‘O Canada’ lyrics change nothing new for some First Nations people

Jason Byrd laughed when asked about the uproar caused by singer Julie Black changing the line in Canada’s national anthem to “In Native Lands.”

A professor of governance at Indigenous Canadian College says he and his friends used to sing the opening lines of “O Canada” all the time when he was at school.

“It’s kind of commonplace in indigenous communities,” he said. “For fun above all else, I’ll change that lyric.”

Black’s version of the song at Sunday’s National Basketball Association All-Star Game caused a lot of dissonance on social media.

Chiefs at the Sovereign Indigenous Federation Winter Games in Yorkton, Sask, applauded and liked it when it was mentioned in a speech on improving Native housing.

“We support Black’s variation of the national anthem’s lyrics,” said federation chief Bobby Cameron. “More importantly, we support voices calling for the national anthem to be sung in the Cree and Indigenous languages ​​at all public events.”

Cora Voyager, a sociologist at the University of Calgary and a member of the Athabasca Chipewian First Nation, called Black’s version “statement of fact.”

“I say, ‘Wow, Julie,'” she said.

If nothing else, some people heard Black’s version as a means of starting a conversation.

“For many people, they don’t know or like Canadian history. It’s a good idea to have conversations like this.”

Jack Jedwab, president of the Canadian Research Association, said statements like Negroes are part of a “period of introspection” Canada is going through about its history.

“People in their own way like to make statements that contribute to reconciliation,” Jedwab said. “

He said he doesn’t know yet if the song will inspire productive conversation.

Byrd said he hopes talks about economic and political reconciliation take place, but the symbol has value.

“If they decided to change some words in the song, it would be a symbolic gesture,” he said. “It would be a small step.”

The lyrics of “O Canada” are not written in stone. The original manuscript no longer exists.

An early version of the opening line was:

The Canadian Encyclopedia lists at least three versions of the word before the word finally came into vogue in 1908. Even that one has been adjusted over the years, most recently in 2018 to replace “in all your son’s orders” with “in all our orders”.

Other artists have also changed their words. In 2016, a member of the singing group The Tenors lost his place in the quartet because he changed his entire line while singing at the Major League Baseball All-Star Game.

Still, the current ruckus is funny for at least one person who sang the Black version before it came out.

“It’s got the same meaning that it used to sing in the classroom and puts it in the spotlight a little bit,” Byrd said. “It’s pretty ironic.”

This report by the Canadian Press was first published on February 21, 2023.

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