Singer, songwriter, musician, playwright, artist, director, award-winning filmmaker, and First Nations ambassador for Canada.

 
 

In the 1950s and 1960s, when contemporary folk music was being invented, Willie Dunn was there. After leaving the army at 23 and singing for fun for a decade, Dunn, like many young men with a guitar, headed for the folk clubs. He started off at the Fifth Dimension and soon found himself on stage at Café Lina in Saratoga Springs, New York, a national historical site of the folk revival where anyone who mattered used to play.

 
 

He wrote the only song performed
in English on Kashtin’s second album
Innu called "Son of the Sun".

 
 

Willie Dunn came of age in a songwriting era that included people like Gordon Lightfoot and Ian Tyson. But Willie’s songs increasingly focused on the lives and the history of First Nations people. History weaves through story and song, from contact to the present, wide-ranging, humorous, pointed, and unexpected.
 
 

A Mohawk chief gave him the name
Roha’tiio, meaning
“his voice is beautiful”.

 
 

Dunn, who is of Micmac and Scottish descent, has developed that voice, as a musician and a native historian.

Many consider him to be a pioneer in the Native music field, an interesting label for a musician, many of whose songs decry the effects of the white man’s arrival on North American shores.

 
 
Recently he wrote and recorded a song encouraging native students to Stay in School, together with other First Nation and lnuit singers, including Susan Aglukark, Don Ross, Shingoose, Fara Palmer and Sylvie Bernard.
 
 
 
 

In 1971,
he produced
Canada’s first music video
for his song
Ballad of Crowfoot.
It won seven international awards.

 
 

The past 30 years have been highlighted by tours that have taken him to hundreds of cities and towns throughout Europe and North America. He worked with the Canada’s National Film Board and directed and co-directed several films of note. Two of these films The Ballad of Crowfoot and The Other Side of the Ledger won international awards including three gold medals.
 
 


Dunn’s recent video productions include:

  • The Eagle Project - a one hour documentary on the environment.

  • The Voice of the Land - a one hour documentary on the subject of declining First Nations Languages.

  • Self-Government is an independent film currently in the final stages of completion exploring a wide range of social views and opinions on Self-Government.

  • Score for Honey Moccasins, a newly released film by Shelley Niro.
 
 
 
 


“His lyrics harken to laments and messages of despair for disappearing forests, the destruction of sea and land, diminishing wildlife, and disenfranchised people. “But the concise, contemplative acoustic guitar provides a contrast that lifts his music beyond anger to a desire for change.”
 
 
Pauline Tam
Ottawa Citizen
 
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