Canadian Music Week is pleased to announce Raven Kanatakta and Sho-Shona Kish of Digging Roots will receive the 2023 CMW Allan Slaight Humanitarian Spirit Award during a special presentation at the Westin Harbour Castle on June 10, in recognition of their longstanding commitment to charitable initiatives. The CMW Allan Slaight Humanitarian Award is presented annually to a Canadian artist, duo or group, in recognition of their social activism and benevolent support of humanitarian interests and causes. As recipient of this Award, The Slaight Family Foundation will make a sizable donation towards a charity of Digging Roots choosing.
“Digging Roots are a living example of community. The music that Raven and Sho-Shona create is grounded in the spirit of home and that is evident in all they give back as their star continues to rise,” said Gary Slaight, President and CEO of the Slaight Family Foundation. “My father Allan was a champion of the arts and we are proud to carry on his legacy by celebrating generous and thoughtful work by admirable artists like Digging Roots.”
As part of Canadian Music Week, two-time JUNO Award winner Digging Roots will also host the Canadian Live Music Industry Awards on June 9 at the Westin Harbour Castle. Digging Roots are also nominated for two Jim Beam® INDIES for Group or Duo of the Year and Indigenous Artist/Group or Duo of the Year.
The husband and wife team Raven Kanatakta and Sho-Shona Kish of Digging Roots are Anishinabek and Onkwehón:we musicians, songwriters, and activists who have traveled around the world spreading conscious music that speaks to the modern identity of being Indigenous people in Canada. They connect the past to the present with an understanding of history, Indigenous knowledge, and music. Since the inception of Digging Roots, Raven and Sho-Shona have supported many, many grassroots and cultural events in the advocacy of Indigenous Rights. Their last philanthropic organized performance before the pandemic was a collaboration to present We Are The Stronghold: Music, Ceremony & Celebration in Solidarity with Wet’suwet’en, where they raised over $30,000. Over the years they’ve conducted music workshops with children in isolated reserves with a focus on identity, empowerment, history, colonialism, and creativity. They’ve also gifted instruments like drums, guitars, harmonicas, and amplifiers to Indigenous children.
As recipients for the Humanitarian Award they would acquire Ground Penetrating Radar machines that will be donated to a national organization to be made available to First Nation communities to survey and find children who have been murdered in their traditional territories when mandated Residential Schools operated across Canada. To date, the bodies of 10,000 young people have been discovered in unmarked graves.
Raven and Sho-Shona are the first generation in their family to not forcibly attend Residential Schools. Their sons, Skye and Wawaasnode, are their family’s first generation to be raised completely without the direct influence of clergymen and clergywomen. Through Digging Roots, Raven and Sho-Shona have been publicly engaging audiences from Johannesburg, South Africa, to Penticton, BC, on this subject matter through songs like ‘Cut My Hair’ and ’Sweetwater’. Raven notes that “We are in a time of reconciliation, we need to move our allied discussions from conversation to action, and that means we need co-conspirators to get the healing process started. It’s time to learn from the past so we don’t repeat the injustices of yesteryear. The only way forward is to face the truth of this country and implement solutions for peace.”
The healing process of Canada needs to begin with people; with people who have connected their minds to their hearts. Raven and Sho-Shona have utilized music as a voice for justice, peace, inspiration, empathy, and dance. You’ll always find Digging Roots singing Song Lines with the Round Dance beat of their own drum in cities, to the end of the road on the Rez.
“For someone who grew up in Canada, it is hard to believe we were not taught about the abhorrent atrocities going on in this country for generations,” said Neill Dixon, President of Canadian Music Week. “In 2021, Raven Kanatakta shared a striking story of how his grandmother would say “Shame on you, Canada.”, and this has stuck with us. It is through the work of Allan Slaight Humanitarian Spirit Award recipients like Digging Roots and the late Gord Downie that the truth comes to the surface in new ways through music and conversation.”
Each year, Slaight Communications and Canadian Music Week awards an outstanding Canadian artist, in recognition of their contribution to social activism and support of humanitarian causes. Previous CMW Allan Slaight Humanitarian Spirit Award recipients include Abel “The Weeknd’ Tesfaye, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Gord Downie, Arcade Fire, RUSH, Sarah McLachlan, Chantal Kreviazuk & Raine Maida, Simple Plan, Bruce Cockburn, Bryan Adams and Nelly Furtado.