For 28 years, the Présence Autochtone / First People’s Festival has showcased the best in Indigenous cultures both locally and abroad. With multiple festival sites and a full week of free performances, and a rich programming of cinema, Indigenous cultures welcome everyone to listen, learn, and enjoy the offerings.
Cinema is a particularly strong medium for Indigenous peoples, especially here in Canada where channels like APTN have given a dedicated venue for Indigenous people’s voices, ideas, and concerns. APTN is offering workshops and masterclasses as part of the festival. However, most people will likely be most interested in the films showing at Concordia University, Cabot Square, and Place des Festivals. In particular cinema buffs may want to see Winaypacha, about an elderly couple from the Andes which is preceded by Flat Rocks, a tribute to Louis Daibo who fought for the protection of Mohawk land during the construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway (Aug 10). On August 13, watch outdoor cinema at Cabot Square where Ce silence qui tue by Kim O’Bomsawin looks at the missing and murdered indigenous women. This year also includes a night of works by the indigenous peoples of the Pacific — the Maori and Pasifika.
Every day at Place des Festivals, Northern Voice, the Deer Family Singers and dancers, and other special performers will bring music, traditional dance, including hoop dance, and drumming. Daily programming can be found at the website. It’s also a chance to sample some Amerindian dishes, or shop for art made by indigenous artists. For those who want even more music, Jardins Gamelin at Place Emilie Gamelin has concerts as well including Beatrice Deer and Esther Pennell.
One major event is the Game of Creation, in which there will be a theatrical performance of an Aboriginal story about the creation of the world by The Enemy Twins, Ioskeha and Tawiscara. This can be seen nightly at Place des Festivals at 8 p.m.
The big cultural event, is the Friendship Parade Neustroamericana, which takes place August 11 at 4 p.m. 1500 costumed participants will parade from Dorchester Square to Place des Festivals, culminating in performances by 65 dance troupes of diverse origins and peoples. That night, at 9:30 p.m., Iskwe, Chances, Annie Sama, the Sacred Wolf Singers, and more will perform at the Québecor stage in Place des Festivals.
For those who prefer visual arts, Shelly Niro’s works are on display at Place des Festivals. Projection art by Caroline Monnet and Sébastien Aubin are also on display there. It’s a short walk to check out the work of Ojibway artist Nico William whose exhibition Mnidnoominehnsuk (Spirit Berries) is at L’Espace culturel Ashukan. 13 beaded works are on display that encode contemporary and historical events as stories.
The First Peoples Festival takes place at different venues, though largely centered on Place des Festivals, from August 7 to 15, 2018. For details, click HERE.