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Manitoba Indigenous music pioneer Shingoose dies at 74

Shingoose. Facebook / Shingoose

A pioneer in Manitoba’s Indigenous music community has died.

Musician and singer-songwriter Shingoose, born Curtis Jonnie in 1946, was a member of Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation.

A Sixties Scoop survivor, he had a decades-long career in Canada and the United States, beginning in the late 1960s.

His debut record, 1975’s Native Country, included collaborations with Canadian folk icon Bruce Cockburn, and he was actively involved in promoting Indigenous culture and issues through theatre, radio and television — including hosting Full Circle/First Nations Magazine for CKND-TV (now Global Winnipeg) in the 1980s.

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Shingoose was inducted into the Manitoba Music Hall of Fame in 2012, and gained wider recognition late in life due to his participation in 2014’s Native North America, a Grammy- and Polaris Prize-nominated project by Light in the Attic Records that compiled rare and out-of-print recordings by Indigenous artists.

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The label highlighted Shingoose’s efforts Tuesday to create an Aboriginal Music category at the Juno Awards in 1990, and said, “the world was a better place with Curtis in it.”

Reactions to Shingoose’s passing have come from all corners of Canada’s music scene, as well as from Manitoba Indigenous leaders and politicians.

The Winnipeg Folk Festival, where he performed seven times between 1975 and 2016, called his death heartbreaking, and provincial NDP Leader Wab Kinew said he was “a great entertainer who paved the way for many.”

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Shingoose was living in a Winnipeg care home following a stroke in 2012, and according to a social media post by his daughter earlier this week, had been in critical condition with COVID-19.

He was 74 years old.

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