Nunavut artist Kelly Fraser is interviewed at the 2018 Indigenous Music Awards. But the singer-songwriter said she won’t submit any more work to the organization until they address issues of cultural appropriation. (Photo courtesy of IMA)

Should non-Inuit performers be allowed to throat sing?

Throat singing is not a “pan-Indigenous free for all,” says Tanya Tagaq

By Sarah Rogers

A group of Inuit artists say they plan to boycott this year’s Indigenous Music Awards over concerns around cultural appropriation.

These Nunavut musicians, including Tanya Tagaq, Kelly Fraser and Kathleen Merritt (Iva), say they won’t participate in this or other awards until the organization that runs the event, the Manito Ahbee Festival, addresses the use of throat singing by a non-Inuk performer.

Cree performer Cikwes experiments with throat singing in some of her work. Her album ISKO is nominated as best folk album at this year’s Indigenous Music Awards, set to be handed out at a May 17 ceremony in Winnipeg.

Inuit artists say throat singing is a uniquely Inuit creation, not to be performed by other groups.

Tagaq, one of Nunavut’s best-known throat singers, said the art form is not a “pan-Indigenous free for all,” in a post on social media.

“Due to issues surrounding cultural appropriation, I will not be performing at, attending, nor submitting my work to the IMAs unless they revise their policies or have Inuit representation on the board for consultation,” Tagaq tweeted on March 31.

Other performers have since followed suit, demanding the music awards rescind Cikwes’ nomination.

Both Kelly Fraser and Iva said they will no longer submit their work or agree to perform at the music awards until the organization addresses their concerns.

Nunavut-born, Yellowknife-based throat-singing duo Piqsiq pulled their album, which was nominated this year for the IMA’s best electronic album.

“We look forward to submitting future work once our concerns of cultural appropriation are taken seriously and policies are in place to prevent it from happening again,” the group tweeted earlier this week.

A handful of other Inuit artists are nominated for awards this year, including Beatrice Deer, Aasiva and newcomer Angela Amarualik.

For its part, the festival’s board of governors said submissions are judged and selected by a group of music industry voters, who do not disclose their heritage, 39 of whom selected the nominees in the folk album category this year.

Cikwes’ nomination will stand, the organization said in an April 2 news release.

“We don’t presume to agree or disagree on this matter at this time, as it requires great reflection, ceremony and discussions on how we move forward in a good way,” the IMA said in a release.

“We have not dismissed this matter in any capacity. We recognize the importance of building representation and programming that shares common values.”

The organization said it intends to add an Inuit representative to its board of governors at its next AGM, as well as develop a policy on cultural appropriation for all artists submitting to the awards.

Throat singing, or katajjaq, comes from a long oral tradition practised among Inuit women. Although it’s often performed today as entertainment, throat singing developed as a game played by two participants.

Throat singers make sounds imitating sounds in nature, carrying on a rhythm until one person laughs or loses their breath.

Throat singing was discouraged and essentially banned for many decades by Christian missionaries when they arrived in Inuit communities in the early 20th century, but the practice saw a revival in the 1980s.

In 2014, Quebec designated throat singing as a part of the province’s cultural heritage—the first designation of its kind.

Share This Story

(92) Comments:

  1. Posted by george on

    Yes, so long as there is no financial gain.
    The appropriation comes from exploitation but it can be done without that.

    • Posted by Dbh on

      Non Inuk people shouldn’t throat sing? The entire Mongol people and many other Turkic peoples would disagree heavily with all of you on that.

  2. Posted by WTF?! on

    Why is it that they are not allowed to do Inuit traditional throat sing? When Kelly Fraser sings in English and copies pop music lyrics? And as for Tanya Tagaq, She does heavy metal throat sing but not in traditional way where other people are not okay with it! Maybe Inuit should boycott about Kelly’s and Tanya way of singing and go against it like they are right now about non Inuit doing throat sing.
    Copy cat and heavy metal wannabe should’ve thought about this before they started boycotting.
    I am an inuk but I’m okay with non Inuit people to do throat sing, they feel like they want to do this! Why go against it when Kelly copied lyrics from Rihanna and Tanya changing way of traditional throat sing into heavy metal way?
    Shame on you!

    • Posted by Annie on

      I totally AGREE!!

      • Posted by Ms.Tupak on

        I totally agree. These ladies complaining are no good at it . The sounds they makes are not original throat singing. Tanya has embarrassed us older folks with her interpretation of throat sing. It’s terrible and sound like a chalk board being scratched with nails or someone who is in a cheap bar asking for sex, yelling and screaming for more. Let the Cree win for maybe she’s better sounding . She was taught by one of those who are complaining and she’s just better. I don’t have a problem with that as an Inuk elder.
        Throat singing made babies sleep, the throat singing these ladies make , makes one disturbed and have night mares.

