Shomporko Desk :Coordinators of a significant Indigenous festival in Ottawa considered delaying or dropping it completely after COVID-19 restrictions implied they couldn’t gather in person.
Yet, as an anti-racism movement swept the country, reinforced by updates on Indigenous passings during police interactions, Trina Simard said it just insisted their choice take the Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival on the web.
“I can’t speak for everybody but for me, it’s part of what drives me about this education,” the festival producer and executive director of Indigenous Experiences said.
“It’s more than a festival, it’s our cultural and community connection and it’s really that one time of year where we get to share and celebrate with our neighbours who we are. I think that’s the first step in reconciliation.”
The Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival wraps up three weeks of events and activities Sunday on National Indigenous Peoples Day. It’s among many Indigenous organizations across the country finding ways to celebrate amid restrictions at a time when they say it’s especially important to do so.
Adaptation has meant mailing food kits to participants in a virtual traditional cooking workshop, Simard said. And the festival has partnered with the Social Distancing Powwow Facebook group to host its performers and others, with finalists competing Sunday.
The Facebook group has almost 200,000 members since its creation in mid-March as a platform for dancers to dance, vendors to recoup their losses and recreate a sense of community online.
Virtual powwow participants this week have posted videos in full regalia in front of backdrops of oceans, mountains and fields across North America.
Belle Bailey, 19, posted her dance from Meath, Ont. She is an Algonquin from the First Nation of Pikwakanagan.
In her video, she wears her favourite regalia honouring Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and has a handprint across her mouth, painted in red, the colour believed to be visible from the spirit world.
“I felt like I knew where they were coming from because as an Indigenous woman you have gone through what they’ve gone through and you know how they’re feeling,” she said.
In Montreal, Land InSights is still organizing a fire ceremony for National Indigenous Peoples Day. Beginning at sunrise, a Mohawk elder will preside over the ceremonial, which will be webcast, a release says.
“Montrealers are invited, at that time, to open their computer and their window and to burn some tobacco in order to participate in this propitiatory rite which is intended to herald better times,” the release says.
On the east coast of Vancouver Island, more than a dozen dancers and musicians gathered on a sandy stretch of beach under the sun. The Kumugwe Cultural Society and Dance Group recorded a video circulated this weekend in honour of the day.
Hereditary chief Negedzi, whose English name is Rob Everson, said the song was passed on to his younger brother in the early 80s by his late grandfather, Chief Andy Frank of the K’omoks First Nation.
“We’ll use that dance to cleanse or bless the place that we’re dancing,” he said.
This is the first time in 20 years since the group’s formation that they haven’t spent the day performing in the local big house for hundreds of people and sharing traditional meals. “This is totally different,” Negedzi said.
Photo credit: Trevor Hewitt photo
News source: The Canadian Press