In order for there to be some kind of mass cultural awakening, there needs to be mass recognition that society has been in a deep, ignorant slumber for centuries. Canadians have been sleepwalking through our relationships with Indigenous communities. Whether willfully ignoring or just unconsciously uneducated about the ramifications of colonialism and the residual legislation created in its wake, the actions of the past continue to resonate through our present and the future.
Kris Harper, Marek Tyler, and Matthew Cardinal of amiskwaciy in Treaty 6 Territory (Edmonton) are amplifying the resounding echo of the past. Together as nêhiyawak, the trio officially released their single “somnambulist” on July 15, 2018, the anniversary of the last spike being driven down for the Calgary and Edmonton Railway. nêhiyawak describes their song as “a ripple of the sound from the same date in 1891, when James Ross drove down the last spike at Strathcona, Alberta.”
It was “an irreversible ping,” one that hypnotized and brainwashed non-Indigenous Canadians into believing that Canada was embarking on a period of modernization; at the same time, it lulled them into ignoring the consequences of their actions on those whose land they systematically pilfered. “somnambulist” resonates with enlightenment, pulls the past into the present and offers listeners a new awakening, a new perspective, and the opportunity to set a new ripple out into the world to shape conversations and consciousness of future generations.