By Lindsay Monture
The Fish Quill Poetry Boat’s 5th annual Fish Quill Canoe Tour is a unique voyage of musicians and poets who travel via canoe visiting small towns and rural communities alongside the Grand River. Last Sunday, the Chiefswood Museum hosted musicians Dana Sipos, Abigail Lapell, Alix Aylen, Bobby Gadda, Matt Deacon and Liana Rose, as well as guest poet and local wordsmith Kahsenniyo Tahnee Williams for intimate campfire performances of spoken-word poetry, recitals of Pauline Johnson’s works, and folksy river songs.
The Chiefswood Museum posed as a very significant stop for the Fish Quill Canoe Tour. “Actually the inspiration for the tour was originally Pauline Johnson and her poem The Song My Paddle Sings”, tour coordinator Dana Sipos explains, “The women who started the tour were poets and were inspired to bring poetry and song back down the Grand River, and in the process to honor the river as the traditional waterway of communication, the mode of transportation and the heartbeat of the community of this territory, travelling by canoe.”
The act of canoeing as means of travelling from show to show puts the concept of touring into perspective for the artists. “With the slower pace, you really get to appreciate the natural surroundings and the birds and the wildlife out there. It’s just a really nice pace of life,” Sipos shares. “Overall it went really well. Everyone was up for the adventure and sometimes challenge and definitely everyone that we played for has been impressed and appreciated our efforts.”
The challenges that can occur on such an excursion can also be made up for by the evening performances. The group had received a comment from one attendee about how much their music was just what she needed to lift her spirits and she would carry that evening with her for a while. “What she said meant a lot, that’s exactly what we needed to hear as well. It was a pretty cool undertaking.”
The 8 day tour kicked-off in Toronto and made stops in Elora, West Montrose, Kitchener-Waterloo, Cambridge, Brantford and Six Nations. Each stop featured a local artist from the town they performed. “We have more of a focus on music this year, but the tour is still keeping true to the poetry roots with guest poets along the way.” Sipos explains. She had contacted the Chiefswood Museum to find a Six Nations artist to participate, and Kahsenniyo Tahnee Williams answered their call.
Kahsenniyo has had many great opportunities as a spoken-word artist, which includes being featured on the Candy Show on APTN, touring the east coast, working with youth groups and empowering youth workshops. “I think for me when I first started writing, I was writing with the intent of educating non-native people about our issues and the struggles we face. It actually took me awhile to have the opportunity to be able to perform for other native people. It really spoke to me to have young girls come up to me after a show and say ‘your poem gave me the confidence to leave an abusive relationship’ or ‘you made me re-evaluate what I was doing in my life and go back to school.’ Those kind of small comments that people make throughout the years are the most special and magical.”
Dana concludes, “For next year I encourage people to come and definitely bring their own stories. Again we’re coming to the Six Nations territory and wanting to be respectful and honoring, to have more people from the community come and share their songs and stories and to find cause for celebration.” More information on the Fish Quill Canoe Tour can be found at www.fishquill.weebly.com.