  3. Posted by WTF?! on

    This really pissed me off!
    I’m an inuk here!
    If non inuk isn’t allowed to throat sing, why are Kelly and Tanya and other people boycotting about this live in southern land? Go to the north and boycott about this and be total inuk!

  4. Posted by Northern Inuit on

    has anyone reminded Tanya Gillis that what she does it not throat singing either?

    when was the last show she put on in Cambridge Bay, her hometown? years ago. you should have seen the looks of our Elders while she gyrated and moaned on the floor.

    also, Kelly Fraser became famous by culturally appropriating songs that she translated into Inuktitut, Diamonds.

    people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

  5. Posted by Northern Guy on

    Why is it not cultural appropriation when Tanya Tagaq and Kelly Fraser use the standard musical notation system to create their work, using references to pop culture and other non-Inuit media in their creations or taking it even further to ban them from using digital technology to mix and record their music? If non-Inuit aren’t allowed to throat sing then perhaps Inuit performers shouldn’t be allowed to use technologies, devices and systems that they clearly appropriated from other cultures for their own use and profit.

    • Posted by Israel McArthur on

      The irony of a couple of Inuit hip hop artists just winning best original song at the Canadian Screen Awards, at the same time as we are having this silly conversation is delicious!

  6. Posted by tread carefully on

    I think it’s important to thinking critically about cultural appropriation and whether or not we should sing O Canada in schools. These are valid topics.

    But the same people who bring up these issues time and time again have to be cognizant that the more stories like these come out, the more frivolous their cause appear. There are serious issues in the north affecting everyday citizens, and yet this is what dominates the headlines. I think everyone will agree that it’s not fair but that’s the way 24h media works. If you have a bit of a twitter following and you decided you wanted to dominate the headlines this week, it wouldn’t take too much effort.

    I’m not saying arts and culture should take a backseat because there’s a housing crisis in Inuit Nunangat, but over the past few years there’s a collective “elite” that has emerged and they know how to dominate the headlines with topics that concern them. Dare I say some of them are “building a brand” around their egos and the media is all over it. And it’s not that their message is wrong (I tend support most of their ideas) but there’s something off about the delivery, like it was meant to attack and be decisive. Real leaders tend to be more cautious and calculated when opening their mouths, and when they talk people listen and take them seriously. Sorry to say but these same names I keep seeing in the news spearheading topics like these still have some room to grow before they become leaders people can rally around.

  7. Posted by strawman on

    Should artists be allowed to appropriate culturally controversial topics to use as self-promotion?

  8. Posted by Fred on

    Excellent comments, thank you all for looking at this sensibly, not like those that are complaining about it. Nothing wrong here!

  9. Posted by Consistency on

    This is a tough one, cultural appropriation is a problem in some cases, however is this one of them?
    If it is then will it be cultural appreciation if a Southerner speaks, sings or writes in Inuktitut? And i dont think that is the way we want to go. We want more Inuktitut in the world not less.
    If it is that the Cikwes is being disrespectful in the way she throat sings then that could be an issue. But then again i think a point could be made that Tagaq is being disrespectful in her art form of throat singing to the traditional styles.

  10. Posted by delta on

    (Shhhh…. no one tell them we all stole the blues from impoverished African American musicians from the Mississippi delta, which then became the basis of rock and pop)

  11. Posted by Why see bee on

    Cicwes? Is she the Edmonton Eskimo in this conversation?
    it’s tough to get excited about any of this pro or con when ppl don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Maybe as an emerging and evolving society we should concentrate on living and planning within available resources.

  12. Posted by Arctic Guitarist on

    I think they should. I mean if not, then I should put down my guitar and only do traditional music (will never happen). censorship is the death of art and this only places road blocks in front of artistic progress. Instead of trying to stop people from throat singing, they should teach them how to do it properly. Educate your fellow Canadians!

    • Posted by David on

      Point well made.

    • Posted by Israel McArthur on

      After you’ve put down your guitar you had better wander over to the community centre and make sure that no one is square dancing, or if they are, make sure that there is no money involved. If you are in a community with a curling rink make sure that no one is financially benefitting as well, would hate to appropriate something from those Scots. j/k

      • Posted by Arctic Guitarist on

        I am not authorized to tell people how they should or should not dance as I am unable to dance myself. It was one of the reasons I picked up the guitar in the first place.

        • Posted by Israel McArthur on

          I envy you, I couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket as they say.

