5 Manitoba artists nominated for Native American Music Awards

Five musical artists from Manitoba are nominated for awards at the Native American Music Awards, happening in Salamanca, N.Y., on Saturday.

Indian City, C-Weed, Kimberley Dawn, Billie Joe Green, Rhonda Head nominated

Manitoba artists Rhonda Head, Kimberley Dawn, Billie Joe Green, Indian City and C-Weed (not pictured) are nominated for awards at the Native American Music Awards in Salamanca, N.Y.

A group of Manitoba artists are hoping to drum up votes for their nominations at the Native American Music Awards.

Indian City (best music video), C-Weed (best country recording), Kimberley Dawn (best country recording and best female vocalist), Billie Joe Green (best blues recording) and Rhonda Head are all up for awards at the international event. The competition is open to the public to vote and winners will be announced at the event on Sept. 17 in Salamanca, New York.

Rhonda Head, a mezzo-soprano singer from Opaskwayak Cree Nation, has a song up for best historical/linguistic recording. She submitted "500 Years," which was then selected for nomination by a jury of music industry members from over 500 entries, she said.

"I was very, very proud because this is the first song that I've written and composed in my life," said Head. "I prayed for the song for the public to hear because Indigenous people, we know our story, and that song is our story."

She collaborated with Wayne Lavallee on the track, who chants in the background and plays guitar.

The song is about the history of Indigenous people, from first contact with Europeans, to the signing of the treaties, the impact of residential schools, missing and murdered women and other issues that Indigenous people face today, she said. The song is also about the attitudes of non-Indigenous people to her people's history.

Head composed the song by photographing the tree-line in areas around Opaskwayak Cree Nation and graphing it out on a musical scale.

"So, Opaskwayak, we have our own melody," she laughed. 

Dawn recently took home an award for country album of the year at the Indian Summer Music Awards. She says she's honoured to be nominated for two Native American Music Awards, because her album was made for her son, who died 3½ years ago.

"My son was special needs and always was in on the jams and basically pretended to run the band," she said, adding her band members always let him do just that.

"When he died I died. With the nominations, it signifies a dream my son had for me."

Dawn wants to thank those who have voted for and supported her, and to congratulate the other artists up for awards.

"I am always aware of the amazing talents that are also nominated in these categories and wish them all luck. All very deserving," she said. 

The Canadian Indigenous Music Awards didn't happen this year, so both Head and Dawn agree it's an honour to get recognition in the United States.

"I'm really proud to be representing northern Manitoba. These are international music awards shows. I'm excited to be there," said Head.