We are thrilled to welcome Susan Aglukark to our 2nd annual Downie/Wenjack Reconciliation Event with special guest Josee Bourgeois. We will have great selection of vendors and displays.
JUNO AWARD WINNER
“Susan Aglukark is truly one of Canada’s most significant cultural treasures. Apart from being a beautiful singer and powerful songwriter, she provides a significant view to the culture of our northern communities. She is an inspiration to humanity.” – Deane Cameron
Founder of the Arctic Rose Foundation (2016-Present)
Board Member-Governor Generals Performing Arts Award (2016-Present)
Board Member-The Hnatyshyn Foundation (2016-Present)
Arctic Inspiration Prize Selection Committee
Chair of Arctic Children and Youth Foundation (2008-2011)
Founding Board Member of National Aboriginal Literacy Foundation (2004-2007)
Advisor on the Collateral Damage Project
Susan has held command performances for:
HRH Queen Elizabeth (twice)
Canadian Prime Ministers Jean Chrétien and Brian Mulroney
President of France, Jacques Chirac.
Governor General of Canada Adrienne Clarkson
Her Excellency the Countess of Wessex
2022 Humanitarian Juno Award Presented by Music Canada
2016: Awarded the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement
2012: Awarded Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal
2004: Appointed Officer of the Order of Canada
2004: winner, Juno Award for Aboriginal Recording, Big Feeling
1995: winner, Juno Awards for Best New Solo Artist and Best Music of Aboriginal Canada Recording, Arctic Rose
Northerner of the Year – 1995
First-ever Aboriginal Achievement Award in Arts & Entertainment
Canadian Country Music Association’s (CCMA) Vista Rising Star Award
Native American Music Award
Canadian Aboriginal Music Award
Honorary Doctor of Laws, The University of Toronto
Honorary Degree in Law from the University of Alberta
Honorary Degree in Law from Calgary University
Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from the Lethbridge University
During a career that has spanned more than 25 years, Susan Aglukark’s journey as a singer-songwriter has led her to reflect on who she is, where she comes from and the importance of discovery – discovery of history, culture and self.
Susan is the first Inuk artist to win a Juno (3) and a Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for lifetime artistic achievement, she is an officer of the Order of Canada, holds several Honourary Doctorate degrees and has held command performances; but Susan also acknowledges the path has not been easy.
“Here I was, living a life I never imagined, but I was struggling to understand who I was. There was no opportunity growing up to learn about who we were, the Inuit, from our own perspective. In essence, we were institutionalized by being told who we were, how we would live and when you are told a story for so long, you learn to believe it,” explains Susan.
During the past 25 years of reflection and songwriting, Susan kept coming back to one area of profound knowing, the Inuit are an extraordinary people deeply grounded in a culture forged by their Ancestors, their journey is what shaped them.
“Their life experience is the foundation on which our precepts of determination, adaptability and love for life are built, they began the journey to our present-day Nunavut.” (Susan’s Walrus Talks comments)
“The conversations around reconciliation have provided an opportunity to begin to re-write our narrative. The Indigenous people in Canada come from highly organized societies built on knowledge, process and organization – without which none of us would have survived.”
For Susan, art has played a significant role in her healing journey and in the re-writing of her narrative, she believes it plays an important role for indigenous youth who are dealing with contemporary identity issues today. “Our children and youth are strong and resilient, they still believe very strongly in their culture, in Inuit or Indigenous culture, and they are still fighting every day to find their place.”
“They need to be anchored to an identity and so much of those connections are in our ancestors and their stories and we have a duty and a responsibility to engage our children and youth in the process of connecting with and helping them write those stories.”
Susan has always been very open about how her own fears and personal trauma that left her disillusioned and disconnected. Born in Arviat, Nunavut, her parents formative years were in traditional Inuit culture, her formative years were not traditional and were somewhat disconnected from her culture.
Despite the success she experienced in the 1990s, by 1998 she was suffering from post-partum depression and found herself in a dark place in need of time to reflect and heal, what followed was the several years of reflection, healing and making deeper commitments to her singing/songwriting career.
And so began what Susan calls her “awakening”. As she learned more about her culture and the strength and resilience of the Inuit who have been on this land for over 5,000 years, Susan was also engaging her own “inner artist” and falling in love with performing, sharing stories and singing.
“We have an extraordinary culture and an extraordinary past, we must embrace the opportunity to learn about our very own heroes, write those culture bridges and reframe who we are in today’s world.”
Through her music, Susan continues to share her experiences as an Inuk growing up in Nunavut, as well as the challenges faced by northern communities and Indigenous youth.
Susan is actively involved in various projects to bring food and support to northern communities and in 2016 the Arctic Rose Foundation gained charitable status with a focus on helping youth in the north through art and other engaging creative projects.
Josee Bourgeois is a registered member of the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan First Nations. Although Josee grew up in Toronto and lived the first half of her life as an urban native, she has spent the last 15 years living on 3 different reservations in Nova Scotia, Quebec, and Ontario, raising her 13-year-old son, Little Thunder Bear.
Since 2015 Josee has become very well known in the unsurrendered territory of the Ottawa Valley as a multi disciplined, self taught dancer who has spent the last few years exploring new mediums of movement and storytelling through dance and theatre.
What began as a journey of creating presence at major Ottawa events, Josee has unexpectedly turned into a part time career with the ability to create larger scale productions and visions as years pass on. Using her ability to command center stage attention while revealing difficult truths and secrets of the intergenerational traumas that plague her ancestry and existence thus far. Josee, is set on one day continuing her path of unraveling the next layer of stories needing to be told.
Josee is extremely proud of the work she has created and produced with the support of prestigious institutions and performing arts organizations, and fellow artist friends in the industry. Highlights of her career so far include, 2023 -Banff Center 2023 Indigenous Dramaturgies exchange, 2021-2022, National Arts Center, visiting dance artist in residence, The Sickness. Ottawa Blues Fest land Acknowledgment opening for The Backstreet Boys, 2019. National Art Center productions, Indigenous theatre, Mura Buai, French theatre, Gabriel Dumont- Wild West Story, English Theatre Big Bang Festival, Nomad- Mushkiki Nibi.
It's important to mention that Josee’s movement journey began with connecting to Pow wow dancing, Fancy shawl, Jingle dress dancing at the age of 23. Over that past decade as she has grown as a self-directed artist, Josee has begun a unpacking a new journey as an act of reclamation and decolonization of Indigenous sensuality.