Home News NBA All-Star Game singer changes Canadian anthem in nod to Indigenous rights

NBA All-Star Game singer changes Canadian anthem in nod to Indigenous rights


A Canadian R&B star’s one-word change to her country’s anthem is drawing attention amid a national conversation about Indigenous rights.

Jully Black sang “O Canada! Our home on native land,” with a pause and emphasis on the word “on,” at her performance before the NBA All-Star Game in Salt Lake City on Sunday, changing the original lyrics “our home and native land.”

Her change drew praise on social media, and after the game, the hashtag #ourhomeONnativeland began trending on Twitter. “This is less about me and more about being apart of the change in any way I can!” Black wrote in a tweet.

Both the U.S. and Canadian anthems were sung at the game; the U.S. Grammy nominee Jewel sang “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The Toronto Raptors are the NBA’s only Canadian team.

Indigenous rights have long been contested in Canada, especially since the discovery of mass burial sites at residential schools, which were part of a system from the 1800s to 1990s that separated Native families and tried to convert their children to Christianity. Last July, Pope Francis traveled to Canada to apologize. Also last year, Canada reached a $31.5 billion deal over Indigenous children put unnecessarily into foster care.

The last official change to Canada’s national anthem was in 2018, when its lyrics were updated to make them gender-neutral, changing “all thy sons command” to “all of us command.” “O Canada now includes all of us,” said a Senate statement at the time. There is no proposed legislation to make further changes to the anthem.

“All I can say is ‘good for Jully,’” T. Patrick Carrabré, director of the School of Music at the University of British Columbia, said by email. “I hope that Jully and others who are trying to sing the new Canada into being will be more successful.”

Carrabré says that UBC’s arts faculty recently changed the language of its land acknowledgment, a type of formal statement that recognizes Indigenous peoples, to reflect that the faculty is “is located on the traditional, ancestral, and occupied territory” of the Musqueam peoples.

“These are small changes, but they reflect an evolving idea of how our current legal structures are out of step with reality,” Carrabré said.

Jay Soule, an artist also known as Chippewar, says that the use of “on native land” is not new. He is the designer of a T-shirt that says “Oh Canada Your Home On Native Land,” which has been selling for about nine years.

“When other Native people see this shirt, they say, ‘I’ve been singing it like this since I was a kid’,” he said. Soule added that, when he was growing up, he would often silently mouth the mandatory singing of the national anthem in school.

As for seeing Black change the lyrics at the All-Star Game, Soule added that “seeing it being sung on a national stage is just fantastic.”