The FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre and Kakekalanicks Indigenous Arts presented Celebration of Nations, a gathering of Indigenous arts, culture, and tradition in downtown St. Catharines from 6 – 8 September 2019.
Numerous events took place in downtown St. Catharines, within the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre’s four venues, as well as The Mann Raceway Plaza (the PAC’s outdoor gathering space commonly referred to as “the Backyard”), and within spaces at Brock University’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts.
The event kicked off Friday morning shortly after 6 a.m. and continued until Sunday with more than 40 events including music and dance performances, film screenings, and an outdoor artisan market.
The sunrise ceremony featured teachings from respected elders as they built up a fire with cedar, wood, birchbark and tobacco.
Customary ‘firekeepers’ watched over the sacred flame all weekend long until the celebration reached it’s end on Sunday evening.
This Indigenous gathering is part of a long-term vision of Kakekalanicks, the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre, and the City of St. Catharines to build on the Two Row Wampum teaching that promotes all Nations walking together, in parallel, with respect, compassion, and understanding to cultivate an inclusive community for our shared future.
Guided by that philosophy, Artistic Director Michele-Elise Burnett (Métis) and Artistic Producer Tim Johnson (Mohawk) have curated the programming with support from the Celebration of Nations Advisory Council and PAC programming staff.
The three-day gathering showcased a wide variety of Indigenous arts and artists, ranging from traditional to contemporary music, dance performances, sunrise ceremonies, film screenings, creative workshops, an outdoor artisan market that includes food vendors, and hands-on workshops and an activity zone for both children and adults.
2019 Celebration of Nations programming can be found here. Additional programming to be announced in the coming weeks.
“Our theme for 2019 is Empathic Traditions: Honouring Mother Earth,” explains Artistic Director Michele-Elise Burnett. “The programs we’re producing will present a wide range of Indigenous artistic expression and knowledge, combined with scientific research, designed to nurture human connections to the natural world that foster environmental ethics and manifest our responsibility for future generations.”
Artistic Producer Tim Johnson adds, “We’ve recruited a group of prestigious allies who are working hard to address the complex environmental issues that are challenging the health of our living earth. These include Brock University, the Canadian Biosphere Reserves Association, Centre for Climate Change Management at Mohawk College, Niagara Parks Commission, Plenty Canada, Ontario Nature, Trent University, Walpole Island Land Trust, Youth Circle for Mother Earth, Canadian Commission for UNESCO, and many others. In addition, we’ve asked our participating artists to present creative works that reflect upon this year’s theme.”
“Celebration of Nations has become a wonderful tradition of cross-cultural learning and celebration each year. With a focus on honouring Mother Earth, this year’s celebration will encourage us to focus on sustainability and the natural environment that we are fortunate to share with all of the people and First Nations of the Niagara region” said St. Catharines Mayor Walter Sendzik.
Celebration of Nations is an opportunity for Niagara residents and visitors to actively participate in an inclusive and engaging community gathering that provides cultural and historical insights infused within entertainment and social activities that forge connections and strengthen the bonds of community.
The three day celebration of Indigenous arts, culture, and tradition was dubbed a success.