2-Spirit Cree singer releases video about journey from struggle to hope

A 19-year-old two-spirit Cree singer and educator credits art and music with saving their life and honours their mother and first love in a new single and video Love is up the River.

19-year-old now works with Indigenous art and music programming group, inPath

Cree singer and art educator Angel Baribeau has released a single and video called Love is up the River about her journey to happiness and self-expression through art. (Submitted by N'we Jinan Records)

A nineteen year old Quebec two-spirit Cree singer and educator credits art and music with saving their life, and honours their mother and a first love in a new single and video.

Angel Baribeau, who goes by they/them pronouns, says the song Love is up the River is about the first woman they ever loved and the video is dedicated to the first woman who loved them — their mother, Mary. 

"The video is my journey and me getting ready to go on my journey," said Baribeau. "It's my mom who helps me prepare for that, just like in my everyday life." 

Their mom is also one of the first people Baribeau came out to when they were just 12 or 13-years-old and struggling with their mental health.

"When you're growing up in communities where being queer is looked down upon, you're always nervous about these things," said Baribeau. 

We have to acknowledge that art saves lives- Angel Baribeau, singer and Mikw Chiyâm educator

"When I did tell her, it was a terrifying moment, because my mom is my hero," said Baribeau. 

Baribeau said it meant a great deal to have Mary's support. 

"She said 'I don't care. I just love you,'" said Baribeau. "To know that my mom loves me regardless, it just really took a huge weight off my shoulders." 

Baribeau also said a music workshop that came to their northern Quebec community of Mistissini when they were 13 helped them a great deal. 

Attended music workshop

"My friend Christina actually had to hold my hand to force me to be in the room because I was uncomfortable in acknowledging that I was a singer," said Baribeau, adding music educator David Hodges and his traveling studio and music mentorship program, N'we Jinan, helped them find their voice. 

"When N'we Jinan entered my life I didn't even believe I was an artist. They helped me see that I am. I'm a singer, songwriter and so much more." 

For Baribeau's mom, Mary Petawabano-Baribeau, the music workshop, and all that has come after, has been an important part of Baribeau's journey to happiness. 

"When she was in the N'we Jinan program she started talking to me and my husband, telling us what kind of life she wants to live," said Mary in Cree. "I saw that she had a talent in singing and doing art, this is where I saw that she was good in anything she did." 

Angel Baribeau in the first year of the first year of Mikw Chiyâm program in 2015 at the N'we Jinan Festival in Mistissini. (Submitted by Catherine Orr)

The video for Love is up the River, which was released yesterday, opens with Mary helping Baribeau prepare for their journey. Mary also gives Baribeau a moose hide bundle.

"It signifies that I am letting her choose the life she wants to pursue and also to honour and to teach her our Cree way of life," said Mary in Cree. "I know she's keen about wanting to learn our Cree culture and traditions."

Works as an educator

Baribeau now works for inPath, the umbrella organization which includes the N'we Jinan music program and Mikw Chiyâm, a Quebec Cree School Board Arts Education Concentration Program, among other programs.

Baribeau is currently working as an artist in residence in Waskaganish for Mikw Chiyâm, something they said means a great deal to them and brings them full circle from that 13-year-old struggling with their mental health. 

"I think one of the most important things that we have to acknowledge is that art saves lives," said Baribeau. 

'My mom is my hero,' said Angel Baribeau. The video for Love is up the River features Baribeau's mother, Mary. (Submitted by N'we Jinan Records)

"Before Mikw Chiyâm we just had these regular classes ... they weren't geared toward having the student actually express themselves. It was more like here's something to do, do it and here's your mark," said Baribeau.

"I know for a fact [these programs] save lives because they saved mine."

Love is up the River is the first single from Baribeau's album For Those I Love(d) which will be released this April.