Mādahòkì Farm Welcomes Everyone to their Sommer Solstice Indigenous Festival

Celebrate National Indigenous History Month by participating in the Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival, a dynamic celebration of the heritage of the original inhabitants of the Ottawa Valley.

This year, the festival is back at Mādahòkì Farm, featuring new attractions for an incredible weekend-long celebration of First Peoples, starting on June 21, National Indigenous Peoples Day. Ottawa Life spoke with Trina Simard, Artistic Director and CEO of Indigenous Experiences, about the festival’s great offerings, cultural resilience, and First Nations cuisine.

The Pow-Wow contest, featuring incredible drumming and dancing participants from all over North America, is a must-see highlight of the festival. Simard describes it as the “heart of the event.” There are different opportunities to see drumming and dancing, but Simard is particularly enthusiastic about attending on Friday, June 21, because, after the Pow-Wow, there will be a family-friendly glow-in-the-dark Pow-Wow dance party.

Another after-dark spectacle you won’t want to miss is the drone show, with 250 drones telling the story of the teachings of the seven grandfathers. The drones will make the shapes of animals from the story, and Simard explains that “each animal represents a seven-grandfather teachings with Bison walking across the sky and Eagles flying.”

At the Ojibwe Spirit Horse Equine Assisted Learning event, you can interact with these incredibly beautiful and rare creatures. Simard, who is Ojibwe herself, gave us the backstory of the Spirit Horses, Canada’s only Indigenous horse breed. In the wild, they were culled almost to extinction, but four survived, and thanks to conservation efforts, today, there are over 180. These horses are smaller and have hairy ears, an extra nose flap and a very sweet temperament. Simard says that the horse, not unlike First Nations people themselves, symbolises “resilience and almost being gone but still being here.” She says the story of the horses and their connection to the land helps share the story of Indigenous peoples.

The Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival also includes a wide range of activities to suit every interest. From Dream Catcher Workshops to beading classes and even an inukshuk building lesson, there’s plenty of crafting fun to be had. Those looking for more action can try their hand at Métis games, including hatchet throwing and archery. And for nature lovers, there’s a Birds of Prey demonstration, a market and a family fun zone — there’s truly something for everyone to enjoy!

Food enthusiasts will benefit from a unique culinary experience. Simard says guests will be able to savour First Nations food, like Bison, Strawberry Juice and Native tacos made with fried bread, each day during the festival, or you can also register for a special lunch (1 p.m.) or dinner (6 p.m.) experience with Chef Tawnya Brant on June 21. Brandt, who competed on season 10 of Top Chef Canada, now runs her restaurant, YawékonFoods in Ohsweken, which serves Haudenosaunee fusion cuisine. As you savour this unique culinary experience at a traditional long table, Mohawk folk and soul musician Logan Staats will treat you to a live performance.

On Saturday, June 22, Chef Trudy Metcalfe-Coe will teach a cooking class. Those who register will learn how to make a modernised version of a classic Northern dish featuring Arctic Char, Potatoes, and Sage butter. On Sunday, June 23, there is an opportunity to learn to cook with Chef Brant herself!

The Ottawa Sommer Solstice Indigenous Festival is a great way to get out and learn about our First Nations community, which still fosters the land we live on today. The festival welcomes everyone, with free admission for all, but some craft activities and special events, such as the Longtable Dinner and Dreamcatcher Workshop, require pre-registration and have additional to cover the costs of materials and ingredients.

Click here for the complete festival schedule and programming, and make sure to register in advance for any activities you are interested in.

Please note there is no public on-site parking at Mādahòkì Farm. Algonquin College, a proud supporter of the Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival, will provide free parking and a shuttle service to the festival location at Mādahòkì Farm.