Courtesy Drezus
At the 10th annual Manito Ahbee Festival in Winnipeg, Manitoba on Sept. 11, Alberta-based hip hop artist Drezus dominated the Indigenous Music Awards (IMAs), taking home four major honors, including trophies for Best Rap/Hip Hop CD, Best Music Video, Best Producer/Engineer and Indigenous Entertainer of the Year.

Rapper Drezus Dominates Canada’s Indigenous Music Awards 10-Year Celebration

Suzette Brewer

At the 10th annual Manito Ahbee Festival in Winnipeg, Manitoba on Sept. 11, Alberta-based hip hop artist Drezus dominated the Indigenous Music Awards (IMAs), taking home four major honors, including trophies for Best Rap/Hip Hop CD, Best Music Video, Best Producer/Engineer and Indigenous Entertainer of the Year.

This year's event, which was previously named the Aboriginal Peoples Choice Music Awards, featured more than 100 nominees in 24 categories, including Hip Hop, Country, Rock and Traditional Indigenous music from artists all over North America.

The 33-year-old Plains Cree (real name:  Jeremiah Manitopyes), has been rapping in a thunderous baritone about the heartache and harsh realities of life in Indian Country for nearly 16 years. But it was his recently released album “Indian Summer” that pushed him to the forefront of the emerging Native hip hop scene. The hard-hitting video from that album,  Warpath (see video at the end of this article) which takes on absentee fathers and petty tribal politics, was directed by Stuey Kubrick, and won the best music video award. 

Drezus, who fought his way back from alcoholism, gang violence, multiple jail sentences and near-death, got his break at a Jamaican club in Calgary at 17, but it wasn’t until 2012 that he left the violent world of crime and drugs and began pursuing a new direction at the local library with his young son. What started with checking out books on Native culture and protesting Canada’s controversial environmental C-45 bill, culminated on Friday night with top honors from his peers in the industry.

The IMAs have been celebrating the contributions of Indigenous artists from across Turtle Island for the past 10 years. Other multiple award winners were Armond Duck Chief, (Best Country CD & Best Indigenous Songwriter) and City Natives, (Best Duo or Group and Single of the Year).

The 10-year anniversary IMA celebration was hosted by actor/rap recording artist Gary Davis, aka Litefoot (Cherokee Nation), and Lorne Cardinal (Corner Gas). The evening also featured powerful live performances by Lightning Cloud with Manitoba’s Leonard Sumner, Tomson Highway and Ghost Town Orchestra, among others.

Davis is  President and CEO of the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development, a nonprofit that assists American Indian Tribes and entrepreneurs with business and economic development. “It is an honor to serve as co-host for the Indigenous Music Awards,” said Davis. “The IMA brings together the best of Native music across North America, and celebrates a rich and diverse culture that we all share. I look forward to joining with my fellow musicians and entertainers as we honor and celebrate their valuable contributions to indigenous music.”

Celebrity presenters at this star-studded event, which was broadcast live on APTN, included Tommy Mac from Hedley and Tim Hague Sr. and Tim Hague Jr., winners from last year’s Amazing Race Canada.

Here is a list of winners and nominees:


Best Album Cover Design

Beatrice Deer | Fox- Dorval, Qc

Blackstone | Kaskite Asiniy- Sweetgrass, Sk

Enter-Tribal | Hitting The Trail- Vancouver, Bc (Winner)

Florent Vollant | Puamuna- Montreal, Qc

Hellnback | #Foe=Family Over Everything- Winnipeg, Mb


Best Country CD

Armond Duck Chief | The One- Siksika, Ab (Winner)

Bob E. Lee West | The Tree- Beausejour, Mb

Jody Thomas Gaskin | Born On The Rezz- Winnipeg, Mb

Kimberley Dawn | Til The Cowboys Come Home- Winnipeg, Mb

Thelma Cheechoo | Stay- Yellowknife, Nwt


Best Duo Or Group

City Natives- Tobique First Nation, Nb (Winner)

