Interview with Lynda Brown

Interview with Lynda Brown

Interviewer: Franziska von Rosen
Location: Carleton University

Lynda Brown: Hi, my name is Lynda Brown. I am currently living in Ottawa. My mother’s family is originally from Pangnirtung, Nunavut. I was born up north but raised across Canada. For the last ten years I have lived here in Ottawa.

Franziska von Rosen: Tell me a bit about how you learned traditional drumming and singing.

LB: When I moved to Ottawa I started to work at the Inuit Community Centre, Tungasuvvingat Inuit (TI), and through that I helped with the Inuit Head Start program, working with kids 18 months to 6 years.

They were learning how to drum dance and throat sing. So I learned the basics with them.  That really inspired me to want to learn more. So in 2001 my sister and I got some funding through TI to start a cultural program.

We had different teachers come in and teach us how to drum dance, teach us songs from different places. Eventually that evolved into a performance group called Siqiniup Qilauta that has traveled across Canada, and around the world. We’ve also done performances here in Ottawa.

It all started with that first seed at Head Start. It is something that I really enjoy doing; it is also something that my sons do. They have both gone through Head Start and they learned drum dancing and throat singing and they have seen me do it. So I hope that they will continue as they grow up because I did not have a chance. We did not live up north for most of my life. And it is something that I wanted to do.

It has helped me learn my language again – singing in Inuktitut, and it has given me great pride in my culture.

FvR: So are you teaching your children now?

LB: Yes, it is something that I am teaching my children because I think it is really important. I wish I had been taught as a child, but for some reason my mother decided that it was not something she wanted us to learn at that time.

Now that I am an adult and I have my own children, she is very proud of the fact that I throat sing and drum dance, and that both my children, two and seven, do it as well. My seven-year old has actually performed on Parliament Hill. We are very proud of him.

FvR: Tell me a bit about the outfit you are wearing.

LB: What I am wearing is just an outer shell, and it is called a silapaaq. It is a traditional men’s jacket. Some people know it as a parka. I am wearing kamiiks made out of caribou skin and these are also traditional men’s style.

In men’s style the designs go up and down, while in women’s they go around. So this is my men’s outfit, which is kind of appropriate because traditionally, drum dancing used to be done only by men.

FvR: So how did you, a woman, come to do it?

LB: For me it is part of keeping the culture alive and moving forward. These days both women and men drum dance and throat sing. Traditionally men would drum and women would throat sing. But for me I learned to drum first. I am still learning how to throat sing.

FvR: Can you talk a bit about the ayaya song you sang for us?

LB: Imuta is a traditional song. I’m not sure where it comes from. I think it is from the Baffin region. It is really a song that celebrates the joys of raising children.

FvR: And the game song you and Kendra did?

LB: Anguti is something that I remember playing when I was a kid. It was something that my mother taught me.

I have been told by an elder that the song was meant to increase your flexibility and strength in order to become a good hunter. It goes faster and faster and is a challenge.

Inuit have a lot of games for many different reasons. Many of them are not only games but also meant to test your strength and your skills because those are really important to be able to survive on the land.

So even though they are games and they are fun they have an underlying purpose. So anguti, as much fun as it is, really tests your strength and endurance.

FvR: How is it a competition?

LB: You could have a whole room full of people doing it and as soon as you mess up you are out. You have to remember to keep your pattern going and try to keep up with the song because it gets faster and faster.

A lot of the games we have are a competition to see who is best. Even throat singing is a competition, because you are trying to trip up the other person and make them laugh.

FvR: What goes through your mind when you are performing?

LB: I can’t help smiling when I am on stage because I feel like I am connecting to something that I might have missed had I not learned to drum dance or throat sing. So for me it is really about connecting and sharing.

I love going to schools and doing performances with kids and teaching them what I know.  Hopefully there won’t be a period when there is no drum dancing or throat singing, like there was when my mother was growing up. For me it is just part of my life, and I can’t imagine it otherwise.
FvR: Thank you, Lynda.

© 2024 This project was made possible with the support of the Department of Canadian Heritage through Canadian Culture Online
Indigenous Dance