Jully Black left quite the impression at Sunday’s NBA All Star Game in Salt Lake City, Utah. Beyond singing a stirring, soulful rendition of “O Canada,” the country’s national anthem, Black made sure to subtly shout out the indigenous Canadians who lost their land to European colonizers.
The anthem starts with the line: “O Canada! Our home and native land!”
But Black changed it to “Our home on native land,” during her performance.
This minor change packed a lot of meaning, as she wanted to acknowledge indigenous rights.
After settling in Canada in the 1400s, warring with indigenous populations and then controlling them, their land and resources, westerners also seized aboriginal children from their homes and raised them in white households in the 1960s (referred to as the “Sixties Scoop”).
With one word change, Black honored this history, saying in an interview beforehand that she “really dissected the lyrics, to really sing it with intention.” She also asked indigenous friends for feedback and received their support.
Despite Canada being represented as a country with less racial animus than the United States, Black garnered swift backlash from white Canadian twitter (and curiously white U.S. twitter, too).
Nevertheless, Black also got support from some indigenous leaders and elsewhere in the twittersphere.
“It got a smile on my face,” Chief Wayne Sparrow told Vancouver’s City News. “To be recognized like that goes a long way in reconciliation. I think issues like this go a lot farther than people realize.”
This bold performance has now prompted a discussion of making a permanent change to the anthem. As she stated after the performance, “[t]his is less about me and more about being apart of the change in any way I can!”