Native DJs bring a beat and a message

A Tribe Called Red is back. The critically-acclaimed DJ crew gained many fans on its last visit to the territory two years ago, when they played Frostbite in Whitehorse and a Moosehide Gathering fundraiser in Dawson.

A Tribe Called Red is back.

The critically-acclaimed DJ crew gained many fans on its last visit to the territory two years ago, when they played Frostbite in Whitehorse and a Moosehide Gathering fundraiser in Dawson.

The innovative artists will play both towns again next week.

The group has been mixing electronic dance music with traditional pow wow vocals and drumming since 2010.

They call their unique blend Electric Pow Wow, and it’s been bringing audiences to their feet across Canada and internationally.

But it’s not all about the dancing. The group promotes indigenous people taking control of representations of indigenous people.

Group member Ian Campeau, a.k.a. Deejay NDN, successfully led the charge to have the Nepean Redskins Football Club change its name and logo.

The group is a fitting pick for upcoming shows, organized by local organizations that promote the empowerment of First Nation youth.

Earlier this year when the organizers of Moosehide Gathering put out the call on Facebook to help put together the Whitehorse show, Stephanie Chevalier was tagged in the post.

Chevalier, working as a management consultant with the Northern Cultural Expressions Society, brought the idea to the organization and it was quickly adopted.

The NGO is all about youth and their empowerment.

It has done so through its well-known Sundog carving program as well as its cultural resilience programming, funded through the federal National Crime Prevention Strategy.

The culturally relevant programming focuses on at-risk aboriginal youth between the ages of 12-18.

“The more challenging, bring it on,” says NCPS program supervisor, Naomi Crey.

From student to instructor to her current role, Crey has been managing the program for the past four years.

She is used to thinking outside the box when it comes to engaging youth.

Traditional forms of artistic and professional development, such as the carving program, is a success but NCES doesn’t shy away from incorporating contemporary art and artists.

Last year, program funding was used to organize a community tour for the contemporary indigenous audio-visual collective, Skookum Sound System.

But community tours, workshops and camps are not the same as a full production performance.

NCES wanted the A Tribe Called Red show to be big but focused: streamlined with the organization’s target on aboriginal youth engagement, empowerment and reconnection with their traditional roots.

To bring the project to fruition, NCES sought the collaboration of the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre to host the show and the staff of the Adaka festival for their expertise.

Summer students fresh from their experience with the festival in July put their skills to use for the A Tribe Called Red show.

“One of our biggest strengths is our relationships. If we didn’t have all our relationships we wouldn’t have gotten as far as we did,” said Crey, speaking of the success of NCES.

“I think it’s important to have A Tribe Called Red because up here in the Yukon, with only 30,000 people, it’s good to inspire those kids. And they get to network with the film crews, they get to network with the hip hop dancers, so they know there’s more going on out there,” says Crey.

Sundog Carving Studio co-ordinator Colin Teramura puts it simply, “I think another thing with A Tribe Called Red is it’s the same thing when we go to communities, Mayo or Faro, carving isn’t traditional there – we’re not trying to make them into carvers.”

“These kids, the example that they set, they found something and they dedicated time and energy and passion all into it. So now after all that effort, all that time, this is what they’re producing.

“So when you walk kids through that process, and the hard work that they do to get there, they can see that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. If you stick to something you can find it.

“Maybe it’s carving, maybe it’s, y’know, your passion is hip hop. Whatever it is, find it, follow it.”

When asked what it is these youth will find at the end, the answer was, “fulfillment.”

The NCPS funding is going to end this November. Instead of lamenting the end of the associated programming, Crey thought it preferable to celebrate its successes at the show.

NCPS support staff and 15 youth will canoe to the KDCC and receive a traditional welcome to honour their achievements.

The Whitehorse show will take place Tuesday, August 12 at the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre. A Tribe Called Red plays the KIAC Odd Fellows Ballroom in Dawson on the next day.

Contact Alistair Maitland at