Opinion: Compensate Native singers for their time
"How much is a song worth? Well, if you're Faith Hill -- who reportedly received US$1 million to launch Casino Rama's 5,200-seat Entertainment Centre in July 2001 -- it probably works out to at least $50,000 per tune. I wondered how that kind of pay scale sat with the casino's 700-or-so native employees, many of whom draw more modest salaries sweeping floors or waiting on tables.

Many people are able to earn a livelihood from music. Those minstrels you see busking for cash on street corners and in subway stations can tally up a couple of hundred bucks a day from all the loonies and toonies tossed into their guitar or violin cases. Restaurateurs and tavern owners hire singers to serenade patrons who prefer some background music for their dining or drinking experience.

But when it comes to hiring the services of traditional First Nation singers or dancers, many don't seem to understand that their skills and time also have value.

A few years ago, I got a call from a community organizer in Toronto looking for assistance in planning a Canada Day extravaganza. She had lined up prime ministers, premiers and dignitaries of all shapes and sizes, and a key element of the celebration was participation by representatives of as many ethnic groups and nationalities as could possibly be assembled.

The only missing element of the plan was a First Nation flavour, she said, asking for my help in obtaining the services of a drum group and possibly some traditional dancers. I agreed that it would be appropriate, and asked if she would meanwhile please check with speakers to ensure that they did not unintentionally refer to native participants as members of an ethnic group."

Get the Story:
Maurice Switzer: First Nation singers should be valued (The North Bay Nugget 10/26)