REGINA, Saskatchewan (AP) — When Teagan Littlechief sings in front of thousands of fans at Sunday’s Grey Cup game, she will be thinking about Canada’s Indigenous youth.
Littlechief, who is from White Bear First Nation in southeastern Saskatchewan, says she was often the only Indigenous person on stage when she first started performing.
“My thing is being able to show society that First Nations people are just as talented as any other race. I’ve always wanted our First Nations people out there to flaunt what we’ve got and show society what we have to offer,” the 35-year-old said in an interview with The Canadian Press. “I hope that what I’m able to do is maybe break a barrier down for our youth.”
Littlechief is set to perform “O Canada” in three languages — English, French and Cree — at the Canadian Football League’s championship game in Regina between the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Toronto Argonauts.
Only fluent in English, Littlechief has been leaning on a Cree teacher and French friend to help her practice the national anthem in the other languages.
Littlechief said she believes she may be the first to sing the anthem at a Grey Cup in Cree. Juno award winner Susan Aglukark, who blends Inuit folk music traditions with country songwriting, sang the anthem for the 1998 Grey Cup in Winnipeg.
“We’re always trying to bring recognition in everything that we do now, and I’m over the moon. I’m happy that people are starting to recognize First Nations,” said Littlechief.
Littlechief, who also works as an addictions counselor and youth worker, was named the Indigenous Artist of the Year at the 2022 Saskatchewan Country Music Awards. She also performed at this year’s Country Thunder Music Festival and has sung “O Canada” at games for the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders and the Western Hockey League’s Regina Pats.
Littlechief said the road to success hasn’t been easy. She said she has struggled with alcohol addiction since high school and dabbled with heavy drugs.
“I always dreamt that when I had my first child … I’d raise them in a substance-abuse-free home, and that’s not the life that he got,” Littlechief said of her 11-year-old son, Gabriel. “The first two years of his life he was having to deal with an alcoholic mom, who ditched him all the time.”
Littlechief said she went on her last bender in 2017. At the time, the boy was sick at home and without his mom.
“That day, I decided that was it,” she said. “It was probably the hardest, hardest adventure – I’m going to call it an adventure – because I missed out on so much of my son’s life, and now I’m slowly able to make up for it.”
Her singing has taken off since she’s been sober. But most importantly, she said, it has brought her and her son closer together.
They often go on road trips together for her shows, she said, and he’s been her main support, along with her mother and stepfather.
”(Gabriel) is super excited. He’s always saying my mom’s singing the anthem and he says, ’Mom, the kids at school know me,’” Littlechief said of her upcoming Grey Cup performance.
While she’s feeling some nerves, Littlechief said she reminds herself of why she’s taking the stage on Sunday.
“I just want to be able to show the youth I work with that dreams are possible when you work hard and you put in effort in on all the things you want to do,” she said. “And change happens. Beautiful things happen.”