dj ndn of a tribe called red

DJ NDN of “A Tribe Called Red” talks cannabis and Victoria’s unfair fines

DJ NDN, of A Tribe Called Red, is coming to Victoria on Friday, Sept. 15, bringing his HOTJOINTS series to the West Coast for the first time ever.  

It doubles as a fundraiser, and it’s for a good cause- it’s to raise money for the Green Ceiling, a cannabis vapour lounge in downtown Victoria that needs to pay off their bylaw fines from the City of Victoria. The city has numerous cannabis-related fines that vary in severity from $250 to $1,000, including a $500 fine for allowing cannabis consumption on your premises. As of mid-July 2017, the city had issued $24,000 worth of fines to Victoria’s various vapour lounges and dispensaries!

DJ NDN is one third of the Juno award-winning electronic group A Tribe Called Red, and he has been an outspoken supporter of feminism and Aboriginal rights issues such as Idle No MoreCredited with creating the genre known as “powwow-step”, A Tribe Called Red has worked with fellow Canadians such as Shad, the rapper and former host of q, and Tanya Tagaq, a renowned Inuk throat singer. On their latest album, We Are the Halluci Nation, the Ottawa-based group collaborated with Yasiin Bey, formerly known as Mos Def.  

Cannabis Life Network had a chance to talk to DJ NDN (aka Ian Campeau) while he was in Toronto for the Karma Cup.

Cannabis Life Network: What inspired you to come out to the event at Green Ceiling, and what are you most excited about?

DJ NDN: The Green Ceiling is a special place for me- I love that place. Ashley (the owner of Green Ceiling) is a dear friend of mine and I consider her family and she’s a fantastic person. Being a cannabis user and travelling a lot, you tend to seek out places where you can consume comfortably, and obviously we found that the Green Ceiling was down the road from the hotel we’re staying at- which was also how we started hanging around at VC (Victoria) because it’s just down the road from the hotel.

We hit it off very quickly with Ashley and noticed that she was having legal problems with the fines that were going on- which are completely ridiculous when you need a safe place to consume your medicine, and I was throwing events here at VC where I would give back money to the community and stuff like that, and I figured I’d throw one of those parties to help her out with some of those fines

What kind of opportunities are there for the Aboriginal and cannabis communities to work together?

There’s plenty… there’s tons and tons of opportunities. There’s going to be a lot of barriers and hurdles to get through, but there’s incredible potential all around- not just for the obvious financial gain, but for certain problems in my community- like the opioid epidemic. It would also help medically but there will definitely be a few hurdles to get through with how cannabis is viewed and things like that.

But there’s tons of potential and opportunity and I think it’s going to go well. I know of one reserve, Tyendinaga, that has 2 dispensaries on it right now. We’re already working on it.

Is any of your music cannabis inspired?

I guess you could say all of our music is cannabis inspired. As a daily user, when I go into the studio, it’s definitely a part of the recording, touring, and everyday life of what I do. It’s definitely a part of my musical process as much as coffee is- so shout-outs to coffee and cannabis.

For me, it helps me put together my thoughts in a way. There’s a ton of really good thoughts in there but they’re all kind of jumbled and smoking weed slows my mind down and kind of puts them in a way that I can process it easier. It definitely helps me focus in that way.

Being on tour right now, in the lead up to Victoria, which cities are you going to be in?

Toronto, Montreal, Portland, Seattle, then Victoria. Then we do Vancouver, and Toronto again. Then New York and we’re supposed to go to Miami but we’ll see what happens. We’ll also be stopping by the Dablarium and Studio710 in Vancouver as well.

You’ve been a vocal activist for Aboriginal issues and you’re known for taking a stand against racism and misogyny. When it comes to cannabis, which is set for legalization in 2018, do you think it’s ‘mission accomplished’ or is there still more to be fighting for?  

Being in Ontario and seeing all the laws that just came out, there’s tons to be fighting for. To me it’s as important as everything else- it’s oppression. Cannabis is something that helps people positively in every way- except for legally. The only danger that seems to come out of cannabis is getting arrested for it.

I’m active in everything that I find unfair and I definitely see this as medicine that everybody deserves and needs access to, and the Ontario Liberal government is hiding the idea of legalization behind the monopolization of cannabis and that needs to be addressed. We all see what they’re doing and we all smoke weed but we can see through what they’re saying, and I’m here, as active as I need to be because I think it’s very unfair the way the laws are right now.

Looking at your shirt, it seems you know a thing or two about unfair laws and standing up against them right there.

(He was wearing a shirt with the below picture from the Oka Crisis in the early 90’s.)

Oka Crisi
Photo courtesy of CTV News
I fucking love this shirt. There’s no better representation of Indigenous resistance than that photo from Oka. I’m 36, and I was 10 when the Oka Crisis happened. I grew up off reserve, in a suburb of Ottawa, but my family still lived on the reserve- all my aunts and uncles- and I’d go there for summers. It was grandma’s place.

I didn’t know it was a reserve, I didn’t know the politics behind it, and it was the Oka Crisis that made me realize I was different. I was like, “Oh shit. Why is the military fighting my mom’s friends?” I was wondering what was going on and they had to explain it to me that I was different, that we were different.

And then my cousins who were a little older started calling my Grandma’s house “The Rez” and it became really political and I understood the difference.