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Meet female Indigenous artists leading the next wave in music

Jarrett Martineau
Reclaimed: Episode 8, August 22, 2017

The second-last show of the summer!


Indigenous communities have long governed themselves through systems of kinship — a sense of belonging derived from families and their relation to the world. But there’s an important part of the way these systems work that’s worth pointing out: they are led by Indigenous women.

And this isn’t just true in politics, or confined to the past. It’s true now. And it’s true in art and music.

Iskwewak, or ᐃᐢᑫᐧᐊᐧᐠ (the Cree word for women), are — and have always been — the lifeblood, the heart of our nations.

This week’s episode of Reclaimed celebrates the power and artistry of Indigenous women in music.

Below, meet some of the female Indigenous artists leading the next wave.

Princess Nokia

Princess Nokia is an Afro-Latina rapper from Brooklyn with Indigenous Taíno roots who uses her music to lift up young women and girls. And those women and girls have been following her religiously.

Her live shows are massive, sweaty dance parties where the entire crowd chants every word. Princess Nokia knows how to rock a crowd with the best MCs and she is unapologetic in defending and celebrating femininity.

Lido Pimienta

Lido Pimienta is an Afro-Indigenous artist from Toronto, by way of Columbia. Her latest album, La Papessa, is nominated for this year’s Polaris Music Prize.

Last year, she made huge waves with her cover of Rihanna’s hit “Work.” Lido took the original and turned it into an honour song for women from her home community. In Barranquilla, the city in Colombia where she’s from, Pimienta watched women on the street making orange juice and selling empanadas, often accompanied by their children and working to support their male partners and families.

Pimienta’s music is proud, defiant, and powerfully feminist. And her version of the song is dedicated to the city, and more importantly, the women whose work runs everything.

Dio Ganhdih

Queer Mohawk/Cherokee rapper Dio Ganhdih made her way out to Standing Rock, N.D., last year to join Indigenous nations from all directions in the fight to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline. For the thousands of people who joined the resistance camps, it was a powerful and transformative experience.

Ganhdih’s music is often unafraid to contront social issues of gender and justice, and on her latest track she uses hip-hop to tell the story of her own experience as a water protector at Standing Rock to describe what it’s like to live in a constant state of emergency.



Iskwé is a Cree/Dene singer-songwriter who weaves her cultures into a compelling hybrid of electronic music, soul, trip-hop and R&B. Much of her music shines a light on issues Indigenous women and girls are forced to confront on a daily basis.

This year, she delivered an incredible performance at the CBC Music Festival. Her latest single, “Soldier”, is dedicated to all present and future protectors of the land and water.

Reclaimed playlist - August 23, 2017

Princess Nokia - "Young Girls"
Lido Pimienta - "Camellando (Rihanna - Work) - Barranquilla Slang Cover"
Golden Features - "No One (feat Thelma Plum)"
Tribe Called Queenz Cypher ft. Jaide, T-Rhyme, Valkyrie & Pooky G
Dio Ganhdih - "Native New Yorker"
Ulali - "Mother"
Lacey Hill - "Lovin’ You"
Elisapie - "Forefathers"
Buffy Sainte-Marie - "With You, Honey"
Iskwé - “Soldier” Live @ CBC Music Fest
Samantha Crain - "Red Sky, Blue Mountain"
Raye Zaragoza - "Bushwick Avenue"
Cassandra Williams - "Falling Down"
Wampum - "Peyote (Sister Mantos Remix)"

Reclaimed airs Wednesdays at 7 p.m. on CBC Radio 2, with host Jarrett Martineau. Follow the show at #CBCReclaimed and listen back to past episodes at