The music community mourns the death of Jacquie Black, longtime director of the Indigenous Music Awards

Jacquie Black, Indigenous storyteller and highly respected figure in Manitoba’s music industry, died Tuesday morning.

Black has held numerous roles in the music, film and television industry for many years, and has also worked as a journalist.

For several years she was the director of the Indigenous Music Awards, which are held annually at the Manito Ahbee Festival in Winnipeg. She was also a director and screenwriter of the television series TAKEN, which delves into the stories of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

Black was in her 50s when she died. Her niece, Mary Black, says she had been in hospital for about a week and a half with a pre-existing condition, but her health rapidly deteriorated over the weekend.

“She was fiercely protective and showed me so much power and compassion and gave me many, many of the gifts I have today,” Mary said.

Jacquie Black (right) with her niece, Mary. (Submitted by Mary Black)

Mary said her aunt was passionate about advocating for aspiring artists and musicians, especially through her work with the Indigenous Music Awards. She said she was overwhelmed with the outpouring of love for Jacquie after news of her death became public.

“It gives me a lot of inspiration and a lot of passion, I guess, to fight for what’s right to help everyone I can whenever I can, because I see now how many people’s lives she had, right?” she said.

“And those are big shoes to fill.”

Jacquie’s passing comes just a day after the passing of Vince Fontaine, a renowned Sagkeeng First Nation musician who fronted the Juno-nominated band Indian City.

Just a day before her death, Fontaine had recorded a song, “Star People,” with fellow musician Jeremy Koz to send to Jacquie while she was in the hospital.

The song is about life and death, and leaving this earth for the stars, Koz said.

“Jacquie was so supportive of the artistic community and supportive of us in particular. And I just thought, you know, it would be nice to send her something musical,” Koz said.

Jacquie couldn’t speak in the last days of her life, but the song seemed to make her happy, her niece said.

Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Arlen Dumas said Jacquie was a true mentor to many whose spirit will be missed.

“Her passion for ensuring that the voice of Indigenous women is heard and taken seriously in the film, radio and television industry will be greatly missed, as will her involvement in the various First Nations cultural events in across this county,” he wrote in a press release.

A sacred fire for Jacquie Black burns on Woodbine Avenue until Saturday evening.

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