The Summer Solstice Aboriginal Arts Festival aims to share Aboriginal culture with all people in the Ottawa area, but the festival’s executive director says she thinks some non-aboriginal people are under the mistaken impression they can’t go.
“I think people hear Pow Wow and Aboriginal Arts Festival and they feel it’s just for our community,” says Trina Mather-Simard, executive director of the Summer Solstice Aboriginal Arts Festival. “But, it’s really an opportunity for our community to welcome in and share more with our neighbours here in Ottawa. Absolutely everyone is welcome.”
This free, four-day festival includes an Aboriginal artisan village, interactive exhibits and tons of family-friendly activities.
One of the highlights of the festival is the 2nd Annual Competition Pow Wow, an international drum and dance contest, featuring Grammy-nominated Ojibwe drum group Bear Creek. With over $65,000 in prize money up for grabs, organizers expect, much like last year, the Competition Pow Wow will draw high-calibre talent from all over.
“Our first competition, it attracted some of the very best singers and dancers from across the northern U.S., Winnipeg, straight to the east in Halifax and also across Ontario,” says Mather-Simard
There will be plenty of live music, including performances by Ottawa’s own Amanda Rheaume, as well as Donny Parenteau and Leanne Goose, who says she sings to share her experiences growing up in the Western Arctic.
“My father was a single parent and I spent a lot of time with my grandparents living on the land. Those early years taught me how to survive using our traditional ways. I didn’t know it was those teachings that easily translated into surviving as a musician — instincts, resourcefulness and respect,” explains Goose.
“I sing because I love it, I write to tell my stories. I’m here to share if for no other purpose,” she says.
That message of sharing is exactly what Mather-Simard says she is hoping to achieve with the Summer Solstice Aboriginal Arts Festival.