I’ll Be Right By Your Side

Parliament Hill, facing Centre Block, Ottawa, ON
  • amanda-rheaume-cr-michael-hurcomb-500
    Featuring Amanda Rheaume

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Singer/songwriter Amanda Rheaume is joined by Elder Annie Smith St Georges, and imagines Annie’s ancestor’s words through song: a past world of rich culture where the Centre Block now stands, and a bright future of continuous traditions. 

Storyteller Statement: Amanda Rheaume

This song is meant to reflect one of Annie’s ancestors singing to her, singing to all of us.

I visited Parliament Hill while writing this song. I stood at the Centennial Flame and imagined what the land would’ve looked like before settlers came. Annie spoke of children laughing and playing, big wigwams standing, and people speaking in the language.

The song is also meant to serve as a reminder that The Parliament Buildings sit on unceded, un-surrendered Algonquin land. The Centre Block is a place that invokes complex feelings for many Indigenous people here in “Canada”. To me, the fact that Annie feels safe and at home specifically in the Centre Block, is because her ancestors once lived there and are still there. I wanted this song to feel like a warm hug, like your Kokomis wrapping her arms around you. I imagine Annie standing at the Centre Block at Parliament, generations of grandmothers wrapping their arms around her.


Story transcript

Come on, bindigen (welcome), come on, come on in, 

My ancestors are here. This was the gathering place. They feasted, the Algonquin people, they celebrated, they gamed, they had sports. They had everything well they felt free. They don’t have “this was my mine”... they knew their territory so they were able to travel all the way wherever they wanted in the territory. But I guess they always respected the other territories that they were in, you know? And they would ask them you know, and today it’s quite different. Today like, this is the nation’s capital and there’s a lot of people that come and they don’t realize who was the first peoples of the land. You know all this territory, within the land, it’s home for me. And all from across the river to here, because they would travel to the river and come where the food is, and so the Kitchissippi River right here was where the greeting place was too, trading place and all that. There was many nations that came together here. This is an old traditional song that they used to sing what they get on the canoes. They had to hurry and so they paddled down the Kitchissippi River and they were afraid, afraid of windigo that they would say. But really? I guess they were afraid of other people that would be after them and so it goes like this:  [singing] 

AMANDA: [singing]  
Come sit my child 
Can you smell the fire? 
Come and be with me, 
Leave all your worries behind 

Before the greed and the lies 
We lived a good life 
We were free 
We did more than survive. 

My great granddaughter, there’s mishkiki here for you
All the bricks and mortar, can’t break your spirit 
You are the blood of my mother 
I believe in you 

I see the light in your eyes 
I know you will find your way 
With a good heart and a good mind 

There will be hard times 
People will be unkind  
when you need me 
I’ll be right by your side, 

My great granddaughter, there’s mishkiki here for you 
All the bricks and the mortar 
Can’t break your spirit, you  
Are the blood of my mother 
I believe in you 
I believe in you 

We’ve lost a lot of our culture. And what I was told, I was always told that with time, it will come back, with time, it comes back. And if I were to look at it today and what I knew, of what I know about the generations, I just would imagine how feared they were. Or pushed away. Because you know, people in the army, the way they dress, the way they move, it would be scary. It would be scary with guns, but how frightening it would've been, to... when they came in, they would just move in. You move out. 

Ni kichi àyànikàdj-òshis 
Tell me what’s on your mind 
I know you’re searching for old way of life 
Our people will rise, my love for you will never die 
I’m counting on you to light that final fire. 

I guess I’m happy to say that I’m here. To be able to tell people who really I am, and where’s my ancestors. 

Ni kichi àyànikàdj-òshis 
There’s mishkiki here for you 
All the bricks and the mortar 
Can’t break your spirit 
You are the blood of my mother 
I believe in you 
I believe in you 

Bindigen, bindigen, bindigen kakina, bindigen. 



Amanda Rheaume and Annie Smith St. Georges
Interpreted from a Memory from Annie Smith St. Georges

Additional credits: 
Brit Johnston, Artist Liaison
Howard Adler, Videographer 
Jaime Morse, Consulting (Ottawa)
Heather Cant, Consulting (Indigenous Cities)

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