The Tsilhqot’in Nation have gained an unlikely ally in neo-folk singer and songwriter Marv Machura of Vernon B.C.
Machura, a middle-aged, non-Indigenous teacher from Okanagan College who relocated from Alberta five years ago, was moved to write the song War in the Chilcotin after spending a year researching the dark piece of Canadian history in which six Tsilhqot’in chiefs were wrongfully arrested, tried and hanged for murder.
“It’s quite a story and it’s sentinel to the history of B.C., ” he said. “It’s the largest mass extinction in Canadian history that is not well known.”
Now sharing his research on the Chilcotin War, Machura said he starts every conference he attends by asking others if they have heard about it in which most respond they have not.
“I think [the song] just tells a story in a truthful way,” he said, calling it a historical moment in 2018 when Tsilhqot’in chiefs turned their black vests inside out to reveal bright red lining symbolizing birth and renewal when the Government of Canada exonerated their six war chiefs 154 years later.
“I have so much respect for them, to kind of move on from what has happened to them and do what they did,” he said.
War in the Chilcotin is part of Machura’s fifth latest album South of the North Saskatchewan which he hopes to have released before fall 2020. His fourth album I Want You was released in 2011.
Machura also published a music video The Manitou Stone in 2010 as part of his third album Diamonds for Fields of Clover released in 2003.
The Manitou Stone is a 4.5-billion-year-old ancient meteorite which fell from the sky and landed in Alberta.
In the music video Machura explains it was revered as the protector of the buffalo and many Indigenous people would travel to the site of where it had lain for thousands of years to pray and give offerings to the Great Spirit. In 1869, however, it was removed, and after the war of Blackfoot and Cree, smallpox and the end of the buffalo, the stone was placed at the Royal Alberta Museum, Machura said.
Machura has yet to share his latest music video with current Tsilhqot’in leadership.
“I’m kind of waiting,” he said. “I’m kind of a little scared because what if they don’t like it. Someday I will.”