A first today, speaking with an artist who represents her Native American heritage loud and proud in all she does. From her music to the stage, Iskwé brings forth her culture and community. That was a heavy part of our conversation as was her upcoming release The Fight Within, her latest single “Soldier” and our mutual disdain for a certain public figure.
Kendra: Have you always been connected to your North American Indigenous roots?
Iskwé: Of course! I grew up in my culture and community in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada…also known as Treaty 1 Territory.
Kendra: How has your heritage and culture affected the way you approach music?
Iskwé: Recently it’s become a part of the conversation that I feel compelled to have. There are many issues impacting Indigenous people in North America, and these are the conversations I feel are important to be having – especially in a time of building relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. Unless we acknowledge how the past is impacting us in the moment, and how we aren’t yet free and clear of the racism that continues to separate the two, we won’t move forward.
Kendra: Your latest single “Soldier” is all about calling attention to the earth we live on, and fighting for it. Of course there’s pollution and global warming, but personally, what do you think earth’s biggest problem is?
Iskwé: I think one of our biggest problems is that we don’t consider each other or the future generations enough. We live in a time of “now” and of “me,” and as a whole are too self-centered as a human race. This is what’s impacting our earth and water…collectively, we aren’t spending enough time thinking of others or how our decisions that might satisfy the self-are impacting the people around us, including our children’s children, and so on.
Kendra: You’re also not afraid to get political with your music. Being Canadian, are any of your words aimed at #45 down in the US? (We need all the help we can take)
Iskwé: I have nothing good to say about that person. He is the epitome of self-indulgence, without a thought of who or how others are impacted.
Kendra: We can hear all of the above on our upcoming October release, The Fight Within. The title makes me want to know what personal battles you fought during the making of this album?
Iskwé: Oh man, plenty! I wanted to include politics on this record, but I also wanted to include self-awareness and personal struggle. I’m a female, chipping away at a career in music – an industry heavily dominated by men, many of whom don’t realize (or refuse to pay attention) to the fact that it’s a boys club and that women have a much harder time making the same gains. I’m also a queer person. And of mixed Indigenous and Irish culture. So there are plenty of struggles that I speak to – sometimes experiences of my own, and sometimes experiences I witness from others within these shared demographics.
Kendra: Circling back to your heritage. What are your thoughts on cultural appropriation in stores like Urban Outfitters?
Iskwé: I think there’s an interesting line between cultural appropriation and finding a culture fascinating. Urban Outfitters is a good example of how that line can be easily, and often crossed, without the preemptive thought of how or why their products might be inappropriate. Also, the “do it now, apologize later” mentality is getting old.
Kendra: Back to the music, you’re actually playing a healthy amount this fall throughout Canada. Do you think you’ll hit the states in the winter, or early next year?
Iskwé: I’d love to! We played Summerstage in NYC this past July and had a great time! I actually lived in NYC and LA for a few years, so would love to come back! We need to work on those VISAs costs and approvals though…#45 seems to be the gift that keeps on giving *insert eye roll*
Kendra: When you are getting ready to head out on the road, what five songs do you have to have playing on your tour mixtape?
Iskwé: OOOOOH I LOVE THIS QUESTION!! My current mix would be: