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Kelly Fraser, Juno-nominated Inuk singer-songwriter, dead at 26

Kelly Fraser, a Juno Award-nominated Inuk singer-songwriter originally from Sanikiluaq, Nunavut, who had been living in Winnipeg, has died at age 26.

Born in Nunavut, living in Winnipeg, Fraser's Inuktitut cover of Rihanna's Diamonds went viral

Inuk singer-songwriter Kelly Fraser, who rose to fame through YouTube for her Inuktitut cover of Rihanna's Diamonds and later earned a Juno Award nomination, has died at 26. (CBC)

Kelly Fraser, an acclaimed Inuk singer-songwriter from Sanikiluaq, Nunavut, who had been living in Winnipeg, has died at age 26.

Fraser's music, and her advocacy on behalf of youth and Inuit throat singing, gained her a faithful following.

The cause of Fraser's death earlier this week in the Manitoba capital hasn't been announced.

Fraser started on guitar at age 11 and formed a band at 15. She rose to fame in 2013 after her sparkling Inuktitut cover of Rihanna's Diamonds went viral.

Fraser released her first album, Isuma, in 2014. Her second album, Sedna in 2017, was nominated for best Indigenous music album at the 2018 Juno Awards honouring Canadian music.

Fraser also received the 2019 Indspire Award, recognizing First Nations, Inuit and Métis individuals who demonstrate outstanding achievement.

She used her celebrity to promote Inuit rights and speak out against colonization and stereotyping, noting that many Inuit continue to deal with trauma from residential schools and forced relocation, along with food insecurity, high costs of living and high suicide rates in Nunavut.

At the time, she said it was important for her to reach Inuit youth because they are the ones who are going to make positive change.

Juno-nominated Inuk singer-songwriter Kelly Fraser died at the age of 26 in Winnipeg. Tributes are pouring in as she is remembered for her music and her advocacy for Indigenous languages, youth and Inuit throat singing. 2:08

"I'm proud that these songs are helping not only Inuit youth, not only native youth, but people of all walks of life," she said. 

"I'm really proud of being Inuk and I'm really proud that I have a lot of support from Inuit from all across the Arctic."

More recently, Fraser told CBC that beyond her love of singing, she made music "to make my culture stronger and my language stronger."

Fraser talks of cultural pride in CBC doc

In September 2018, CBC released a documentary about the Inuit artist titled Kelly Fraser: Fight for the Rights as part of The National's series Seen & Heard: Intimate stories of extraordinary lives. In it, Fraser said she wanted to increase cultural pride among youth in her community.

Watch the story below.

CBC has been in touch with Fraser's family, who has asked for privacy at this time.

No funeral arrangements have been announced.

A GoFundMe campaign to support her siblings was launched Thursday.

In 2013, Kelly Fraser's Inuktitut translation of Rihanna's Diamonds went viral. 3:36

If you need help or are in crisis, you can call the Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868, or the First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Help Line at 1-855-242-3310.

Clarifications

  • This story has been edited to state Kelly Fraser was from Sanikiluaq, Nunavut. She was born in Igloolik but considered Sanikiluaq home.
    Dec 27, 2019 3:35 PM CT