First off, I hope everyone had a great National Aboriginal Day on June 21, I know I did and I’m not even Native. For the celebrations I went to the reopening of the Native Friendship Centre of Montreal (NFCM) which held an event in partnership with the Inter-Tribal Youth Centre and CKUT radio station. The mood was festive and the people friendly. There was so much going on I had to shuttle back and forth between the actual centre and the live stone carving and radio broadcasts being held at a vacant lot nearby.

The newly renovated building will be better equipped to provide a crucial community service. For those who don’t know, the NFCM has been providing disenfranchised Native youth with the mentoring and support they need to lead a better life. The centre has also been sowing the seeds of Native pride in the youth so that they can connect to their past and work towards their futures.

On the eve of National Aboriginal Day, Land InSights president and cultural activities director André Dudemaine unveiled the program for the 21st annual Montreal First Peoples’ Festival August 2-9. The events of the festival will be a celebration of First Peoples’ culture and creativity which includes concerts by Native artists, demonstrations of Aboriginal arts and crafts, culinary activities, archaeological presentations and an international film festival celebrating Aboriginal talents from around the world.

In total there will be three major concerts of which the first one will be a benefit concert while the other two will be free of charge. The first concert, called Arauco, de sève et de sang, will be performed by the Forestare Ensemble and held August 1 at the Grande Bibliothèque. The ensemble will perform a piece by contemporary Chilean composer Javier Farias entitled Arauco por fuerte, principal y poderosa. Alexandre Éthier, founder of the ensemble, describes it as a musical depiction of the struggle between the Native Mapuche people and the invading Spanish conquistadors. The ensemble will also be performing works by Atikamekw composer Pascal Koukouchi Sasseville.

The other two major concerts will take place August 4 and 5 at the Loto-Québec stage at Place des Festivals in the Quartier des Spectacles. Kicking off the festival activities will be Anishnabe rapper Samian performing his “Rap Incantations” show August 4. The following day Inuit singer-songwriter Élisapie Isaac will present her North-South show on the same stage.

Aside from the concerts at the Place des Festival, Land InSights has a host of activities that people can take part in and enjoy. There will be a giant 100-foot tall tepee that will be raised for the event. Plus there will be a historical recreation of traditional pottery making along with a bonfire to dry the clay. Native craftspeople will be on-site selling traditional goods. There will also be a themed sandbox for children, restaurants and arts displays. Special events will be held there on the weekend, including the launch of the Caravane amoureuse for its Quebec tour and Boréades de la danse with their hypnotic drumming and traditional dances.

The First Peoples’ Festival will also be screening films to celebrate Native talent from around the world. The diverse cinematic offerings will make sure that there will be something for all tastes. While the selection of films will feature local talent, a lot are coming from the Americas and one from Greenland.

But wait there’s more – poetry and literature will be showcased at the Grande Bibliothèque on August 2 featuring Joséphine Bacon, Domingo Cisneros and Naomi Fontaine. And let’s not forget the Native cuisine which will be at the ITHQ with chefs Manuel Kakwa Kurtness and Jorge Bibiano Reyes. As you see there will be plenty to do at the First Peoples’ Festival August 2-9. Enjoy!