Young Cree singer gains international attention after Edmonton climate strike

Noah Simon, 9, gained international attention when he sang moments before Greta Thunberg took the stage at last Friday's climate rally in Edmonton.

'Every time he sings, he gives me goosebumps'

Singer Noah Simon and his grandmother Carol Powder outside their Edmonton home. Simon gained international attention when he performed at a climate rally attended by Greta Thunberg in Edmonton on Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. (Kory Siegers/CBC)

Noah Simon gained international attention when he sang moments before Greta Thunberg took the stage at last Friday's climate strike in Edmonton. 

As his powerful voice rang out, the nine-year-old singer wowed thousands that day, especially his proud grandmother, Carol Powder.  

"Every time he sings, he gives me goosebumps," Powder said in an interview aired on CBC Edmonton's Radio Active on Friday. "And passing this on to him is something we need to hang on to, something we cannot lose." 

The video of Noah and Powder performing with Edmonton powwow and drum group, Chubby Cree, has had nearly a million views on CBC social media platforms.

Noah's newfound popularity gives Powder hope that Indigenous voices are starting to be heard in the climate conversation. 

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"It's a really big thing to be showing our culture out there," she said. 

Passing on heritage

Powder was encouraged to drum by her great-grandfather when she was five. 

"'In the future, you're going to be a singer,'" she recalled him saying. 

"'You're going to help bring these women back to the drum because that's where they belong. Children belong there. Why? Because that's the only time anyone's going to heal.'" 

And now she's passing on that heritage to her grandson and his siblings. 

"If I forget a song he'll start it. If he forgets a song I'll start it. So we're always looking at each other," Carol Powder said of performing with her grandson singer Noah Simon of Chubby Cree. (Kory Siegers/CBC)

Simon started singing at eight-months-old, and Powder bought him a drum when he was one.

He feels "happy and excited to sing for the people," Simon said, adding that he wasn't nervous to sing in front of the massive crowd. 

"He has no fear," Powder said. "He's always excited. He's always looking forward to go sing.

"And when he sang that song, they cheered [like] crazy," Powder said. "He just kept on going. He didn't even stop when they cheered.

"A lot of people said, 'Oh how can he make me cry, you have no right to make me cry, but it was a good cry.'"

'Singing for Mother Earth'

Powder has also taught her grandson the importance of nature. 

"I've shown Noah how to hug a tree and how a tree will hug him back and he knows that," she said. 

"I truly, truly, truly believe what we're doing is we're singing for Mother Earth," Powder said. "As we sing, we help to heal because she needs all the attention she can get with climate change today."

Powder is glad that Thunberg is raising awareness about climate action, an issue Indigenous people have been raising as well, but not getting the same scale of attention as the teenage activist. 

"What she's doing is what we're doing too at the same time," said Powder.

"She's the right race to be doing this too because they listen to her. They won't listen to us. We've been trying to cry for how long? They won't listen to us so having her there was a really great moment."

With files from Rod Kurtz