Jully Black changed one word.
A conjunction to a preposition.
Black, a singer, songwriter, actress and Juno Award winner, made history in early 2023 when she sang Canada’s national anthem but changed the line “O Canada! Our home and native land” to “O Canada! Our home on native land.”
Black, a platinum-selling R&B recording artist who has written songs for Nas and Destiny’s Child, acknowledged the presence of Indigenous peoples who lived on the land before European settlers arrived.
SINGING WITH INTENTION
After being invited to sing at the NBA All-Star Weekend in Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S.A., Black says she wondered how she could make the moment meaningful.
“How do I make this opportunity impactful for all of Canada, like I’m representing Canada?” Black says in an interview with CBC/Radio Canada. “To me, it’s like the Olympics of anthems.
“I went through the anthem word for word,” she continues. “I just didn’t feel right, and I followed the feeling … You know there’s appropriation, then there’s appreciation. So that’s when I contacted a few of my friends who are Indigenous. Getting their blessing is what made me go through with it. Because had I not received their blessing, it would have been, it would have felt self-serving.”
I contacted a few of my friends who are Indigenous. Getting their blessing is what made me go through with it.Jully Black
BLACK HONORED BY THE ASSEMBLY OF FIRST NATIONS
Black’s word change in Canada’s national anthem gained international interest. Most of all, it led to a formal recognition of Black by the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) in a blanketing ceremony during its Special Chiefs Assembly in Ottawa, Canada. Black also received an eagle feather. Here’s an excerpt from the opening remarks from National Chief RoseAnne Archibald:
“What’s undeniable is we’ve shattered the myth of Canada as a beacon of human rights. In fact, Amnesty International’s Annual Report recently called the state of Indigenous Peoples’ rights in Canada … ‘a national disgrace.’ After decades of shouting this, the world has finally heard our protest! Even the Catholic church, exactly one year since our delegation travelled to Rome, repudiated the Doctrine of Discovery this week. The truth has been set free. Now, our allies also feel empowered to say the truth and say it loudly. And sing it loudly, too.
“We’re so honored to have Jully Black in the room with us today. As an artist, Jully is a Truth-Teller and part of the conscience of society. She created an energic shift in February for how she sang, O Canada: ‘Our home ON native land.’ She shifted consciousness with just one word – and for simply singing the Truth! Today, there’s legitimate discussion about changing that word in our national anthem permanently. Meegwetch Jully for your courage and intuition.”
Black says on her Instagram page about the AFN honor: “Thank you National Chief and the @assemblyoffirstnations I am deeply honoured and humbled to be embraced and celebrated for my desire to be a bridge builder, community connector. I only Now do I understand and know that it took bravery and courage to change that word… I 100% didn’t do it for me… I know my late Mommy @badgyalmackee is smiling from the heavens.”
Check out Black’s rendition of “O Canada” below.