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Boreal Community Media

Border reopening reunites North American Indigenous music scene

Nov 21, 2021 10:40AM ● By Editor
Vehicles cross the Blue Water Bridge over the St. Claire River to Port Huron, Mich., from Sarnia, Ontario, in March 2020.  Photo: Jeff Kowalsky | AFP via Getty Images 2020

By Cathy Wurzer from Minnesota Public Radio News - November 19, 2021

The U.S.-Canada border reopened on Nov. 8 after being closed since March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A lot of people are happy about the reopening: Families are reuniting, sports teams are regrouping, businesses are hoping things pick up. 

The reopening is also having an impact on the North American Indigenous music scene. George Strong, a member of the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa and general manager of KBFT 89.9 FM Bois Forte Tribal Community Radio, gave host Cathy Wurzer an update on the scene and played her some music.

During the pandemic, KBFT has developed the show “Native Americana,” hosted by Keith Secola, to put the spotlight on Indigenous music even as it’s been difficult for the community to gather in person. 

There are many Indigenous musical artists in Canada, but when the border was closed, many of them couldn’t come down to the U.S., and many American artists couldn’t make it into Canada. 

Strong said the mission of “Native Americana” is to “showcase the Native American influence on all music and its development in the United States.” Many Native American artists faced obstacles breaking into traditional paths and platforms in the music industry even before the pandemic. 

Strong got involved in radio and music when a casino he worked at bought a radio station as a media play. The station was looking for Native American programming, and Strong stepped up to the plate. 

Strong played Wurzer new music by the band December Wind, whose members hail from the Mohawk Nation. Strong and KBFT worked with December Wind on the recording of its upcoming album. 

December Wind was separated by the border closure, as the band features members who live in the U.S. and Canada. The band’s drummer was actually unable to join the recording sessions for the new album.

To listen to the full conversation on MPR, follow this link to their website.

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