SOCAN recognized Canada’s first-ever National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 30, 2021, with insight, education, and music from singer-songwriter and SOCAN Member, William Prince; opera singer and member of SOCAN’s Board of Directors Rhonda Head; and artist manager and arts administrator Alan Greyeyes.
All SOCAN staff spent the morning of the day reviewing the 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, and the 46 Articles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, as well as other reading materials, online exhibitions, videos, and resources, all to familiarize themselves with both the history and current situation of Indigenous peoples.
The afternoon consisted of an online event for all employees, executives, and the board of directors, beginning with SOCAN Vice-President of International Relations Catharine Saxberg interviewing Alan Greyeyes, member of the Peguis First Nation and owner of the artist management firm Ogichidaa Arts.
Greyeyes explained that Indigenous peoples’ rights come from being on the land “since time immemorial,” and that as such, “we’re not equity-seeking, but sovereignty-affirming.” As an arts administrator, he talked about having to apply for smaller project grants (in the tens of thousands of dollars) rather than larger, long-term operating grants (in the hundreds of thousands), for which many Indigenous organizations don’t qualify under the current rules. Although he appreciates that First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples are gaining a seat at the table of many organizations in the Canadian music ecosystem, Greyeyes said, “We need to build our own table.”
The we then viewed a video speech from Rhonda Head, member of the Opaskwayak Cree Nation, opera singer, songwriter, and newly elected member of SOCAN’s Board of Directors. A child of residential school survivors, Head discussed how they “told their stories to deaf ears,” and said that it took a lot of therapy for her to even be able to talk about it. “Getting into music saved my life,” she said, and explained how she began to adapt Italian opera passages with her own Cree language, and eventually ended up playing at world-renowned venues like the Metropolitan Opera House and Carnegie Hall in New York City. We then viewed a powerful video for her song, “500 Years.”
William Prince, member of the Peguis First Nation and winner of the 2020 SOCAN Songwriting Prize (English), capped the day with moving, heartfelt online performances of three songs: “7,” about the Indigenous Seven Grandfather Teachings of Wisdom, Love, Respect, Bravery, Honesty, Humility, and Truth; “Run,” a new song written for the 40th anniversary of the Terry Fox Run, about the kindness and empathy in the final steps of both Fox and Gord Downie; and “Wasted,” about finding inspiration wherever it may be, and following it, without wasting a single day.
SOCAN thanks Alan Greyeyes, Rhonda Head, and William Prince for providing SOCAN with the motivation to constantly and consistently pursue the truth, and improve the process, on our journey of reconciliation.