    • Posted by Nunavutmiutaq on

      Yes, good point

  13. Posted by Crystal Clarity on

    These performers are all hypocrites. All of them have mixed heritage and have no problem appropriating for their own gain from wherever they please. Nothing they do is “traditionally” Inuit. They take elements from the Inuit side of their heritage and mix it with blues, rock, country etc…. and call it their own. That too is appropriation, plagiarism, piracy. The appropriation argument is going too far and is being used to get themselves in the media to grab attention for themselves.

    BTW throatsinging is not “uniquely” Inuit but rather Inuit have their own unique style of throatsinging.. There are also many other cultures around the world who have throatsinigng as part of their culture including Tibetans, Scots, Tuvan, Sardinian, Rekukkara, Mongolians,Icelanders, Siberiaans, Arabs, even the Vikings used it. How may times have we seen North American artists include African music or Indian music etc… and the music of many other cultures in their own music. Music is universal and most cultures around the world are pleased to share their music around the world.

    • Posted by Humility !!!!!! on

      Exactly! Well put. Thank you

    • Posted by Israel McArthur on

      Exactly, well said. I’m not sure where the idea that throat singing is uniquely Inuit came from, though the Inuit variation of it is quite distinctive.

    • Posted by angiqatigivagit on

      I really like and agree with your post!

    • Posted by nutane on

      Which culture did the guitar come from? It’s a long way from home…

  14. Posted by Israel Mcarthur on

    Allow? Kind of a silly argument as no one is in a position to in any way disallow it.

    Cultural appropriation? Absolutely not, what complete poppycock. Artists have sought inspiration from other sources for years, always been that way, always will be. Better go after that horrible Kelly Fraser then is all that I can say, copying foreign Afro-American music and all. Shame on her! (complete sarcasm of course). I had an acquaintance, many years dead, who was pure Acadian, but also played the bagpipes in a pipe and drum band. That was no more ‘cultural appropriation’ than the example in this article.

    This is almost as silly as the folks in the NWT who only want to allow indigenous sellers to sell native art. Again, good luck enforcing any such ‘ban’, the courts will chew any attempt up and spit it out. Of all of the issues that we in Nunavut have to deal with, this is about as low down on the priority list as you can get.

  15. Posted by Oh the irony on

    The irony here is that the woke decolonistas in this women’s “collective” are asserting a purely Western European concept of property rights.

    Saying that throat singing “belongs” to the Inuit means you’re saying that throat singing is somehow the private property of the Inuit and cannot be “appropriated” without permission. That is a Western concept and can make sense only from a Western point of view..

    Me, I prefer the response of the Indigenous Music Awards, who said that the gifts of the Creator belong to everybody.

    However, I doubt that the woke self-promoting decolonistas in this collective have the critical thinking skills to grasp any of this..

    • Posted by Consistency on

      You make some good points and i am not yet convinced that the subject of the article is cultural appropriation however when you make comments like
      “However, I doubt that the woke self-promoting decolonistas in this collective have the critical thinking skills to grasp any of this..”
      This is not the point. I and have no doubt that these women are very smart, look at where they have gotten themselves. And just because you do not agree with what they say does not mean they did not think it through.

  16. Posted by David on

    From a Stanford University study.
    “Most rap provides a description as well as a means of coping with the social and political oppression of African-Americans face in the United States.”
    Why can Inuit play/record and profit from Hip Hop and Rap, and that is ok. Meanwhile, the history of Hip Hop and Rap very clearly originates from oppressed people of colour in the US, and belongs to them as much as throat singing belongs to Inuit.

    The concept of cultural appropriation will live a short life, simply because the people who cry “cultural appropriation”….. well….. it’s hard to take them seriously sometimes. They rarely look at the big picture, and are so guilty themselves. They just don’t see it.

  17. Posted by Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit on

    Kelly and Tanya needs to be thought Inuit Qaujimajatungangit

    Inuuqatigiitsiarniq: Respecting others, relationships and caring for people.

    • Tunnganarniq: Fostering good spirits by being open, welcoming and inclusive.

    • Pijitsirniq: Serving and providing for family and/or community.

    • Aajiiqatigiinniq: Decision making through discussion and consensus.

    • Pilimmaksarniq/Pijariuqsarniq: Development of skills through observation, mentoring, practice, and effort.

    • Piliriqatigiinniq/Ikajuqtigiinniq: Working together for a common cause.

    • Qanuqtuurniq: Being innovative and resourceful.

    • Avatittinnik Kamatsiarniq: Respect and care for the land, animals and the environment.

  18. Posted by Ukaliq on

    Oh the irony, you’re entirely wrong. Inuit tradition is that songs, dances, etc belong to the family of the people who wrote them. People can request their songs be retired when they die and family can stop people from performing their songs.
    You clearly don’t know what you’re talking about.

