Gospel First Nation is 21st Century Northern-Interlake-Country-Gospel. Interlake is the name given to a region in the Canadian province of Manitoba. It lies roughly between Lake Winnipeg and Lake Manitoba and comprises 14 rural municipalities.
The ten track album includes some of the first gospel songs I ever learned to sing, three original gospel compositions and an original song written by my dad. My dad was a preacher who made three albums over the course of his life. Gospel songs always occupied the airwaves in our homes along the great singers he and my mom admired. He was as much in service of Jesus as he was Johnny Cash and Charley Pride.
My musical aspirations began with accompanying my dad on guitar as he preached and sang throughout different First Nations communities in Northern Manitoba. First Nations are the predominant Indigenous peoples in Canada south of the Arctic Circle. The first inhabitants of Canada.
These are country gospel songs as found in places like Peguis First Nation, Fisher River Cree Nation, Jackhead, Fisher Bay, Little Saskatchewan, Fairford, Thompson, and the Opaskwayak Cree Nation in Manitoba. Reserves and communities with primarily First Nations residents. Places my dad would bring our family sharing his testimony and song.
All of these places are Gospel First Nation.
With regard to First Nations communities, gospel music and Christianity are stigmatic as a tool of colonization and assimilation. The practice of Christianity was enforced to “civilize” the Indigenous inhabitants of Canada. As a young person, I never fully understood why the divide between cultural and Christian First Nations people existed. In actuality, the very singing of these songs and belief in a Lord and Saviour is the success of a plan to extinguish Indian identity. This album is an amalgamation of two realms.
I learned how to play music music through old hymns during peoples’ time of grief. My dad and I were often tasked with singing at wake services and funerals in our home community of Peguis (Peg-wiss). Having numerous musicians show up to “join the band” was common and left a lasting impression of how music can be communal and healing.
We are living through an age of grief. grieving our lives, routines and families at the hand of a pandemic. Through my adjustment, I found myself singing songs that made me feel better. I found myself wishing to return to this place of comfort amidst all the chaos.
Gospel First Nation is a geographical sound imprint.
The title track tells of a special place in Fisher Bay, Manitoba. A muster point for the soul. Populated by a few houses and fishermen, home to a yearly Youth Bible Camp overlooking the vast Lake Winnipeg. From the moment I could drive, it is here where I discussed everything that mattered with my dad. It is here where Jesus himself could live in peace and not be bothered.
Today, I honour a higher power. A creator. My spirituality is anchored around an ongoing dialogue of gratitude with the cosmos. My position on morality comes from a place of love, inclusion and respect for all people. The seven teachings of aboriginal law. I believe in science and thank Jesus for parking spots and the life I get to live. I teach my son to give thanks in a similar fashion. I owe a lot to these songs. This album is not a step backwards, but an expansion of who I am as a human being and artist.
I am a resident of Gospel First Nation.