Donita Large Gazes Hopefully At A Reconciliation Sky

Healing images & heavy emotions meet on the Indigenous blues artist's soaring cut.


Donita Large addresses the grief and trauma of residential schools with her new single Reconciliation Sky — showcasing today on Tinnitist.

A healing image of orange sunsets mixes with heavy emotion on the Indigenous blues singer-songwriter’s soaring cut. Inspired by the horrific 2021 news headlines that 215 unmarked graves had been uncovered at a residential school in Kamloops, B.C., Large does what she describes as “the emotional labour of reconciliation work as an Indigenous person” with this new song.

Donita’s father is a survivor of a residential school (as are several other Cree and Metis family members), so she needed a way to process the feelings that flooded her when the Kamloops story broke. Friends and colleagues contacted her immediately, because Donita had already been long been involved in teaching about the traumas wrought by the schools, and assisting survivors with their interviews for Independent Assessment Process claims under the Residential Schools Settlement Agreement.

Because she already knew much of what was being covered in the news, the emergence of the truth on the world stage came as somewhat of a relief. “I was fine, even a bit relieved,” Donita said. “I knew of the unmarked graves, and I was just happy for their relatives that these children were found.”

But she was aware that many people around her were not OK, and that many Canadians were shocked and were finally paying attention. “They were paying attention to residential school stories as survivor TRUTH,” she said, “and not just dismissing it as stories of legend and folklore.” It was a complicated feeling — finally having the truth recognized, but also dealing with the frustration and deep disrespect of not having been believed.

It had been a spring of orange sunsets, and Donita stood in her home, looking out the window and trying to regulate her body and her thoughts in the evening glow. The words “Can you honour the bones of our children?” echoed in her heart and she wrote the pieces that came.

In August, thanks to the Edmonton Arts Council, Donita travelled to Toronto for a songwriting mentorship with Chris Birkett, known for his work producing several of Buffy Sainte-Marie’s albums as well as for being an accomplished songwriter, singer, and musician. While there, Donita decided she was ready to write a song that honoured her father’s story, and the unmarked graves still being recovered at residential school sites.

Chris and Donita worked together to complete the lyrics and, with Chris’s multi-instrumentation, he built the layers of sound that were needed to create the foundation for Donita’s voice to belt out the lyrics “Reconciliation Sky, what will your eyes let you see?” Donita arrived home to Edmonton fired up with excitement about the song, and decided to release it during Reconciliation Week, on the day beforet he National Day of Truth & Reconciliation. “We are in a time where people are still learning the truth, wrongs are still being righted, healing of intergenerational trauma is ongoing, and history is still unfolding as we honour the children who didn’t make it home,” Donita says.

Check out Reconciliation Sky above, hear more from Donita Large below, and find her at her website and Facebook.


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