Tobique First Nation musician finds inspiration in 125 year old text

Category: music 305

Mike Bern’s debut single First Mother was inspired by a story in Joseph Nicolar’s 1893 collection, The Life and Traditions of The Red Man. 


When Joseph Nicolar self-published his book The Life and Traditions of The Red Man in 1893, his mission was to preserve and pass on the history of Penobscot’s cultural heritage for future generations. 125 years later, his collection of stories remains influential inspiring the debut single from Tobique First Nation musician Mike Bern.

“Joseph Nicolar, a Penobscot Native, compiled and wrote the legends of his people, and published them himself in 1893,” said Bern. “These are legends that were carried down from generation to generation. My song is an adaptation of the legend The Story of the First Mother.”

Last week, Bern released his debut single First Mother.

A veteran musician and former member of the group’s Kickin Krotch and District Avenue, Bern was actively seeking inspiration for his next project when a family member gave him a copy of Nicolar’s book.

“I borrowed the book from my aunt who is a linguist at UNB in Fredericton,” said Bern. “I was having a hard time finding inspiration to write this new album but then I came across this story and that inspired me to write First Mother. It’s my way of carrying on the story.”

Over the past several years, Tobique First Nation has been home to a staggering amount of artistic talent. Over the past year visual artist/playwright Natalie Sappier and musician Jeremy Dutcher have both gained national attention for their work, adding to the community’s already impressive range of talent spanning hip-hop, rock and metal.

“I really don’t know where all the talent comes from,” said Bern. “Maybe it’s the rich Wolastoqiyik history. Maybe it’s the two strong energies that flow through this community from the Neqotkuk (Tobique River) and the Wolastoq (Saint John River). Maybe it’s our ancestors living through us and trying make us a proud people again.

“We can find beauty in anything and maybe that is what makes it so easy for an artist to find something to paint or sing about,” he said.

First Mother is available now through Spotify or on Youtube.


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