Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 23/6/2018 (1209 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Kevin Chief jigged with joy, honoured his late father’s memory and joined his community for a traditional round dance Saturday during Indigenous Day Live at The Forks.
It was exactly that sort of family and community sharing that the 12th annual Indigenous Day Live is about.
The event is a full-day celebration of Indigenous peoples’ contributions through cultural activities and live music.
Held in Winnipeg, Toronto and Ottawa on the same day, Indigenous Day Live is billed as the largest national celebration in recognition of National Indigenous Peoples Day.
"A day like today is where we take the time to not only recognize the history and relationship that our country and province has with Indigenous people — First Nations, Métis, Inuit — but that if you’re a Canadian, a Manitoban, this is as much of your heritage as it is ours as Indigenous people," said Chief, the former NDP MLA who is now the vice-president of the Business Council of Manitoba.
"We can’t just tell people that these songs, these stories, culture is important. We have to show people. We have to find ways to celebrate that together and today is just a wonderful day where we can do that."
Chief and his Métis dance group called the Norman Chief Memorial Dancers — named after his dad — took a request from the crowd and jigged to the classic fiddle tune Whiskey Before Breakfast before the round dance took over the mainstage area.
The round dance was one of the day’s crown jewels. It was held at exactly the same time in all three cities.
A traditional dance performed at social gatherings, the round dance involves anyone — Indigenous and non-Indigenous — who wants to take part.
On Saturday, at precisely 12:30 p.m., participants streamed over to the mainstage area, linked hands and danced or walked in a giant circle to the beat of traditional drum music performed by Kyle Copenace, Roger Greene and Dorian Daniels.
"It’s a way that we celebrate, in dance form, coming together and that we’re a community and making that circle and inviting everybody in. That’s what our culture is all about and to me, it was quite beautiful to see everyone hold hands, dance on Mother Earth and acknowledge that we are a community," said Sky Bridges, the APTN chief operating officer who is one of the event’s founders.
The event attracted Maori cultural performers Don Semana, 49; Jane Alimurung, 61; and Glenn Cruz, 44, of Toronto who delivered two high-intensity performances of the haka, which means breath of fire. The haka is best known as performed by New Zealand’s All Blacks rugby team before matches and involves much yelling, facial contortions and stomping. Semana said his group is called Whakatopu Kotahi, which means "differences brought together for one purpose."
He said the group is back for a third consecutive year because of the inclusive atmosphere and shared experiences of Maori and Indigenous cultures.
"That’s one of the (Maori) teachings: Tell me, and I might remember. Teach me, and I might learn it. But include me, and I will believe it. The reason for haka is to pass down knowledge from generation to generation. That’s why we connect so well here. It’s the same thing that they do through their song and dance," Semana said.
After participating in the round dance, Christy Bird, Dawnis Kennedy and Anna Parenteau said dancing at the same time as the other cities had a powerful meaning.
"The representation of it was to bring people together from all across Canada," said Bird, whose husband is round-dance drummer Copenace.
"Everybody belongs and has a place in the circle," said Kennedy, who works at the Manitoba Indigenous Cultural Education Centre along with Parenteau.
Bridges said the annual Indigenous Day Live event, which was expected to draw about 30,000 people to The Forks, is connecting more Canadians to Indigenous culture and each other.
"This show has allowed us to have a new dialogue with Canada," Bridges said. "The dialogue on this day is about our culture, celebrating the very beautiful aspects of our culture, inspiring our youth and inviting Canadians in to experience it."
The event featured a full slate of free daytime activities including arts and crafts for children, traditional storytelling, powwow and a powwow competition, a skateboard competition, vendor tents and food trucks.
An evening concert closed out the day with a diverse lineup of performers including Walk Off the Earth, Sister Says, William Prince, Midnight Shine, Oh My Darling and Skyler with dancers Cameron Fraser-Monroe and Angela Gladue, among others.
Performances prior to the main show included emerging artists The Bloodshots, Lakes & Pines and Snotty Nose Rez Kids.