One of the biggest concepts behind the Terres en vues/ Land InSights festival is to bring not only local but international Indigenous culture into the spotlight for the purpose of cultural sharing and learning.
After undergoing a complete and total rebirth last year, moving from June to August and repackaging the festival to fit in Montreal’s hip and ultra-modern Place des Festival space from an east-end park, the Nation is happy to report that the festival was in fact the desired teaching and sharing tool it was honed to be.
This year’s event included the 21st annual film and video competition, conferences, a parade, a series of cultural dancing displays and art exhibitions.
According to founder André Dudemaine, this year was a resounding success because they managed to pull off a weeklong event with a wide range of functions between Montreal and satellite events on the Kahnawake Mohawk Reserve for around $1 million.
Some of the festival highlights included two major concerts featuring rapper, Samian on August 4 and Inuk songstress Elisapie Isaac on August 5.
Walking around at the new festival space, with the different events and kiosks throughout the area as well as a performance of powwow dancing, the atmosphere was enchanting yet not overwhelming.
While the dancing and traditional singing took place on the main stage, about a 100 feet away was the festival’s crowning glory, an opaque modern teepee representation over a fountain display that festival-goers dipped their feet and bodies into in the 30+ degree heat.
Over on the grassy knoll, Archéo-Québec had set up a mock archeological dig to give festival-goers a taste of what they could find should they go out on an actual dig. The kiosk was there in conjunction with Quebec’s Archeology Month, running from August 1-31.
“Right here we are doing an archeological dig simulation. We have taken some real artifacts from the Lachine Museum and placed them into the dirt so that we can show people how we do an archeological dig,” said Nathalie Barbe from Archéo-Québec.
Not too far from the dig, the festival had a large protected fire space set up to showcase something common to the Native traditional experience throughout Quebec – duck smoking over a fire.
While the person manning the fire was a Mexican Indigenous exchange student named Gustavo most likely hadn’t participated in anything of the likes since he had been in Canada, he said he felt ultimately proud to participate as an Indigenous person.
At one of the traditional tables, Annette Nolette, an Abenaki from Odanak, had her own handmade goods on display. She said throughout the course of the day she had been doing craft demonstrations for tourists so that they could learn about Native culture.
“Right here I have a basket made from black ash and sweet grass, it is something that we have been doing for many years as a tradition. I have made most of this but my granddaughter has made some of it too,” said Nolette.
While Batshaw Youth and Family Services were on hand to call for Aboriginal foster parents and the Montreal Urban Aboriginal Community Strategy Network was there to make its presence known, there were also some there to showcase services for Aboriginals.
St-Elizabeth, an online school that offers specific programs for First Nations healthcare providers, had a booth to showcase its programs.
“The courses are on a variety of different topics such as cancer care. We have a diabetes circle of care course, and one for COPD,” said Susanne Stevenson. She said anyone interested in taking these courses can find out more at: www.saintelizabeth.com
Saving the best for last however, relaxing on in the park area to take in the festival experience was none other than Canada’s first ever Cree MP, the NDP’s Romeo Saganash.
“I am enjoying being here very much, especially with the beautiful weather we are having. It is particularly important to continue this ‘presence’ because that is what festival is called: Présence Autochtone. We have to continue to convince people that we are here to stay and so they have to start accepting our presence,” said Saganash.
While Saganash did speak of how difficult it has been to watch his dear friend and party leader, Jack Layton, take a step back from politics to deal with his cancer treatment, Saganash said by no means was this a sign that the NDP was showing any weakness. For that matter, he said the foundations Layton had built would only serve to keep the party strong while he recuperates.
But getting back to the festival…
“I have not participated very much here but the best part for me is meeting the people who attend the festival. Just walking around and seeing these people for the first time since the elections has been great and they are taking advantage of that, wishing me luck and that is the best part,” said Saganash.
He too said he was looking forward to future years of celebrating this festival in Montreal and hopes that it continues to get bigger and better in the years to come.