Dee Erin Band- Opaskwayak Cree Nation, Mb

Ghost Town Orchestra- Brantford, On

Indian City- Winnipeg, Mb

Julian Taylor Band- Toronto, On


Best Flute CD

David Rose | Wind Dance Under The Moon- Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania

Jan Looking Wolf | Wind Dreamer- Salem, Oregon

Ryan Little Eagle | My Songs My Stories- Cumming, Georgia

Steven Rushingwind | Red Beaten Path- Pomona, California

Tony Duncan & Darrin Yazzie | Singing Lights- Phoenix, Arizona

William Greenland | The Journey Beyond- Yellowknife, Nwt


Best Folk / Acoustic CD

Cary Morin | Tiny Town- Fort Collins, Colorado

Chelsey June | Finding Me- Ottawa, On

Nadine L’hirondelle & Jason Burnstick | Wrapped In Daisies- Peachlan, Bc (Winner)

Joseph Strider | Carbon 14- Columbia, Pennsylvania

Kelly Jackson | Renditions Of The Soul- Madison, Wisconsin


Best Gospel CD

Carl Crane | Northern Man “A Little Bit Of Me”- Prince Albert, Sk

Dawn Karima | The Stars Of Heaven- Colubus, Ohio

Dianne Foster | Holy Mighty Fire- Winnipeg, Mb

Kelly Montijo Fink | Don’t Let Me Forget- Hiawatha, Iowa

Yvonne St. Germaine | If You See My Savior- Saskatoon, Sk (Winner)


Best Hand Drum CD

Antone & Chiefs | Antone & Chiefs- Orleans, On

Bearhead Sisters | Our Angels- Edmonton, Ab

Manitou Mkwa Singers | Manitou Mkwa Singers- Hagersville, On

Wayne Silas, Jr. | Infinite Passion- Oneida, Wisconsin

Young Spirit | Nitehe Ohci - From The Heart- Froglake, Ab (Winner)


Best Indigenous Language Or Francophone CD

Florent Vollant | Puamuna- Montreal, Qc

Jaaji | Nunaga (My Home, My Land)- Gatineau, Qc (Winner)

Jonathan Maracle | Karonyakdadeh Hymns Of Mohawk Elders- Tyendinaga, On

Sewepagaham | Sewepagaham- Vancouver, Bc


Best Indigenous Music Radio Station/Program

A Conversation With Dawn Karima- Columbus, Ohio

National Aboriginal Music Countdown (Nci Fm)- Winnipeg, Mb (Winner)

Native Trailblazers Radio- Virginia Beach, Virginia

Native Waves Radio- Victoria, Bc


Best Indigenous Songwriter

Armond Duck Chief | The One- Siksika, Ab (Winner)

Jason Burnstick & Nadine L’hirondelle | My Headstart Preschool- Peachlan, Bc

Joseph Strider | Seven Arrows- Colubia, Pennsylvania

Lightning Cloud | Meet Me At The Pow Wow- Studio City, California

Tomson Highway | Taansi, Nimiss- Gatineau, Qc

Will Belcourt And The Hollywood Indians | Burn It Down- Edmonton, Ab


Best Instrumental CD

Geronimo Paulette | Hard Road Out Of Hell- Fort Smith, Nwt

Mwalim Da Phunkee Professor |

Awakened By A Noon Day Sun- Mashpee, Massachusetts

Sean Beaver | Torn- Calgary, Ab (Winner)


Best International Indigenous Release

Ayrad | Ayrad – Montreal, Qc

Emmanuel Jal | The Key – Toronto, On

Quique Escamilla | 500 Years Of Night – Toronto, On

Tasha T | Real Talk- Brampton, On

The Bass Invaders | Dance Of The Fox – Saskatoon, Sk (Winner)


Best Music Video

City Natives | Straight Chief’n- Tobique First Nation, Nb

Drezus | Warpath- Calgary, Ab (Winner)

