The Canadian Country Music Awards will be holding a tribute to the Treaty 7 peoples at this year’s ceremonies, which organizers said will better tell the genesis story of Southern Alberta.
Speaking to the media on Sept. 7, Blackfoot filmmaker and member of the CCMA’s legacy committee, Cowboy Smithx, called Sunday’s broadcast a way to “emphasize and active the reason we’re all here.”
“The spirit and intent of that treaty, treaty number seven, was to bring all of us together in confluence and create a new family—a new community, celebrate with each other, and support each other through difficult times, like the difficult times we had in the last few years during Covid-19 pandemic,” Smithx said.
“Everything we’ve put into this to this organization, organizing these events is in the true spirit and intent of our treaty, which is making sure that everyone is taken care of. Making sure that we’re good hosts to our guests from across the country and around the world.”
Smithx said that the acknowledgement would be a powerful moment that would be led by the Blackfoot Confederacy. It would put Indigenous dancers front and centre, and hearing the treaty acknowledgement in Blackfoot in a way that would be shared across the nation.
“It’s going to be very powerful moment in history,” Smithx said.
He said that this was something that he has been dreaming about for a long time.
“I’m happy to see that this is finally become a reality, Sunday night.”
CCMAs create land acknowledgement resource package for Country Music Week events
Mariya Stokes, legacy committee co-chair, said that the CCMAs also created an enhanced land acknowledgement package for Country Music Week and CCMA-affiliated events.
She said that the package would include resources for people doing verbal land acknowledgements, along side pre-recorded audio and video acknowledgements that could be played by event hosts.
“The thing that was really important with this land acknowledgement resource package is not only including the land acknowledgement itself… It’s really important to add a personal experience or connection to the land in order to make the land acknowledgement meaningful and personal,” Stokes said.
“Everyone should have the resources they need in order to acknowledge Treaty 7 territory and the Indigenous people and the partnerships and relationships that we’re building.”
Smithx said that it was important to give people a way to make the acknowledgements personal, and not just something done by rote.
“I’ve been listening to them as an Indigenous person for 20 years. It’s always nice to hear the person who delivers that land acknowledgement to activate their own personal accountability and their own connection to that,” Smithx said.
He said that that people listening to the acknowledgements at CCMA events would find them more dynamic than normal.
Stokes said the legacy committee worked to create partnerships with First Nations and Indigenous groups. Among those partnerships was having CCMA artists perform at the Many Horses High School on the Tsuut’ina Nation.
Discomfort part of the process of reconciliation
Smithx said the CCMA provided acknowledgements would make it easier for people who are uncomfortable with giving them. Discomfort was nevertheless an important part of the process.
“There’s also there’s something about that pressure that that also adds a certain amount of energy to a land acknowledgement. It is difficult to get up in front of a crowd and say anything, but it’s also difficult when it’s such a sensitive subject,” Smithx said.
“That discomfort comes with the job.”
He said that he often tells people to step into that discomfort. It’s an honour to acknowledge the Treaty 7 territory and acknowledge the relationships.
“It’s not an easy situation for anyone, even myself, and I’ve been I’ve been doing this kind of work my whole life,” Smithx said.
“Don’t look at it as something that is intimidating. I look at it as a great opportunity to show the community what I’m made of. It’s a binding element bringing all of us together in the spirit of our treaties, and spirit of inclusivity and activation and community.
“Land acknowledgement is an opportunity, it’s not a burden.”