    • Posted by Israel McArthur on

      Thank you for making my argument. A family can ‘request’ all that they want, no one has any obligation to grant that request, so don’t be surprised if it is denied.

      Of course, if it is a unique song created by that individual you get into issues of copyright and ownership, but traditional songs that are in the public domain? Yeah, not going to happen. I certainly don’t feel the follow the cultural traditions of every ethnic-minority group in Canada. No one should, even if it were not practically impossible. Acknowledge that these traditions are as meaningful to them as mine are to me? Of course. Follow them? Ummm, no obligation or desire to, thank you.

  19. Posted by Sue Hamilton on

    I guess I am not understanding the point of the current outrage.

    Atanarjuat’s (voted Canada’s top movie of all time) sound track included throat singing performed by Huun-Huur-Tu of Tuva. Their throat singing is performed only by men. The movie also included choral singing by the Bulgarian Voices Angelite. Was it not OK for Zach Kunuk to use these songs? Should it have offended the people of Tuva and Bulgaria?

    Should outdoor enthusiasts world wide be denied the right to use qajaqs?

    For sure aboriginal cultures ought to be respected and acknowledged for their ingenuity and originality. But Charles Caleb Colton said, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” Perhaps instead of being offended, Inuit throat singing artists should be flattered; if not then try to get a patent on their craft.

  20. Posted by ForeverAmazed on

    What about square dancing?
    Seems to be quite popular in Nunavut.
    Is this not cultural appropriation also?

  21. Posted by Monica Connolly on

    To me, “cultural appropriation” is only an issue if someone pretends to be something they’re not – e.g. a non-Inuk carving soapstone polar bears and letting people think they are buying Inuit art – or if someone uses a respected cultural symbol in a disrespectful way – although we do that often within cultures, too.
    The term became popular fairly recently among minority social justice activists who often see it as a form of colonialism when dominant groups borrow ideas or themes from other cultures. As I said, barring fraud and disrespect, I believe sharing ideas among social groups goes back to mankind’s beginnings and is one of the reasons we have become such a dominant species.

  22. Posted by David on

    Just to point out, Kelly Fraser kickstarted her singing career by taking existing hit songs from popular artists, and translating them to Inuktitut then singing them on YouTube. That is how she was “found”.

    What’s the difference?

    This is the problem with cultural appropriation, the finger pointers make up whatever rules suits them.

    • Posted by Groupthink? on

      Kelly is the biggest hypocrite in all this, as I see it. I don’t always agree with Tanya but she is at least consistent. My sense is that Kelly went along with her because she wanted to be part of the ‘in crowd’ among her peers, within which she is probably the weakest player.

  23. Posted by TUUULUATALIII on

    Katajjaq = 2 people competing any women, men, lady, men, him, her, anyone, 2 people

    Tanya = performer

    Kelly = performer

    ^ takkuuli ^

  24. Posted by Rob M Adams on

    Thank you for the article, Sarah Rogers. You sparked many meaningful comments here.

    Nunavut-born, Yellowknife-based throat-singing duo Piqsiq pulled their album … saying: “We look forward to submitting future work once our concerns of cultural appropriation are taken seriously and policies are in place to prevent it from happening again”.

    What prompts such talk and action from the Piqsiq pair?

  25. Posted by Fake Plastic Tree on

    “Inuit artists say throat singing is a uniquely Inuit creation, not to be performed by other groups.”

    Not true at all, and surprisingly daft on history. There are many other cultures that throat sing; Tuvan throat singing, spanning areas of Monglolia and Siberia; Tibetan throat singing, Rekuhkara style from Japan which resembles the Inuit style. Balochi Nur Sur which can be found in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In South Africa a style appears that is used by Xhosa people. It is even believed the Vikings throat sang; which might explain Tanya’s throat singing piece that appeared on the history channel series, perhaps?

    These artists have the right to boycott if they choose. In doing so I think appear childish and petty. ‘Shine Bright Like a Diamond’ in Inuktitut? Give me a break.

    • Posted by Michael Sullivan on

      Very good points, and supported by facts. A welcome addition to the comments. Thank you.

  26. Posted by JK on

    Traditional Inuit throatsinging is spiritual, it is meaningful. It connects the singers and the listeners to our ancestors. We all can hear them through this form of storytelling. It was almost lost, oppressed, almost entirely taken away.
    It has been reclaimed and how it got to where it is was not easy.
    It should be understood that every Inuk who sings these songs are the echoes of their ancestors and elders who have passed down their song.
    Throatsinging is a voice reclaimed, and it is a special voice. It cannot be equated with other appropriated art forms to justify further appropriation.
    To the few who are negating what is being brought up by the current throatsingers, and you are only a few, you perpetuate the forces, the ideologies, that almost took this away from us.
    To those “anthropologists” who question the ownership of Inuit Throatsinging referring to a “sharing society” found in western anthropological text books, I see you. Is it so hard to see empowered Inuit women assert themselves? We know the answer to that now.
    To the ancestral voice keepers, our throatsinger traditional and contemporary, I support your boycott.

