‘It gave me power’: Two-Spirit Canadian singer Shawnee Kish on finding her identity through music

By Shawn Ayers

A Canadian Two-Spirit singer-songwriter is sharing her journey on how music helped her find her identity.

Shawnee Kish, a 2022 Juno Award nominee for Contemporary Indigenous Artist of the Year, says her path with music started at a young age.

“I really struggled with my identity,” she said. “I didn’t understand what it meant to be Indigenous, or what it meant to be Two-Spirit. I was struggling with my home life, I was struggling with my school life, and I just didn’t feel like I fit within the confines of what the world expected of me – and [then] I found music.”

She says music helped her find her place in the world.

“I rediscovered music and the power that it has, and the power that it gave me, that I fit in the world in my own way. I just discovered that there’s this purpose for me in this life,” she said.

“It gave me power, and hope, and a sense of belonging that allowed me to live — not only that, to dedicate the rest of my life to sharing that journey in [the] hope that I can share that message with anyone else who needs to hear that.”

She says for her, being Two-Spirit is about understanding.

“I think of Two-Spirit as this beautiful term for Indigenous people in the queer community to embrace who they are. It has nothing to do with your sexuality, it has nothing to do with even a specific gender. It has to do with understanding both walks of life,” she said.

Kish was recently part of the Kids Help Phone, which has offered free, accessible support to Canadian youth for decades, and launched a new mental health campaign called ‘Feel Out Loud.’

Read more: Canada’s Kids Help Phone launches mental health campaign

She says helping out was important to her because of her own experience.

“Younger people struggling with their mental health and sense of self, I know what’s it like to feel this deep darkness,” she said.

“I know that your survival and peace is so crucial when you have that identity of struggle, that’s what makes you great and powerful, you have this perspective of overcoming, you have this perspective of fight and drive – and you are unstoppable.”

She says there is hope, and going through hard times can help strengthen and shape people.

“Everything that you struggle with, everything you feel weighs you down, is the exact same thing you need to overcome and that is going to make you exactly what the world needs. The world needs you to struggle [so] that you can get over that, so that you can continue on your journey, and be who you’re meant to be and the world needs you,” she said.

Kish is scheduled to perform at the Lavender Wild fest in Toronto over the summer and is set to release new music later this year.

For more information on Kish and her music head to her website.

Top Stories

Top Stories

Most Watched Today