Nikamon ohci askiy : songs because of the land
Cree worldview (nêhiyawin) is land-based and also intrinsically related with sound and identity. To speak the language means to sound the worldview. One definition of what ‘nêhiyaw’ means is to be four-directional, so it is feasible to imagine a process of ‘sounding’ into one’s environment to achieve a very dynamic sense of groundedness and place. Songlines is the method of mapping the land melodically, lyrically and rhythmically – practiced by many indigenous people around the world since time immemorial.
Pre-contact, indigenous people from this land now known as Canada traveled extensively, having much larger territories than current day reserves and settlements. These lands would be seasonally traversed, tracking animals, gathering plants for sustenance and finding shelter and places to camp to endure the extremes the seasons offered. There were places within these territories that were gathering sites, some for trade and others for ceremony. With the onslaught of newcomers to this land, forts and settlements were strategically situated where indigenous people naturally congregated. These places have grown into the many North American cities we know today.
Many of these cities share similar architectural aesthetics and planning systems. The materials to construct buildings are largely no longer regionally derived, yet these structures eventually become part of the land and create sonic corridors and new avenues for travel.
With our relationship to the land shifting, so too has our ability to how we listen to and understand the land changed. Though we may have a genetic memory of how things were done, sometimes we’ve forgotten why or the deep layers of intent that made the activity so robust a part of our responsibility in keeping the world turning. Louis Riel said, "My people will sleep for one hundred years when they awake, it will be the artists who give them their spirit back." It seems that it is the artists and musicians who are tapping into these ancient modus operandi and bringing back ways of relating to the world around us.
Cheryl L’Hirondelle will speak about her current contemporary audio mapping/songwriting of Vancouver and Toronto on this land now known as Canada and share insights and anecdotes from this meaningful performative, musical and sonic activity.