P.E.I.'s Tara MacLean sings about reconciliation at Lennox Island powwow

Drums and singing rang out in Lennox Island, P.E.I., keeping the rhythm for dancers in their traditional regalia. 

Hundreds of people from Atlantic Canada and beyond visited the community this weekend for its 19th annual powwow — a gathering to share traditions, food and song. 

Amid the traditional Mi'kmaw performances, a non-Indigenous singer took the mic to share her own song. 

P.E.I. singer/songwriter Tara MacLean sang about reconciliation from a settler's perspective.

"The first line of the song is, 'I was born on stolen land.' And I feel like that's a really important wake-up call for us," said MacLean, who wrote the song, in collaboration with Mi'kmaw writers, after attending the powwow in 2018.

'A lot of healing to be done'

MacLean has been involved with Indigenous issues for many years. She says her passion started when she joined activists fighting to protect Indigenous land in British Columbia in the early 1990s. 

"I realized then that there were unjust laws that needed to be changed," she said. "And here on Prince Edward Island, there's still a lot of division, and there's a lot of healing to be done here."

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She decided she wanted to use her public profile to bring attention to Indigenous issues, and she wrote her song, called Beneath the Path of Crows, at the request of Sen. Brian Francis, former chief of Abegweit First Nation. 

"The overall message of this song is that there is healing that can be done here. And because so much wrong has been done, it's up to us now to do this work," MacLean said. 

Sharing heritage with broader community

Lennox Island Chief Darlene Bernard said a performance like MacLean's at the powwow was a first for the community, but she is honoured that MacLean wrote the song. 

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"If we can all share those same goals, then I open my arms to anybody that wants to come and talk to us and share their songs." 

Bernard said the powwows attract many different people, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, and she hopes more people will visit the community to learn about Mi'kmaw heritage. 

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