Lil'wat Nation talent earned two awards at the Native American Music Awards in Niagara Falls, NY on Nov. 2.
The Kindness Project by Stl'atl'imx Friends won for Best Historical and Linguistic Recording and The Spiritual Warriors' album Ancestors won in the Best World Music Recording category.
"It was such an amazing event to represent not just Stl'atl'imx or Lil'wat, but Indigenous people," says Leroy Joe, frontman of The Spiritual Warriors and writer and producer of The Kindness Project. "We're still doing this. It's contemporary, but we're doing language revitalization, cultural revitalization."
Collectively, the two albums were nominated for eight awards. In total, 19 people representing the releases went down to the ceremony.
"I don't remember most of my speech; it was kind of a haze," Joe says with a laugh. "I said most of it in our language. My daughter [Daisy Joe, who sang on both albums] spoke and she's an amazing speaker."
Rosemary Stager, health director for the Southern Stl'atlimx Health Society, which produced The Kindness Project, echoed that sentiment. She was executive producer of the project and says the most memorable moment of the awards was hearing the young women who sang on the album give their acceptance speeches. (That includes Daisy, Julia Schneider, and Brit Peters. Calvina Smith was unable to attend.)
"The singers on the album, the four ladies, they were really, really so impressive," Stager says. "The speeches they made were so great. They really took the campaign to heart."
Since arriving back home in Canada, the organization has already been fielding questions about the project—which aims to address lateral violence in Indigenous communities—from other health authorities.
"We had meetings with all the provincial ministers at the annual meetings that the province organizes," Stager says. "We were at those meetings and shared our story about our award. We're really lobbying and campaigning ... We want to keep it going and make a documentary and video. We're even thinking of having a festival in the summertime. This is just the start. We want to keep the momentum and keep building."
For his part, Joe had hoped that each album would win in one category—and he was pleasantly surprised when that dream came true. "It was amazing to see all the musicians and people," he says. "It was quite a whirlwind event."