Willie Dunn

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Willie Dunn
Hand print, Aboriginal Walk of Honour, Edmonton AB
William Lawrence Dunn

(1941-08-14)August 14, 1941
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
DiedAugust 5, 2013(2013-08-05) (aged 71)
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Occupation(s)Film director, producer, screenwriter, musician

William Lawrence Dunn (August 14, 1941 – August 5, 2013)[1] was a Canadian singer-songwriter, film director and politician.[2] Born in Montreal, he was of mixed Mi'kmaq and Scottish/Irish background. Dunn often highlighted indigenous issues in his work.[3]

Music career[edit]

Born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, Dunn was a singer and acoustic guitarist. He released several full-length albums of recorded music including Willie Dunn (1971), The Pacific (1980) and Metallic (1999). Metallic reprises material from both earlier releases.[4] Dunn's most famous song, "I Pity the Country", was a critique of colonialism and anti-indigenous racism;[5] he was also known for the song "Son of the Sun", which Kashtin covered on their second album Innu.[6] In 2004 Dunn released the album Son of the Sun with sixteen songs (including three live recordings).

His songs "I Pity the Country", "Son of the Sun" and "Peruvian Dream" are featured on the 2014 compilation album Native North America, Vol. 1.[7]

Creation Never Sleeps, Creation Never Dies, a compilation of songs from throughout his career, was released in 2021 on Light in the Attic Records.[8]


He wrote a song entitled "The Ballad of Crowfoot" and directed a ten-minute National Film Board of Canada (NFB) film of the same name in 1968.[9] Both the song and video are about inhumane and unjust colonial treatment of indigenous Canadians, as well as their taking charge of their destiny and becoming politically active.[10] The first NFB film directed by an indigenous filmmaker,[11] the film received several awards including a Gold Hugo for best short film at the 1969 Chicago International Film Festival.[12][13] His other films include The Eagle Project, The Voice of the Land and Self-Government,[14] and his music was used for the films Incident at Restigouche, about a 1981 police raid on the Listuguj Mi'gmaq First Nation,[15] and Okanada, about the 1990 standoff in Oka, Quebec between police and native protesters.

The Ballad of Crowfoot has sometimes been credited as the first known Canadian music video.[16] In 2020 the Prism Prize, Canada's annual award for innovations in music video, introduced a lifetime achievement award named in Dunn's memory, with choreographer and video director Laurieann Gibson named as the first winner of the award.[16]


A longtime member of the New Democratic Party, Dunn defeated Mohamed Bassuny to win the party's federal nomination for Ottawa—Vanier in the 1993 federal election. He received 3,155 votes (6.50%), finishing fourth against Liberal incumbent Jean-Robert Gauthier.[17] He participated in the Culturally Diverse First Peoples Arts Showcase tour in 1998,[18] and the Nations in a Circle spotlight of 2002.[19] He was inducted into the Aboriginal Walk of Honour in 2005.[20] Dunn died in Ottawa on August 5, 2013, aged 71.[21][22][23]



Year Album
1971 Willie Dunn
1972 Willie Dunn
1980 The Pacific
1984 The Vanity of Human Wishes


Year Album
1999 Metallic
2004 Son of the Sun
2021 Creation Never Sleeps, Creation Never Dies: The Willie Dunn Anthology


Year Single CAN Country Album
1971 "Schooldays" 35 Willie Dunn
1973 "I Pity the Country" 79


  1. ^ "First Nations troubadour Willie Dunn sang truth to power". The Globe and Mail. 23 October 2013.
  2. ^ Roy Wright and Andrew McIntosh, "Willie Dunn". The Canadian Encyclopedia, February 18, 2008.
  3. ^ Brad Wheeler, "A new anthology celebrates the pioneering Indigenous troubadour, filmmaker and activist Willie Dunn". The Globe and Mail, March 24, 2021.
  4. ^ "Willie Dunn". Auraltrad.com. Retrieved 2013-08-09.
  5. ^ Dave White, "Trailbreaking Indigenous artist Willie Dunn gets new posthumous release". CBC North, February 28, 2021.
  6. ^ Lynn Saxberg, "Kashtin's spirit is infectious". Ottawa Citizen, September 26, 1991.
  7. ^ "Light in the Attic Unearths the Forgotten History of First Nations Music with 'Native North America' Compilation". Exclaim!, October 8, 2014.
  8. ^ Sam Sodomsky, "Willie Dunn — Creation Never Sleeps, Creation Never Dies: The Willie Dunn Anthology". Pitchfork, March 22, 2021.
  9. ^ Montreal Gazette, October 21, 1990.
  10. ^ Ottawa Citizen, 30 July 1992
  11. ^ "Fixing the Gaze: New Indigenous Work at the NFB". NFB/blog. National Film Board of Canada. 5 January 2017. Retrieved 4 May 2017.
  12. ^ "The Ballad of Crowfoot". Collections page. National Film Board of Canada. Retrieved 2009-10-02.
  13. ^ "The Ballad of Willie Dunn". Curator's comments by Gil Cardinal. National Film Board of Canada. Retrieved 2009-10-02.
  14. ^ "Willie Dunn infosite". Auraltrad.com. Retrieved 2013-08-09.
  15. ^ Armitage, Kay; Kass Banning; Brenda Longfellow; Janine Marchessault (July 1999). "Incident+at+Restigouche"&pg=PA83 "The Documentary Practice of Alanis Obomsawin". Gendering the Nation: Canadian Women's Cinema. University of Toronto Press. p. 83. ISBN 978-0-8020-7964-0.
  16. ^ a b "2020 Prism Prize Special Award Winners Announced". FYI Music News, July 22, 2020.
  17. ^ Ottawa Citizen, October 7, 1993.
  18. ^ Montreal Gazette, 14 November 1998
  19. ^ Halifax Daily News, July 25, 2002.
  20. ^ Edmonton Journal, June 25, 2005.
  21. ^ Doc Rock. "July to December". The Dead Rock Stars Club. Retrieved 2013-08-09.
  22. ^ "William Dunn obituary". Legacy.com. 2013-08-05. Retrieved 2013-08-10.
  23. ^ "Aboriginal singer, activist Willie Dunn dies at 71". Cbc.ca. Retrieved 2013-08-10.

External links[edit]