Indigenous Music Awards stands by non-Inuit nomination despite boycott threat

Tanya Tagaq performs during the Polaris Music Prize gala in Toronto on September 18, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Donovan

The Indigenous Music Awards says it will work to address cultural appropriation concerns in response to a boycott by several Inuit artists, but the nomination at the centre of the controversy will stand.

The organization says it has proceeded with due diligence since objections were raised about the nomination of a non-Inuit musician — Connie LeGrande, a Cree Edmonton-based singer-songwriter — whose songs heavily feature throat-singing, a traditional vocal performance unique to the Inuit.

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Inuit throat-singers Tanya Tagaq, the duo PIQSIQ and Kathleen Merrit, who performs under the name Iva, were among the artists who pledged to not participate in the awards until organizers took steps to address the issue of cultural appropriation.

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As the artist backlash rippled across social media, the IMAs announced plans to add an Inuit representative to its board of governors and develop a policy on cultural appropriation.

But after consulting the awards committee, elders and Inuit representatives, the board of governors says it decided to uphold the contentious nomination based on the current rules and regulations.

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It noted that the nomination is for best folk album, and not in the best Inuit, Indigenous language or Francophone album category.

“We don’t presume to agree or disagree on this matter at this time,” the IMAs said in a statement Tuesday.

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“It requires great reflection, ceremony and discussions on how we move forward in a good way, to ensure that we as Indigenous people uphold our teachings, and do not provide a platform for negativity and separation.”

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A spokesman said the IMAs would not comment further.

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The awards ceremony is to be held in Winnipeg on May 17 as part of the annual Manito Ahbee Festival.

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