The amount of talent in the Cree Nation is extensive; from sports to traditional pursuits to the arts, there is no shortage of it. A few months back Bertie Wapachee and Roy Neacappo decided to get together to help foster and promote their Cree artisans in hopes of creating the biggest show the Cree Nation has ever seen.
A lineup that included Cree legend-in-the-making musical band Cer
Amony, artist Natasia Mukash and Litefoot, a rap artist and motivational speaker who flew in all the way from Seattle Washington, the three day Cree Arts Festival, which was held August 8-10, was sold out each night to the tune of over 1000 spectators at Job’s Memorial Gardens in Chisasibi.
“The intent was to do something big and create one of the biggest shows in the Cree Nation by making it an annual event,” said co-organizer Bertie Wapachee.
“But it’s not just a music festival, it’s a gathering of the arts. Our idea was to start somewhere by having all these people come together and celebrate their talent and to have the chance for the rest of the Cree Nation get to know them.”
Major sponsors like the Grand Council, and the Cree Nation Arts and Craft Association helped contribute to the $100,000 budget.
The festival was years in the making as it started out as a simple idea in Wapachee’s head years ago. It was based on the annual Mamuunika mutau music festival of old.
“It was an idea that was put to rest for awhile,” said Wapachee. “A few months ago Roy (Neacappo) and I talked about doing a dream concert and he basically had the same ideas as me, so we went ahead and put something together and that’s how it all started.”“It motivates the youth, especially in the arts field,” said Roy Neacappo, the Recreation Director in Chisasibi and co-organizer of the fest. “We had all genres of music from places like moose Factory, as well as comedy and some great artists. It was a huge success.”
The Grand Council was in town for the Annual General Assembly and they used the opportunity to make the announcement that an awards ceremony, similar to the Aboriginal Achievement Awards, would be held in two years time and every year after that.
While still in the preliminary stages, the GCC promised $80,000 towards the creation of the first Cree Nation Achievement Awards Foundation.
“One of the first awards might be a lifetime achievement award,” said Wapachee. “There are a number of people who deserve it and I think it would be a good thing to celebrate the lives of our achievers and contributors to our society. It would certainly have an impact on our Nation.”“I’m also hoping that there would be a chance to recognize top students in the Cree Nation,” he said. “The great thing is our people will start to look around for achievers.”
Wapachee was tight-lipped on whether there would be a monetary prize to the winners as he said it is too early to say.
He stopped short of mentioning who would be on his list for a lifetime achievement award, but he added, “Some of these people have done remarkable things to change our society at different points and were a part of history in many cases. Their stories need to be told, shared and celebrated.”“We have to recognize the contributions people have made to our society, whether it be in music, politics, business or language and culture. I think all those things would be in the categories. I’m looking forward to it.”