Aboriginal People in the Arts: Jared Bigcanoe

Jared Bigcanoe

Jared Bigcanoe

St. Mary’s First Nation held their annual Pow Wow earlier this summer; an event filled with cultural pride and endless fun. JEDI was there to experience the mesmerizing showcase in full force.

During the weekend we also caught up with guest host-drummer Jared Bigcanoe to learn more about Pow Wow culture and Jared's experience in a travelling drum group.

Jared hails from Georgina Island First Nation in Ontario. He is a drummer for the group Chippewa Travellers and has been drumming since he was 3 years old. He became interested in drumming at a young age when he would listen in and observe local drum groups in his Anishinabe community.

This is the Chippewa Travellers second year to perform at the St. Mary’s Pow Wow. According to Jared, traveling makes up his livelihood. Aside from performing at Pow Wows all across Turtle Island, Jared also raps and engages in community work with First Nations youth throughout the country.

“That’s my living," said Jared. "It’s spent between Pow Wows, doing shows and community work with youth - educating them about diabetes and different causes. To come here, all the way out here, and share our music with the people, that’s a big thing.”

Pow Wows are big indeed; with many protocols that both performers and observers must follow. Each song serves a purpose and types of songs can vary greatly.

“There are different songs requested, like honor songs and round dance songs,” Jared said, “but for a good group, their job is to sing the appropriate song for the appropriate time… there are a lot of protocols with Pow Wows.”

Along with knowing formalities, Jared insists there is also a degree of responsibility involved with the Pow Wow arts. The culture, songs, and dances are sacred and need to be expressed and treated with respect and care.

“You want to portray the culture in the right way, so it’s always looked at in a positive light,” he said. You’re actually applying healing when you sing. The dancers might get healing from what you do, the people watching will get healing from it too.”

Under the name “J-Rez”, Jared Bigcanoe shows healing and power through Hip-Hop as well.

“I go to clubs and try to do the whole 'I’m a rapper' thing, but then there’s the part of the whole responsibility thing we were talking about - you’re giving a gift. I have to talk to the youth and tell them to chase their dreams - it’s very real. It’s important that someone who is chasing their dreams comes in and shares their story with them.”

Jared said it took him his whole life to reach the position he’s at today. Through his hip-hop music, drumming, and community work, his lifestyle is underlined by a strong sense of responsibility; an obligation to give back to his fellow First Nation people.