In the shadow of Canada’s 150th anniversary celebrations, once-obscure Indigenous musicians from across North America gathered in Toronto to perform songs fused to the land of their ancestors

On a Monday evening in August, I am sitting at a Holiday Inn in downtown Toronto with John Angaiak, a Yup’ik Inuit musician who has travelled more than 4,300 miles to get here. The bar is closing early; a glass of last-call red wine sits in front of him. As soon as we are introduced, he proudly shows me photos of his wife and daughter from his wallet and describes his life back in Homer, Alaska, in plain words that sound lifted from his own lyrics. “I live far away by the ocean,” he says. “I catch and eat fresh fish; I paint; I write songs. If you come visit, I’ll cook for you.”

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