    • Posted by Israel McArthur on

      Very well written, and moving. Unfortunately not at all relevant to the topic at hand. It is not within the remit of anyone to determine what elements of their culture are admired, appreciated, adopted, or simulated by others. That’s not the way cultural shift evolution works. That’s the way it has been forever, and that’s the way that it will continue to be.

    • Posted by No Moniker on

      “To the few who are negating what is being brought up by the current throatsingers, and you are only a few, you perpetuate the forces, the ideologies, that almost took this away from us.”

      I disagree that the voices of dissent here are only a few, they appear to be the majority, actually. And if they are not that, they are much more than a few. Can you quantify this statement?

      Also, the idea that disagreement on this issue suggests the equivalence of complicity with the ideological forces that stripped Inuit of their traditions is one that needs qualification. Please tell us what the ideological connections are? These are powerful rhetorical devices you’ve invoked, clever in the use of emotive and high-inference language, but they are also bones that demand fleshing out.

      Here’s an alternate ideological perspective. Those who disagree with the charges of appropriation, or with the idea of exclusive cultural ownership of an art form are, rather, operating at a deeper level of understanding regarding the connections between our broader human culture. The processes of human progress, in art, in science, in almost any field imaginable, would not have been possible inside the stingy, jealous silos we see cropping up in the increasingly rancorous forms of public discourse today. In reality, purity of culture is a myth. The notion that throat signing is a exclusive product of Inuit culture is also a myth.

  27. Posted by OMG SO SILLY on

    This is ridiculous. These artists borrow and appropriate too. Kelly “borrowed” entire songs from African American artists and uses their sound all the time. And Tanya clearly stole her sound from a dying cat. Inuks rap, square dance, sing metal, sing country and more. If Inuit can borrow so can out Native friends. Get over yourselves ladies. Embarrassing.

    • Posted by Simone on

      These performers are simply feeling threatened. Afraid they will become yesterday’s news. Obsolete. Old news. Whatever happened to. Etc.

  28. Posted by Free Tibet on

    Inuit do not hold sole ownership of throat singing. This practice is common in several other cultures.

  29. Posted by KM on

    Here is a video of traditional Ainu throat singing, which is currently being resurrected as an art form, from Japan:

    I dare someone to listen to it and think they couldn’t be hearing something very similar in Nunavut instead of Hokkaido.

  30. Posted by Steve L on

    I’m of direct Irish descent, via Scotland where my ancestors fought along side Robert the Bruce. Every St Patrick’s Day I have endure the onslaught of green in honour of a place and a time most have no knowledge of and wear the cute little badges that say Éirinn go Brách without knowing what it means.

    Encyclopedia Britannica credits throat singing to the Mongols and numerous other cultures. The style in the north may be unique but throat singing per se is not limited to a single culture and therefore no culture or artist can claim ownership and enforce performance by only approved persons.

    • Posted by Okay on

      I love Inuit throat singing. It is very spiritual. But i must confess, I also love other countries and regions throat singing. Growing up in an african theme church, we also had a form of thoat singing. I was surprised how my own culture was so similar to Inuit culture when I became a resident of Nunavut.

  31. Posted by WTF?! on

    Boycott my ass!
    They should stop traveling to south and stop making money out of the songs they copied.

  32. Posted by Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit on

    Intstead of just Kelly and Tanya needs to be thought Inuit Qaujimajatungangit, everyone does

    Inuuqatigiitsiarniq: Respecting others, relationships and caring for people.

    • Tunnganarniq: Fostering good spirits by being open, welcoming and inclusive.

    • Pijitsirniq: Serving and providing for family and/or community.

    • Aajiiqatigiinniq: Decision making through discussion and consensus.

    • Pilimmaksarniq/Pijariuqsarniq: Development of skills through observation, mentoring, practice, and effort.

    • Piliriqatigiinniq/Ikajuqtigiinniq: Working together for a common cause.

    • Qanuqtuurniq: Being innovative and resourceful.

    • Avatittinnik Kamatsiarniq: Respect and care for the land, animals and the environment.

    • Posted by Rob M Adams on

      Thank you Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit. It’s helpful when you spread that list of values. I remember seeing them listed as IQ in a GN study I read about ten years ago and thinking “Hey, that’s how most people I know behave”
      DO some Inuit think that’s cultural appropriation?
      WHEN did Inuit create a formal ‘list of values’?
      DOES anyone think that values are unique to Inuit?
      DOES anyone think that Inuit practice them as well as others?

