“ôtênaw” nêhiyawak

"ôtênaw" by nêhiyawak is Northern Transmissions' 'song of the Day.'
"ôtênaw" by nêhiyawak

Vancouver’s nêhiyawak, originally hails from amiskwaciy (Edmonton) on Treaty 6 territory. The trio’s debut full-length, nipiy, arrives on october 24, via Arts & Crafts. The Indigenous group are comprised of Kris Harper (vocals, guitars), Marek Tyler (drums), and Matthew Cardinal (synths, bass). The album contains a collection of songs strongly inspired by the Idle No More movement, says Harper, “nipiy is for those who don’t seem to fit in for a myriad of reasons. To inspire others to use their voice and to send messages to future generations.” The album was Produced by Colin Stewart (The New Pornographers, Black Mountain, Destroyer) Drummer Marek Tyler offers this context on nêhiyawak: Ahead of the release, nêhiyawak have shared the first single “ôtênaw.”

nêhiyawak – whose name refers directly to their nêhiyaw ancestry – is a spirited expression of Indigeneity. nipiy, which translates to water, is the title of nêhiyawak’s first full length album. The flow and pace of the album, symbolic of the flow and pace of water, begins and ends with pieces dedicated to kisiskâciwanisîpiy (North Saskatchewan River), a river that flows through the center of amiskwaciy. In the band’s words, “There are many important ideas and teachings that we were raised with in our lives, but few more important than water. It’s a modern conversation with complex meanings and understandings.”

we have among us some gentle hands

we also have some others harder to understand

that’s why “they” was made, no you cannot pretend

while wasting one another in the name of the new land

“ôtênaw means city in nêhiyawēwin,” explains Harper. “There are things being spoken to that are directly about cities and how they dominate the social fabric across a plethora of cultures all over the world. Also trying to understand not only historical ways, but also the contemporary factors that lead to this apparatus as something that continues to work and also questioning what that work is. For instance, there is a major reference in the bridge about the creation of ‘they’: not only linguistically but also how that impacts the psychology of people who live in cities.”

“A few years back, when talking about nêhiyawak, Matthew [Cardinal] said, ‘it’s more than a band.’ His comment stuck with me. When we started learning songs and writing together, I connected to Kris’s lyrics. How did my family deal with the 60’s scoop and with residential schools? I thought about my nieces and nephews growing their hair. I thought about my family.

When recording nipiy, my friend Carey Newman, a Kwakwaka’wakw and Coast Salish artist, loaned us a few of his family’s drums. A 6 ft x 3 ft elk hide frame-drum, a carved cedar log drum (both Kwakwaka’wakw), and a pow-wow drum. Guided by my family’s teachings, I decided to care for the drums in a manner that is in line with our protocols. I asked my family for support to do this work. I became friends with those drums. Together, we played loud. We shared whispers. We had a moment. When I heard those drums back in the studio, they sounded beautiful and proud.


1. kisiskâciwanisîpiy pêyak
2. copper
3. page
4. somnambulist
5. secret
6. perch
7. ôtênaw
8. starlight
9. tommaso
10. open window
11. disappear
12. kisiskâciwanisîpiy nîso

Live Dates

Sep 26 – Hamilton, ON – McMaster University
Oct 4 – Edmonton, AB – Aviary
Oct 5 – Calgary, AB – King Eddy
Oct 6 – Saskatoon, SK – Amigo’s Cantina
Dec 5 – Vancouver, BC – Museum of Anthropology
Dec 6 – Victoria, BC – Lucky Bar