acknowledgement, A Tribe Called Red and Tanya Tagaq performed, showcasing the breadth and depth of creativity across Indigenous and Inuit communities.
"What the Junos very wisely and beautifully did, I think, is to follow the land acknowledgement with A Tribe Called Red, who aren't much like me, and Tanya, who is not very much like either one of us, and it just plain all works together because that's the reality of life," she says.
Treaty and territory acknowledgements have existed in Indigenous cultures for centuries, but have only been used more regularly by settler populations in the last decade.
While Sainte-Marie admits that they could have happened sooner, she's more focused on the present and "glad that it's happening at all," she says. "Can you believe it? It was such an honour to be a part of that."
Watch Buffy Sainte-Marie's full My Junos Moment above, and catch up on all the moments at the links below.
Wherever you are in the world, you can tune in to the 2021 Juno Awards on Sunday, June 6. You can watch live on CBC TV and CBC Gem, listen on CBC Radio One and CBC Music and stream globally at CBCMusic.ca/junos.