Musician passionate about asserting Indigenous rights, empowering his people

·5 min read

If Stan Louttit meets a non-Indigenous person and hears them talking stereotypes about Indigenous peoples, he always takes an opportunity to educate them.

"I've gotten into a lot of heated debates in that way. But I'm passionate about telling them that because I think it spreads more awareness. And it might be uncomfortable for them. But I feel like it builds their knowledge and it'll actually make them think," he says.

Louttit is a musician and writer living in Moose Factory.

He grew up in a safe, loving, nurturing home in Moose Factory with a close connection to his parents. His longing for his family is why he made videos honouring their lives on YouTube.

If he could give advice to his younger self, he would tell himself to not get distracted.

"Practice, work harder and stay focused. Pursue the goals that you want to pursue in the best possible way,” he says. “Treat people better than I did at times … Spend more time with your parents. Because once that’s gone, you can never get that back.”

Louttit is also a bass player with Northbound 51 and Midnight Shine.

The reception to Northbound 51’s debut album has been amazing, Louttit says and adds that receiving positive messages and emails from people is gratifying.

“It almost authenticates that we are writing good songs. And it gives you some kind of confidence that the songs we write are pretty good. And people are liking them,” he says. “We should just keep on trying to write good songs.”

In addition to a Cree hunting drum, Louttit plays keyboards, mandolin and acoustic guitar. In high school and his 20s, he played in bands locally in Moose Factory and outside of the community.

Studying music at Humber College was challenging for him.

Going from Moose Factory, a small remote community, to Toronto was a cultural shock, Louttit recalls. He liked that the school was always inviting professional musicians including jazz pianist Oscar Peterson and bassist Dave Young. Looking back, Louttit says it was a great experience and everything he learned in school he uses in his music now.

For him, there are two ways to cope with feeling stuck when writing music. If he’s in the right frame of mind and it’s going well, he could sit down and write a song in 10 minutes. But that doesn’t happen a lot. Another way is to start working and come back to the song later.

“I learned over the years that you can’t force something … You have to learn when to leave, let it go for a bit,” he says. “I find trying to let go in some ways is a good way to cope with things.”

When the pandemic hit, Louttit couldn’t sit around wasting time. He decided to start making videos by using his photographs and adding composed music. Louttit made about two or three videos within the span of four or five months.

Through his friend, he then saw the Red Sky Performance company was looking for a few Indigenous composers to work on music with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Louttit applied and submitted his videos. When the deadline went by and he hasn’t heard from anyone for a week, he was under the impression he wasn’t chosen. When he saw an email saying he was selected, he was surprised.

That experience was a real challenge for Louttit because he was used to writing songs that are three to four minutes long. For the theatre play, he had to compose music for certain spots in the play that could be less than a minute.

“You had to look at what was going on the stage, then try to write something that would enhance that,” he says. The highlight of his experience was seeing the Toronto Symphony practising the pieces that he wrote.

“I’m very happy and appreciative for the experience that brought me and I met some good people there,” he says.

One of his dreams is to work with musicians from the Toronto Symphony or a composer to put together a video, or a visual music presentation, based on a Cree myth called Ayash.

The myth is about good and evil, how you should treat people and what happens when you don’t treat them properly, according to Louttit.

Louttit enjoys the work he does with Moose Cree First Nation as a writer-researcher. He’s passionate about asserting Indigenous rights and he always takes an opportunity to educate and debunk myths related to Indigenous peoples.

When he was working on a hydro project agreement between Moose Cree and Ontario Power Generation, one of the eye-opening things he’s learned was how much damage had been done on one of the rivers where the dams were put up, and how much money was involved in the negotiations.

“I was very green, I just graduated the university. I was only reading about these things in university, treaties and court cases,” he explains. Louttit studied cultural anthropology at Carleton University.

“But to actually be involved in it in real life was very eye-opening, the amount of meetings that had to take place and the kind of strategies that we had to take and working with lawyers,” he says.

As one of the co-authors of the People of the Moose River Basin book, a lot of his work had to do with historical research, working with elders, on environmental issues, Indigenous rights and treaty rights.

The book was negotiated as part of the environmental assessment approval for the Lower Mattagami River hydroelectric project

Louttit says the agreement represented somewhat of a reconciliation.

“And we say in the book that if we can have agreements like this, this is the way future should go,” he says. “We should come up with agreements that respect each other. And we should come up with agreements to share the wealth of the revenue or share what we can as partners.”

Dariya Baiguzhiyeva, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, TimminsToday.com

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