January 18, 2020

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Opinion

A decade of dialogue

Aboriginal Day Live celebrates 10 years of building bridges between cultures

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>The Brown Bear Drum Group, made up of members from many communities, played Aboriginal Day Live in 2015.</p>

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

The Brown Bear Drum Group, made up of members from many communities, played Aboriginal Day Live in 2015.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/6/2016 (1303 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Tuesday marked the 20th anniversary of National Aboriginal Day, created to celebrate the heritage, diverse cultures and outstanding achievements of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples across the country. On Saturday, the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network will be marking an anniversary of its own — the 10th edition of its annual Aboriginal Day Live festivities.

Chris Young / The Canadian Press</p><p>Canadian singer Buffy Saint-Marie</p>

Chris Young / The Canadian Press

Canadian singer Buffy Saint-Marie

"Originally when we started this show, it was about celebrating National Aboriginal Day. In particular, though, it was about wanting establish a new dialogue with the rest of Canadians," says Sky Bridges, APTN’s chief operating officer.

"The intention was that we’re missing, on a national level, a celebration that can carry that national dialogue, celebrate the very best of aboriginal culture for our own people and invite people in to experience it."

The beginnings of Aboriginal Day Live were humble — first held in a park just outside the APTN headquarters in downtown Winnipeg, the main portion of the day, a concert, was a one-hour televised broadcast.

The event has since moved to The Forks and evolved into a full day of activities and a four-hour telecast that, last year, reached more than one million Canadians through television, radio and online streaming.

"For Winnipeg, it is the largest gathering of aboriginal culture at The Forks and anywhere else in the city, and Canadians are dialoguing. The hashtag for Aboriginal Day Live reached two million unique Twitter accounts (last year)," adds Bridges.

Saturday’s musical performances include sets from those at the beginning of their career, longtime legends and everyone in between. Polaris Prize winner Buffy Sainte-Marie headlines the night, hitting the stage with 50 members of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.

"Buffy Sainte-Marie alone is such an icon and is so special and dear to our community, and many Canadians have a very special connection..." Bridges saysof the 75-year-old singer-songwriter, who was born on the Piapot Plains Cree First Nation in Saskatchewan. "But to have her perform for the first time ever with a full symphony, it is just going to be an incredible, full sound and tribute to Buffy’s legacy."

MACKENZIE DUNCAN PHOTO</p><p>Toronto trio Dragonette</p>

MACKENZIE DUNCAN PHOTO

Toronto trio Dragonette

Last year, a new tradition was started that brings together an aboriginal and non-aboriginal artist for a musical collaboration. The inaugural duet saw Winnipeg indigenous musician Don Amero paired with country star Brett Kissel; this year, rapper and Aboriginal Music Award winner Joey Stylez will take the stage with Toronto electro-poppers Dragonette, with whom he recorded the song Pride of Lions last year.

Bridges notes these collaborations are a small way in which Aboriginal Day Live can embed the idea of reconciliation and understanding into the day’s events.

"Every year we want to continue that theme, because I believe it’s through the power of music that we really do bridge cultures and bridge understandings between human beings," he says. "The beat of the drum has always been central to the beat of the heart in our culture, so through music, I believe that one way we cross over those bridges is bringing in an act together like Joey Stylez with Dragonette."

The evening mainstage concert kicks off at 7 p.m. and will culminate with a fireworks display at 11 p.m.

erin.lebar@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @NireRabel

Erin Lebar

Erin Lebar
Multimedia producer

Erin Lebar is a multimedia producer who spends most of her time writing music- and culture-related stories for the Arts & Life section. She also co-hosts the Winnipeg Free Press's weekly pop-culture podcast, Bury the Lede.

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