A Canadian singer performing her country’s national anthem at an NBA All Stars game made a subtle but powerful change to the song’s lyrics in a nod to Canada’s Indigenous history.
R&B singer Jully Black changed the lyrics of “O Canada” from “our home and native land” to “our home in native land” while she was performing the song at the 2023 NBA All-Star Game at Salt Lake City, Utah, on Feb. 19.
The 45-year-old, who was born in Canada to Jamaican immigrants parents, said she had stopped singing the national anthem a few years ago after hundreds of mass, unmarked graves were discovered at multiple former schools to assimilate Indigenous children in Canada.
The schools, established in the 1890s under the leadership of the Roman Catholic church, were part of a Canada-wide network of residential schools set up to forcibly separate Indigenous children from their families and assimilate them, according to Reuters.
“That really woke everything up,” Black told the BBC.
She said that she took a closer look at the anthem’s lyrics after she was asked to sing it at the game and decided to make the change.
“Our home and native land is a lie,” she said. “Our home on native land is the truth.”
People on social media immediately noticed the change, and the hashtag #ourhomeONnativeland began trending on Twitter as people praised Black for her powerful tribute.
“This is less about me and more about being apart of the change in any way I can!” Black tweeted.
Last July, Pope Francis traveled to Canada to issue an official apology to the Indigenous people for the Catholic Church’s role in the residential schools.
A six year investigation into the system in 2015 found that it constituted “cultural genocide”.
The investigation revealed the physical abuse, rape, malnutrition and other atrocities experienced by at least 150,000 children who attended the schools between the 1840s and the 1990s.
The report also found that 4,100 children died while attending residential schools.
“I can’t sing the anthem the other way any more,” Black told the BBC.
In 2018, Canada officially changed the lyrics of its anthem to make it gender neutral, switching “all thy sons command” to “all of us command.”
“O Canada now includes all of us,” the Senate said at the time.