Light in the Attic Unearths the Forgotten History of First Nations Music with 'Native North America' Compilation

BY Alex HudsonPublished Oct 8, 2014

Vancouver music archeologist Kevin Howes (a.k.a. Sipreano) previously put together the much-loved 2006 compilation Jamaica to Toronto, and now he's preparing to document another segment of the musical landscape. Native North America (Vol. 1): Aboriginal Folk, Rock, and Country 1966–1985 will be out on November 25 through Light in the Attic.

As the title suggests, this anthology documents recordings from First Nations peoples in Canada and the northern U.S. made between 1966 and 1985. Much of the material here has been widely unavailable due to lack of distribution, and a press release promises:

Arctic garage rock from the Nunavik region of northern Quebec, melancholy Yup'ik folk from Alaska, and hushed country blues from the Wagmatcook First Nation reserve in Nova Scotia. You'll hear echoes of Neil Young, Velvet Underground, Leonard Cohen, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Johnny Cash, and more among the songs, but injected with Native consciousness, storytelling, poetry, history, and ceremony.

All this is spread across 34 tracks on three LPs or two CDs, with the former containing a 60-page book comprehensive liner notes from Howes, artist interviews, unseen archival photos, and lyrics (with translations). The book in the CD version contains the same material across 120 pages.

The press release further explains:

With cooperation and guidance from the artists, producers, family members, and behind the scenes players, Native North America (Vol. 1) sheds real light on the painful struggles and deep traditions of the greater Indigenous community and the significance of its music. The songs speak of joy and spirituality, but also tell of real tragedy and strife, like that of Algonquin/Mohawk artist Willy Mitchell, whose music career was sparked by a bullet to the head from the gun of a trigger-happy police officer, or those of Inuk singer-songwriter Willie Thrasher, who was robbed of his family and traditional Inuit culture by the residential school system.

Howes has been collecting the material for 15 years with the cooperation of artists, producers and others associated with the First Nations music world. Howes unearthed old vinyl records and sent out messages through community radio stations to uncover music. Native North America is dedicated to Métis songwriter Willie Dunn, who is featured on the album and died during its making.

The tracklist is below. Scroll past that to watch a moving video trailer for the album.

This is only Vol. 1, and a new collection is already underway; this one will focus on the lower U.S. states and Mexico.

You can pre-order the package now over here. It comes in a variety of vinyl variants, ranging from "burnt orange" to "tan" and "gold."

Native North America (Vol. 1): Aboriginal Folk, Rock, and Country 1966–1985:

1. Willie Dunn – "I Pity the Country"
2. John Angaiak – "I'll Rock You to the Rhythm of the Ocean"
3. Sugluk – "Fall Away"
4. Sikumiut – "Sikumiut"
5. Willie Thrasher – "Spirit Child"
6. Willy Mitchell – "Call of the Moose"
7. Lloyd Cheechoo – "James Bay"
8. Alexis Utatnaq – "Maqaivvigivalauqtavut"
9. Brian Davey – "Dreams of Ways"
10. Morley Loon – "N'Doheeno"
11. Peter Frank – "Little Feather"
12. Ernest Monias – "Tormented Soul"
13. Eric Landry – "Out of the Blue"
14. David Campbell – "Sky-Man and the Moon"
15. Willie Dunn – "Son of the Sun"
16. Shingoose (poetry by Duke Redbird) – "Silver River"
17. Willy Mitchell and Desert River Band – "Kill'n Your Mind"
18. Philippe McKenzie – "Mistashipu"
19. Willie Thrasher – "Old Man Carver"
20. Lloyd Cheechoo – "Winds of Change"
21. The Chieftones (Canada's All Indian Band) – "I Shouldn't Have Did What I Done"
22. Sugluk – "I Didn't Know"
23. Lawrence Martin – "I Got My Music"
24. Gordon Dick – "Siwash Rock"
25. Willy Mitchell and Desert River Band – "Birchbark Letter"
26. William Tagoona – "Anaanaga"
27. Leland Bell – "Messenger"
28. Saddle Lake Drifting Cowboys – "Modern Rock"
29. Willie Thrasher – "We Got to Take You Higher"
30. Sikumiut – "Utirumavunga"
31. Sugluk – "Ajuinnarasuarsunga"
32. John Angaiak – "Hey, Hey, Hey, Brother"
33. Groupe Folklorique Montagnais – "Tshekuan Mak Tshetutamak"
34. Willie Dunn (featuring Jerry Saddleback) – "Peruvian Dream"

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