Canadian R&B singer Jully Black was celebrated by the Assembly of First Nations on Monday for her meaningful one-word change to the lyrics of O Canada at the NBA All-Star Game earlier this year.
The Juno Award-winner appeared at the opening of the AFN Special Chiefs Assembly in Ottawa where she was honoured with a blanketing ceremony and eagle feather.
National Chief RoseAnne Archibald described Ms. Black as “a truth-teller” whose performance of Canada’s national anthem at February’s NBA game in Salt Lake City, Utah stoked a conversation.
Ms. Black swapped out the anthem’s usual opening line “O Canada! Our home and native land!” with “O Canada! Our home on native land” to recognize the Indigenous peoples who lived on the land before European settlers.
“She shifted consciousness in that moment on a huge international stage, simply for singing the truth,” Ms. Archibald said in her opening remarks.
“Today there’s a legitimate discussion about changing that word in our national anthem permanently, so meegwetch to Jully,” she added, saying “thank you” in Algonquin.
The singer said she was “grateful” while tears streamed down her face, adding “I didn’t realize that my action would garner such a response.”
Ms. Black said, “On behalf of the Black community, I say we are one. We’re better together.”
After the presentation of the blanket and feather, Ms. Black reprised her rendition of O Canada for the assembly, again including “home on native land,” which prompted cheers from the crowd.