Canada indigenous teen covers Beatles' Blackbird in Mi'kmaq language

Canada indigenous teen covers Beatles' Blackbird in Mi'kmaq language

Sir Paul McCartney, seen in 2017, gave a shoutout to Canadian teenager Emma Stevens's cover of
Sir Paul McCartney, seen in 2017, gave a shoutout to Canadian teenager Emma Stevens's cover of "Blackbird" in her Mi'kmaq language during a concert in Kentucky

OTTAWA - A Canadian teen and her classmates are earning praise including from Paul McCartney for their cover of the Beatles' classic "Blackbird," sung in her native Mi'kmaq language.

McCartney wrote the song, inspired by the civil rights movement, for the Beatles' 1968 "White Album."

With the help of teachers in Eskasoni, Nova Scotia, singer Emma Stevens, 16, and her classmates recorded the tender acoustic version to raise awareness about indigenous languages around the world at risk of disappearing.

A video of the performance quickly went viral after being posted to Youtube, where it has been viewed more than half a million times.

"There's an incredible version done by a Canadian girl. You see it on YouTube. It's in her native language," McCartney recently told a concert crowd in Lexington, Kentucky. "It's really cool, check it out."

After learning of McCartney's shoutout, Stevens said to the CBC's syndicated arts magazine show q, "I got so excited that it almost made me cry." "I grew up listening to the Beatles everyday, my dad is a super fan," she said.

"My culture is one of the biggest things in my life," Stevens added. "So sharing it with others outside of the community, and people who don't speak Mi'kmaq and don't really understand it, it gives them a different perspective and shows them that our language is very beautiful."

Her music teacher Carter Chiasson, who organized the recording, echoed Stevens' remarks in an interview with AFP, saying: "We're hoping that this recording brings awareness to the importance of preserving indigenous languages and culture."

"So many of them are endangered and could disappear within a few generations," he said.

There are more than 70 indigenous languages still spoken in Canada, divided into 12 distinct language families, according to government data.

Census figures show the total number of native speakers is 260,000, out of a total indigenous population of 1.6 million. Three out of four are classified by UNESCO as endangered.

Some of the languages are spoken by as few as 170 people, such as Kutenai, while others, like Cree, are spoken by as many as 96,000.

Mi'kmaq is one of the most common Algonquian languages, spoken by 9,000 indigenous people.

A public inquiry into murdered indigenous women on Monday recommended that Ottawa recognize indigenous languages as official languages of Canada, alongside French and English.

Two acts to preserve indigenous languages and to bring Canadian laws in harmony with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples are now before the Senate.

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