Indian City | One Day- Winnipeg, Mb

Kelly Derrickson | Idle No More- Westbank, Bc

Lightning Cloud | Walk Alone- Studio City, California


Best New Artist

Dee Erin Band- Opaskwayak Cree Nation, Mb

Gabrielle Knife- Rapid City, South Dakota

Kelly Derrickson- Westbank, Bc (Winner)

Kickin Krotch- Frederickton, Nb

Nitanis ‘Kit’ Largo- Pphoenix, Arizona


Best Pop CD

Classic Roots | Hack The Planet – Brampton, On (Winner)

Jamie Coon | Day After Day- North Hollywood, California

Niiko Soul | Neon Warrior- London, On

Tomson Highway | Patricia Cano Sings Songs From The (Post) Mistress- Gatineau, Qc

Victor Patrick | Bound By Roots- Moose Factory, On


Best Peyote CD

Donjay Nelson | Good Morning Dawn- Window Rock, Arizona

Jake Tyner, Edmond Poochay And Lance Crowe |

Good Memories- New Town, North Dakota

Joe Tahonnie Jr. | Ceremony – Whiteriver, Arizona

Louie Gonnie | Spiraling, Ascending With Prayer- White Cone, Arizona

Silas & Pierce Biglefthand |Northern Cheyenne Peyote Healing Songs – Lame Deer, Montana (Winner)


Best Pow Wow CD - Contemporary

Black Bear | Come & Get Your Love: The Tribe Session – Manawan, Qc

Cree Confederation | Kihtawasoh Wapakwani – Edmonton, Ab

Northern Cree | Northern Cree Breaking Boundaries – Hobbema, Ab (Winner)

Northern Voice | In Land We Trust – Wemotchi, Qc

Stoney Creek | Dedicated – Hollister, North Carolina


Best Pow Wow CD - Traditional

Chippewa Travellers | Honouring Our Biish (Water)- Neyaashiingmiing First Nation/Cape Croker, On (Winner)

Northern Wind | Northern Wind Bimaadiziwin – Browns Valley, Minnesota

Trail Mix | Str8 Forward – Maskwachis, Ab


Best Producer/Engineer

Armond Duck Chief| The One- Siksika, Ab

Bearhead Sisters | Our Angels- Edmonton, Ab

Drezus | Indian Summer- Calgary, Ab (Winner)

Ghost Town Orchestra | Ghost Town Orchestra- Brantford, On

Niiko Soul | Neon Warrior- London, On


Best Rap / Hip Hop CD

Chief Rock | A Warriors Journey- Vancouver, Bc

City Natives | Red City- Tobique First Nation, Nb

Cody Coyote | Lose Control- Ottawa, On

Drezus | Indian Summer- Calgary, Ab (Winner)

Hellnback | #Foe=Family Over Everything- Winnipeg, Mb


Best Rock CD

Dee Erin Band | Broken Road- Opaskwayak Cree Nation, Mb

Midnight Shine | Northern Man- Sudbury, On

Scatter Their Own | Taste The Time- Porcupine, South Dakota

The Deeds | Mother Nature- Winnipeg, Mb

Will Belcourt And The Hollywood Indians| Annie Baby- Edmonton, Ab (Winner)


Best Television Program /Promotion Of Indigenous Music

Aboriginal Unity Experience – San Bernardino, California

Guilt Free Zone – Toronto, On

The Candy Show – Halifax, Ns (Winner)


Indigenous Entertainer Of The Year

Armond Duck Chief- Siksika, Ab

Cary Morin - Fort Collins, Colorado

Drezus- Calgary, Ab (Winner)

Lightning Cloud- Studio City, Ca

Rellik- Edmonton, Ab

Steven Rushingwind- Pomona, California


Single Of The Year

Black Bear | Come & Get Your Love Ii – Manawan, Qc

City Natives | Straight Chief’n- Tobiqu First Nation, Nb (Winner)

Cody Coyote | Warrior- Ottawa, On

Indian City | Duet- Winnipeg, Mb

Kelly Jackson | After All This Time- Madison, Wisconsin

Rellik | My Voice- Edmonton, Ab


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