iskwē’s mission is to “amplify Indigenous thought” and she takes this literally. She introduces the topic of Indigenous reconciliation through the power of bombastic electronic pop, deeply affective soul and raucous rock. With commanding voice at the centre, iskwē communicates the sadness of loss and the urgency of action. Her message is forward, sharp and striking.
The relentless victim-blaming that affects Indigenous communities, our collective societal apathy regarding the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls: these themes are not buried in obfuscatory lyricism, but shouted through bombastic and impactful choruses. Her image is just as striking; iskwē takes the stage with facepaint and elaborate outfits that visually reference historical regalia, echoing diverse Indigenous tradition within her own contemporary style.
Her politics aren’t watered down, but they cross unceded borders and oceans. iskwē comes from Treaty 1 territory as part of the Swampy Cree Nation and performs under the Cree name for woman. She brings disparate traditions together, introducing traditional throat singing by icon Tanya Tagaq and an Ojibwe refrain on a bed of European house beats — and that’s just in one song. Her progressive voice is fed by her mixed Indigenous and Irish heritage, which informs a universal understanding of the process of colonization and how to undo what’s been done. It’s time to act, it’s time to fight, it’s time to dance.
Biography by Liam Prost