  33. Posted by Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit on

    @Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit I totally agree on your comment, something very important that I have recently learn during a Course in Cambridge Bay. These values are highly important to one and all here in Nunavutmuit.

  34. Posted by Clarity on

    Here we go again…drama queens can have access to what they want in relation to music and copy artists without approval this is illegal the real artist have copyrighta. There is no copyright to throat singing its cultural and an open playing field. Go cry somewhere else you dont deserve to be nominated for anything and you wouldn’t win anyway

  35. Posted by Cultural appropriation is about power imbalances on

    Let’s clarify definitions. “Cultural appropriation” is when someone from a more powerful culture, uses something from a less powerful cultural, for profit, and without permission.

    In terms of demographic and economic power, African-Americans are more powerful than Metis, who are more powerful than First Nations, who are in turn more powerful than Inuit.

    Thus, when Metis make profit from Inuit clothing (see Manitoba Mukluks), that raises a red flag, because Metis are more powerful than Inuit. When Cree make profit from Inuit throat-singing, that raises a red flag as well.

    By contrast, when Inuit make a profit using other cultural influences (whether Scottish or African-American or whatever), the power imbalances still favor the other groups, so it’s not as problematic.

    • Posted by Consistency on

      Well i dont think we are less “powerful” then the Cree or anyone. We have our own territory, large Inuit organizations that fight for us at all levels of government (side note: yes we do still have a long way to go to get to where we really want to be… but we can get there).
      Also that is kinda beside the point. Cultural appropriation is wrong… full stop. Just like stealing. The way you put it then it is fine for someone with less to steal from someone with more, just not the other way around. No taking something that isn’t yours is wrong. the question being talked about in the comments is weather throat singing can belong to an individual group.
      How it should be even with cultural activities is we should be trying to build up everyone. and if you know something that can help someone you should share it… both up and down power groups.

    • Posted by iThink on

      This notion that power imbalances mitigate, or may be used to arbitrate in cases of cultural borrowing, or appropriation (depending on the imbalance), does not work. I’ve seen this schematic invoked quite a few times around this issue, it’s also used to determine the differences between what counts as, and what does not count as ‘racism’. On both counts this ‘construct’ is a logical fallacy rooted in cultural relativism, itself animated by postmodernism.

      Why not? Because it lacks consistency, is relativistic, and is applicable in a completely arbitrary way, as you’ve just demonstrated. Please, qualify the statement that Cree and more powerful than Inuit, therefore cultural borrowing becomes ‘appropriation’ (in this case, a pejorative). You can’t do it, in fact I would suggest there is as much an argument that the opposite is true. The constant shuffling of the imagination required to make this argument float, specifically in terms of power symmetry leads us to ‘moral relativism’ and if you are to accept this premise (and I believe you are forced to, at least by logic) then you have no argument against ‘appropriation’ because all things are tolerable (or, must be tolerated) from this position. And so we arrive at a ‘reductio ad absurdum.’ Or, more simply put, your argument is absurd.

    • Posted by Israel MacArthur on

      Yeah, the argument doesn’t work. Who do you apply to for ‘permission’? Who designates this body for ‘permission’? What law guides it?

    • Posted by KM on

      I suspect the Metis, who only recently had claims settled, would argue they are certainly not more powerful than the Cree (who’ve had some claims settled), and both would quickly point out they don’t have their own entire territory.

      If you’re trying to get into such fine details to determine “power imbalance” for cultural appropriation, you’re trying too hard and it’s getting ridiculous. Where do you stop?

    • Posted by Southern Inuk on

      The Cree people have been making mukluks for all of their history. Inuit make kamikaze from traditionally prepared sealskin or caribou skin. Inuit do not mass produce every pair is handcrafted with hand sewing. Not fair to compare a manufacturing company like Manitoba Mukluks to the talented craftswomen of Nunavut. There is a big difference.

  36. Posted by Nunavik on

    Oh wow, human beings are human beings, even Mongolians throat sings, they were amazing, go google it, and even on

    Our previous Ancestors were open minded, why become stingy Inuk! and, why not be welcoming type.

    God created our vocals, and, I am proud to be alive and explore life, not to go against anyone.

  37. Posted by Toonik’s Grandfather on

    Of course they can, self expession through music like Tanya and Kelly right? If hired to throat sing, then it should be an Inuk doing it. To learn it and record or, the sky is the limit. It’s dying art, just like drumming and composing drumming songs. All youth, don’t let the critics scare you. Remember LOT of non-Inuit also follow your music in the north.

