Take part in ‘reconcilliAction’ at this year’s arts fest

 In Events, Visit Creemore

Purple Hills Arts and Heritage Society will honour National Day of Truth and Reconciliation by welcoming Indigenous guests and performers for special programming during this year’s Creemore Festival of the Arts.

“With the Saturday of our annual festival being on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, we wanted to take the opportunity to deepen our understanding of Indigenous culture and how our history has impacted Indigenous, Métis and Inuit communities. We invite everyone to engage in our day-long program, ‘reconcilliAction’,” said festival chair Nadine Melemis.

The programming, curated in consultation with the Downie Wenjack Fund, will feature The Poets, a Tragically Hip tribute band from the Moose Cree First Nation on the James Bay coast, on Saturday, Sept. 30.

The five-member group based in Moosonee and Moose Factory and fronted by Vic Linklater, is incorporating Cree into the lyrics of a couple of iconic Hip songs.

Linklater said members have been semi-professional musicians for about 30 years and produced original music in the first iteration of The Poets with a lot of success.

Five years ago they decided to pay tribute to The Tragically Hip as a way of pushing Truth and Reconciliation, following the publication of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Reports.

“It’s been going strong ever since,” said Linklater.

He said The Tragically Hip’s lead singer and lyricist, Gord Downie, frequently travelled to Moose Factory on The Polar Bear Express to visit with his friends, Linklater’s cousins.

“He drew that connection with the Indigenous peoples and went a bit further with it,” said Linklater. “He started to examine the history of Indigenous peoples with this country and discovered, amazingly, that this country wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be with regards to the treatment of Indigenous people, the First peoples.”

From there, members of The Poets delved deeper into The Tragically Hip catalogue in order to advance the cause of bringing awareness to non-Indigenous audiences. Working with bilingual elders, The Poets have translated two Tragically Hip songs –Ahead by a Century and Bobcaygeon – into Cree, in order to further the connection, taking care to translate Downie’s poetic lyrics preserving the meaning and symbolism.

“It’s quite fulfilling to do that, especially when my ancestors support me in that role because I always try to share with audiences that connection with the land, and the ancestors are out in the land, including the medicines that we’ve always known were out there,” said Linklater.

Band members have also been invited to share stories from their community during an afternoon presentation and Q&A at St. John’s United Church.

“We are trying to break down the geographical barriers of this country,” said Linklater, by explaining about the outlying lands that they live on, the day-to-day existence of the Cree community, trying to make a living, raise a family, and survive. “All the while preserving our Indigenous existence in this modern day and space.”

He encourages participants to familiarize themselves with the Cree people of Moose Cree First Nation on the James Bay before the presentation so that the conversation can start at a deeper level, and leaves time for a dialogue about truth and reconciliation and where we can go from here, and what Linklater calls “the real truths about this country.”

The 2 p.m. talk is free and tickets for the evening performance on the Creemore Legion stage cost $25.

The National Day of Truth and Reconciliation line-up also includes a dance showcase by students affiliated with the Centre for Indigenous Theatre, hosted by Kean Buffalo AKA Winterhawk, a 24-year-old Indigenous hip hop and freestyle dancer from Ermineskin Cree Nation (Maskwasic, Alberta).

Program coordinator MK Lynde said she is thrilled to welcome back performers Winterhawk and Kolby Fox, who performed at last year’s festival. Organizers invited Winterhawk to curate a show for this year’s event, as a way of growing their audience and advancing their careers. The performance by Indigenary Collective will also feature Pow Wow dancers Kolby Fox and Kehew Buffalo (pictured), and Hip Hop dancer Jaeli Bruno at Creemore Village Green beginning at 11 a.m. and will include a flute honour song, storytelling about traditional dances like a grass dance and Peri chicken dance, in addition to hip hop and freestyle.

The Creemore Festival of the Arts is a three-day event running Sept. 29 to Oct. 1. It kicks off on the Friday night with stand-up comedy by Martha Chaves, with Laurie Elliot and Zabrina Douglas. This year’s arts tour will feature more than 80 artists located throughout Creemore, with interactive activities at Station on the Green and Creemore Log Cabin. As the marquee show, artist Steve McDonald will be doing an interactive presentation at Station on the Green on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, exploring the useof artificial intelligence in art.

The Legion is hosting a lasagne dinner from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 30.

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit the Purple Hills Arts and Heritage Society website at www.phahs.ca.

Contributed photo: The Poets, from left: Paul Chakasim, Clint Hamilton, Vic Linklater, Rob Carter and Jon Kapashesit.

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