• By: Keith Whittier

Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival Expands For 6 Days of Cultural Celebration

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Photos by Andre Gagne

Next Wednesday marks an important day for Canada’s indigenous people, one where they traditionally come together and celebrate the Summer Solstice. Since 1996, June 21st has been recognized as National Aboriginal Day and events showcasing the culture and contributions of First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples have returned to the National Capital Region each year for the Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival.   

Usually a three day event in Vincent Massey Park, the Festival this year has expanded into six spread out over three venues. Along with Vincent Massey, programming will also take place in Major’s Hill Park and inside the National Arts Centre with the latter beginning the festival by hosting a pay-what-you-can performance of Making Treaty 7 as part of Canada Scene. The 1 hour and 40 minute multidisciplinary-arts theatrical production explores the consequence and implications still facing Alberta 140 years after the events at Blackfoot Crossing in 1877.

Aboriginal Peoples Television Network will be marking the largest celebration of Aboriginal Day to date with celebrations planed in eight cities across the country.

Ottawa will have free events in Major’s Hill park starting with the opening of an Aboriginal Artisan and Food Marketplace at 9 a.m. Pow Wow Drum and Dance Performances, Cody Coyote and Silla+Rise are scheduled during the morning and early afternoon with organizers inviting everyone to dance in unison with the other cities for what is being called the largest National Round Dance in Canada. Evening concerts kick off at 5:30 with performances by Relic Kings, Shawnee and Ottawa’s own Amanda Rheaume with later shows featuring Elisapie, Florent Vollant and Genevieve Fisher.

The heart and highlight of the festival has always been the International Competition Pow Wow, this year hosted by Drum Black Bear from June 23-25 in Vincent Massey Park.

Always a visual spectacle of culture and color, the Pow Wow attracts some of the hundreds of the best dancers, drummers and singers to compete for $75,000 in prizes.

While there you can also attend cultural workshops and visit the Odawa 150 Years of Shared History Pavilion and create some traditional arts and crafts. Algonquin history will be on display which includes a paddle exhibit and paintings.

A 400 foot zipline, face painting, the bungee trampoline and the Birds of Prey stage show should keep the kids occupied.

New this year to mark Canada’s 150th, the Reconciliation – Pavilion is “dedicated to showing the rich, diverse indigenous cultures of this land with an honest look at past shared history as well as revealing the future vision of Reconciliation through Social Innovation”.

Saturday evening concerts will feature Juno Award-winners Holly McNarland and Digging Roots plus a grand finale pyrotech show featuring Anishnabe DJ Boogey the Beast and Glow in the Dark Hoop Dancing.

A full schedule of events is available at ottawasummersolstice.ca.