Edmonton

Alberta Indigenous group receives 7th Grammy Award nomination

In the Cree language, pakoseymiowin means hope. It's a word on Steve Wood's mind as Northern Cree, the drumming and singing group he leads, received a Grammy nomination Monday.

‘We need positive stories for our young people so that they know that they can aspire to great things’

Members of Northern Cree pose before a performance at Rogers Place for the Edmonton Oilers season opener. (Facebook)

In the Cree language, pakoseymiowin means hope. It's a word on Steve Wood's mind as Northern Cree, the drumming and singing group he leads, received a Grammy nomination Monday.

"To be honest, I didn't think we'd be nominated again in this lifetime," said Wood.

He believed that because the Native American music category no longer exists.

But to his surprise, Northern Cree was nominated for best regional roots music album pitting them against non-Indigenous music very different from theirs.

The group's members are spread throughout Treaty 6 territory in Alberta.

They've been making music and playing powwows for close to 30 years. And as some members have moved on and others have died, younger members have joined up.

Steve Wood, Northern Cree's leader, teaches daily Cree classes to students at Ermineskin Junior Senior High. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

Wood lives in Maskwacis, teaching Cree at Ermineskin Junior Senior High. He's proud of the Cree culture and teachings, and hopes the group's nomination will inspire people of his First Nation and elsewhere.

"We need positive stories for our young people so that they know that they can aspire to great things and they don't have to be anybody else. They can be themselves."

The nomination comes at a time when Indigenous music is making waves in mainstream music. The songs of Northern Cree have been sampled by DJ Shub, A Tribe Called Red,  Santigold, and M.I.A.

Just two years ago the singers played for 50,000 people in London's Trafalgar Square, taking the stage before the Tragically Hip.

Wood embraces the rise in popularity.

But he says he still hears from people who believe traditional drums should be played only by Indigenous people for Indigenous people.

"It's meant for everyone," he said. "When I see in the U.S. in some schools where non-Native kids are taking up drumming, I think that's awesome. Why not? It's our music but we're sharing it."

A seventh nomination means Wood and his band members will get another chance to hit the stage if they finally win a Grammy. They've prepared speeches before and Wood says this year's will be about unity.

"If we ever garner that award, what do you think we're going to do with it first? We're going to bring it to places like this. To schools to show the kids that anything is possible."

The 59th Grammy Awards will be held on Feb. 12, and the Northern Cree members will be in attendance cradling pakoseymiowin.

@Travismcewancbc

now