Many Montrealers have never made the journey across the bridge to visit Kahnawake. Those that do generally go for the cheap cigarettes and gas, then race to leave as quickly as possible. I think this is a sad state of affairs, a reflection of the fear and discomfort, guilt and hopelessness that surrounds Canada’s relationship with the First Peoples. Uncertainty and ignorance breed bad relationships that often perpetuate themselves, spiraling ever deeper in a cycle. It’s not the “good intentions” of the Second, Third, Fourth, and Fifth Peoples of Canada that will end this cycle, but a willingness to learn who the First Peoples are and respect their autonomy and interests.
One very easy way to bridge and share the divide is to attend events like The First Peoples’ Festival. This multi-day festival includes films, crafts, concerts, art, and storytelling created by First Peoples. Not just Canadian First Peoples, but First Peoples from around the world. Events take place at Quartier des Spectacles, UQAM, Concordia, and of course, Kahnawake.
The main festival takes place from August 3 to 10, when Place des Arts is transformed. A giant teepee is set up and there are concerts held on the stages in the area. Sylvain Rivard, an Abenaki artist, is setting giant collages up in the area that embody the four elements. There will also be demonstrations on the use of Ash trees and their multiplicity of uses to the Abenaki peoples.
The film program includes films by American and Canadian First Nations. Some to watch out for are 100 Tiki by Dan Taulappapa McMullin and Mekko by Sterlin Harjo of the Seminole Nation.
Concerts always have a strong showing. Juno award winners, Digging Roots are performing August 4 (8:30 p.m.), Shauit is an Innu group that performs reggae style works on August 5 (8:30 p.m.). For those who prefer electronic music, Micmac Alexander Jerome, known as DJ XS7 will be bringing his Soirée ÉlectroChoc on August 6 (8:30 p.m.). Finally, Mohawk composer/performer Logan Straats will present an original work with Kawandak group on August 7 (8:30 p.m.).
A traveling art exhibit about insects and animals will make its way from sub-Arctic Quebec Naskapi Nation (Kawawachikamach) in mid-July to Montreal for the festival. The exhibition should grow in scope during its journey.
For those who prefer the literary end of culture, anthropologist Rémi Savard’s book Carcajou à l’aurore du Monde, Fragments écrits d’une encyclopédie orale innue will be launched at the Zone Libre bookshop. After working among the Inuit and Innu, Savard has compiled many essays about oral cultures.
The First Peoples’ Festival takes place August 3-10 at Place des Arts. Details HERE.