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N’we Jinan is a Canadian record label that gives First Nations students their voice back by allowing them to create their own music in mobile recording studios.

N’we Jinan is a nonprofit organisation based in Montreal, Canada, founded by hip hop producer and youth worker David Hodges and Joshua Iserhoff, former Youth Grand Chief of the Cree Nation Youth Council , a youth leadership position. By bringing mobile record studios into schools, N’we Jinan offers aspiring indigenous or First Nations artists a space for creative expression. It also fosters indigenous empowerment and social cohesion in communities . “It means a lot to me – Lamb, a Grade 10 student, said in an interview –, I’m happy that this school is willing to go through all the struggles that they’ve had in the past and just keep the culture going”. The N’we Jinan tour

The project began in 2014, when N’we Jinan travelled to ten First Nations communities across the province of Quebec. The tournée brought to life new artists, music and inspiration. As the group reached over 100,000 reproductions on their official Sound Cloud page, it was time to launch the album. In May 2014, the album – comprising 19 original songs that saw the participation of over 70 aspiring young artists – became the number one hit in the Canadian iTunes hip hop charts.

Overall, the N’we Jinan tour has reached over twenty First Nations communities, and more than 300 youths across North America have participated in the programme. High suicide rates among indigenous youth

Suicide and self-inflicted injury are the leading causes of death among First Nations people under the age of 44, and studies reveal that indigenous youth in Canada are five to six times more likely to commit suicide than non-indigenous youth. This hit the headlines in 2016 after three native communities declared a state of emergency in response to this terrible trend. In one of them, the Attawapiskat First Nation reserve, eleven young people attempted to kill themselves in one night alone .

For First Nations youth, creating music is thus a channel to address deep-seated problems and the culture of silence surrounding them. A Heiltsuk girl holding one of the paddles of the Glwa, the Heiltsuk canoe, during the official opening of the Qatuwas Festival, an international gathering of maritime indigenous nations of the Pacific Rim © John Isaac/United Nations Healing through art

“There’s been a lot of tragedy in the community in the past with suicide, murder, so I thought it was important for them to share some of their story,” Patsy Grey Eyes , Blueberry River First Nation education manager, commented the decision to undertake a project with N’we Jinan. Through music, students get the chance to speak up , breaking down taboos. “We’ve had a few suicides. It’s been very hard on our community, very tough losses,” 16-year-old Tichia Davis, one of the singers, shared. Canada celebrated 150 years since its founding last year. During the celebrations, the indigenous movement #Resistance150 encouraged Canadians to reflect on the oppressive nature of the country’s history © Natalia Koper Decolonising Canada

The stress of assimilating to a different culture, intergenerational trauma and the overall marginalisation that First Nations peoples continue to experience stem largely from the colonisation period and the government’s past efforts to force their assimilation into dominant society. The legacy of such policies is still reflected in major educational, income and healthcare inequalities between indigenous and non-indigenous Canadians. Consequently, the image of Aboriginal peoples as poorer, less educated and troubled perpetrates attitudes of hostility and racism.

Many point to the residential schools […]

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