    • Posted by Israel McArthur on

      The ethnicity of the person performing is meaningless to me as a consumer, all that I care about is the quality and cost. By your reasoning, I should only have Italian piano or violin players at weddings. Should I go to some of these square dance competitions and tell the Inuk violinist to put down his violin? Absolutely not. People are free to practice arts, music, and craft from anywhere.

      The Manitoba mukluks argument is just silly. They are a good product that people want, with patterns inspired by the art of others. This is the way the world is. Would we be having this conversation if Manitobah Mukluks had patterns inspired by Japanese art?

  38. Posted by JK on

    Is it hard to hear these Inuit throatsingers, these women, say “no”; especially these women trying to make a living with something that was passed down to them?

  39. Posted by Throatsinger on

    As a throatsinger myself, I can see both sides of the argument in question. Is it wrong that a non-Inuit is nominated for an award for throatsinging, that is not a part of her traditional background? Yes, that leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

    However, such is life. I think Tanya Gillis (who uses her Inuktitut name to sound more Inuk), Piqsiq, Kathleen Merritt (Ivaluajuk, who also uses her Inuktitut name), and Kelly Fraser are making noise and publicizing something that should be dealt with privately with the organization, why are Urban Inuit so quick to publicly shame someone? Why and how are they right? Who is the moral compass here? They are quick to jump on the bandwagon. They are also artists that the public scrutinzes publicly, so they should be more compassionate, no? To publicly shame someone is not the Inuit way.

    They are so quick to shame someone who might have been ignorant to the fact that there is such a thing as “cultural appropriation”. We are still learning all of these new terms such as “lateral violence”. They are so quick to shame when they are guilty themselves with a lot of things. Make sure your hands are clean. They are not clean. I’ve seen and heard some pretty shady things about all of the artists boycotting that woman. Isn’t imitation the highest form of flattery?

    I should not have even commented, I have more important things to worry about

    • Posted by Maybe not wrong… on

      If a non-Inuit is nominated for an award for throatsinging, that is not a part of her traditional background, I can see that it would leave a bad taste in your mouth, but does that make it wrong? The thing is, she’s not even nominated for an award for throatsinging, she’s nominated for “Best Folk Album” for her album that “experiments with throat singing in some of her work”.

      • Posted by Arctic Guitarist on

        Many people seem to gloss over that fact. I also listened to the song in question and it is actually not too bad. Throat singing isn’t really my cup of coffee but she didn’t over do it and even had singing mixed in. I also recommend the Mongolian Band The HU for some good traditional Mongolian music melded with some good ole Rock N roll.

        • Posted by Love it on

          I just discovered The HU! F***ing awesome!

      • Posted by Observer on

        She is not in nomination for throat singing but Folk Album.

    • Posted by Israel McArthur on

      There is absolutely no agreement that there is such a thing a cultural appropriation, and to speak of its existence as a decided issue is most misleading. Many find it a pile of complete hogwash that some use to justify prejudice, tribalism, and exclusivity.

  40. Posted by Jay on

    I enjoy listening to throat stinging, but people need to get over this cultural appropriation stuff. Throat singing is not unique to just the Inuit. There are other cultures with throat singing around the world. Can’t stop everyone

  41. Posted by MAKING THIS FAIR on

    I’m sorry Kelly Fraser, but didn’t you make songs from famous singers and translating them into Inuktitut??????? I’m pretty sure the songs are copyrighted!!

  42. Posted by Qaaluit on

    Long, long ago in the year 1542, Inuit did not claim possession to material things or thoughts or ideas but shared. It sounded ridiculous to say or think, “This is my land, don’t come here.” “This is my camp.” “These are my caribou, don’t hunt them.” “This is my design, don’t copy it.” and the list goes on. Then the Qalluit came along and lay claim to everything the Inuit created, developed and shared. They took these traditions, ideaologies and creations away from their poor what they thought were ‘uneducated’ Inuit cousins and said that it has to be this way. The Qalluit had a totally different epistemic reason, which is self-serving and individualistic. So that is the story for now, there are two different point of views, we just need to listen and look at the grey, I’ll finish my story in 2042 so stay tuned.

  43. Posted by Teach on

    I’ll gladly teach you to throat sing. be proud of our culture, encourage it as we are none in this world but us inuit. Shame on you boycotters

  44. Posted by Eve Richardson on

    Thank you for the article and the thoughtful comments. I have read and thought about cultural appropriation for awhile. I am familiar with the arguments of those like myself – white, of the colonizing culture; all artists borrow, other people do [whatever ], etc. I don’t need to hear more of that; I want to hear from those whose culture is under discussion (in this case Inuit). Thank you to those who have given your answers. I wish I were more sure who posting is an Inukitut so I could tell what different opinions there are from within the culture.

    • Posted by Israel McArthur on

      You’ve just fallen into a bit of a trap there, haven’t you? Inuit, Metis, and First Nations dislike (rightly) being lumped together, as much of the country does when they categorize them all as ‘native’ or ‘indigenous’.

      When people (not always, but mostly, Inuit) use the term Qallunaat, it is highly frustrating to me to see such a reductionist approach, yet you’ve done it here. There is no such thing as ‘white culture’. White is a colour, not a culture, and the differences between the different Caucasian cultures are massive. I feel absolutely no cultural affinity for my Anglo or Acadian brethren. Being of mostly Slavic descent and therefore ‘non-Western’ I’m aware that I’m not part of their world and have a different history, heritage, and values, and that is perfectly okay.

      When I hear people say ‘white culture’ I want to use ‘indigenous culture’ just to make a point, but I don’t as experience has shown that there are very few who care to disaggregate Caucasian cultures, all that they can see is the skin colour.

    • Posted by Israel McArthur on

      The irony of a couple of Inuit hip hop artists just winning best original song at the Canadian Screen Awards, as announced on the front page of this newspaper, at the same time as we are having this silly conversation is delicious! I do wonder if anyone will contact urban Afro-Americans to see how they feel about having their musical traditions appropriated. 😉

  45. Posted by Hmmmmm on

    I find this whole thread mostly interesting. I do find that people are easily critical in a vehement manner when women express themselves strongly about issues of importance to them; they are easily put down. And I am worried some of this is happening here. I find Tanya Tagaq and Kelly Fraser very courageous in many ways, with their singing and expressing their ideas; they are a part of a new generation of women doing things differently, and I think they bring a lot to society. I also think, from looking at part of the recording of the non-Inuk artist, that the issue may be plagiarism of Tanya’s experimental art rather than cultural appropriation, so perhaps the problem was not defined very well by the artists who brought it up. I also find that the comment of the IMA leader really does not help as it tries to lump all Indigenous cultures as cultures with the same spirituality. I am concerned about people not wanting to share their culture and the fear of the other; xenophobia leads to so many horrible acts among humans, and there is so much of it. At the same time, I think we need to look at individual examples of borrowing and all their context instead of making sweeping black and white judgments on cultural appropriation.

    • Posted by Head Scratch on

      Do you think it’s problematic when women are criticized, ipso facto? If so, that seems patronizing and not rooted in concerns about equality, but in fear of criticism itself.

      • Posted by Hmmmmm on

        Of course both men and women’s words and actions should be equally scrutinized; we are all fallible human beings whatever our gender, or culture. I don’t have statistics and perhaps I am hypersensitive about the aggressiveness of criticisms toward women, but I do wonder if males raising sensitive issues like the one Tanya and Kelly did would be the subject of as much personal criticism. Dissecting the issue is one thing, disparaging the individuals and belittling their accomplishments is another. Perhaps that is another topic of discussion, though, and a bit of a diversion from the matter at stake here. Thanks for the question.

        • Posted by Head Scratch on

          I think your mistake is to frame the issue as one of an attack on women, or counterfactually, on men. In either case placing the primacy on gender exposes a bias. To me the attacks are on the issue, and pointing out the hypocrisy of the messenger is reasonable, though I will grant you it is a very short distance from there to unwarranted and unjustifiable personal attack. I doubt a man would have it any easier. Imagine if Hunter Tootoo, our resident pariah, had said this? Either way, if you followed his foibles over the years I doubt you would see much slack cut because he was male. I will also grant you that it is possible that the quality of the vitriol might be different based on gender, but that statement demands qualification as well.

  46. Posted by Robert Mesher on

    How about yodelling, originally from the Alps?

  47. Posted by WTF?! on

    They should’ve boycott about the high cost of living in Nunavut and northern Quebec instead.

    Housing crisis
    Health care treatments
    Income assistance
    Social services
    Suicide prevention
    And many more

    Those above, need more attention then this throat singing boycott.

  48. Posted by Rick on

    I see ‘Tribe Called Red’, a long term professional music group which has worked with throat singers, has withdrawn their entry to the IMA in solidarity to their ‘Inuit sisters’.
    Good for them.
    without putting too fine a point on it, professionals who depend on their art have a clear right to protect their livelihoods. Critics obviously don’t.

    • Posted by No Moniker on

      If the only way you can conceive of protecting your ‘art’ is to proscribe who can practice it based on some contrived imaginings about cultural purity, then your art is a fraud.

    • Posted by Performstive Wokeness on

      Thanks for your insights, Rick. So what you’re ultimately getting at is that art and culture are being used to protect a monopoly on business. Clever! This is starting to make more sense.

  49. Posted by Jonah Makpa Aglak on

    Should Mongolian throat singing be considered “Cultural Appropriation”?


Comments are closed.