Stage Door News

St. Catharines: FirstOntario PAC announces the 4th Annual Celebration of Nations

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

On Friday 11 September, Celebration of Nations will begin virtually with a profound short film entitled Starborn that captures the essence of our current existence. Delivered in the form of an Elder's observation with a gentle but firm admonition, this remarkable short film by ally Olivia Mater will provide a compelling start to this year’s gathering as well as a reckoning of human responsibility to the land and to one another. 

“The situation humanity currently finds itself in — living under a confluence of conditions that when considered together are unprecedented — has been both challenging and unnerving. Not only is a microorganism reaping souls at an alarming rate, but our global ecosystem, like Canada's last Arctic ice shelf, is collapsing,” says Tim Johnson, Celebration of Nation’s Artistic Producer. “All of these problems have been preventable or treatable and were the collective intelligence of wise and principled peoples applied to the creation and implementation of practical solutions. We felt that to treat this year's gathering without applying serious thought and context would have been irresponsible and inconsistent with our teachings.”

Celebration of Nations will take place virtually from 11-13 September in a continued commitment to supporting the vital voices of the creative and intellectual community.

"Since COVID-19 broke this past March we have learned a lot of things about ourselves and about how necessary the arts are to maintaining healthy minds and hearts," said Michele-Elise Burnett, Celebration of Nation’s Artistic Director. "Artists are often at the forefront of speaking truth to power while also providing purpose for humans to gather and fulfill our ancient and ingrained need for contact, socialization, intellectual engagement, and expression."

The virtual program will feature a livestreamed performance from Six Nations of the Grand River of Blood Water Earth by renowned Indigenous creator Santee Smith of Kaha:wi Dance Theatre. Music also continues to remain a vital component of Celebration of Nations this year as 2020 Indigenous JUNO Award winners LeE HARVey OsMOND (aka Tom Wilson), Celeigh Cardinal and 2020 Polaris Music Prize shortlisted artist Lido Pimienta are set to share livestream performances.

"When we were reviewing the Indigenous music scene to curate this year's concert, we never could have predicted the outcome," said Tim Johnson. "By serendipity, good fortune, and perhaps a little skill our two choices both ended up winning 2020 JUNO Awards! Celeigh Cardinal won for Indigenous Artist of the Year and Lee Harvey Osmond won for Contemporary Roots Album of the Year. Their music is some of the most compelling to be found anywhere in the world, showcasing once again that Indigenous artists continue to influence and shape popular music and culture."

The theme for this year's Celebration of Nations is Mighty Niagara and the Great LakesWatershed. To address this theme a range of intellectual and artistic programs have been curated. Renowned Mohawk Elder and Midwife Katsi Cook will present on environments of meaning where concepts of reproduction of body, culture, and ecosystem health intersect. Rob MacDonald and Martin Cooper of Archaeological Services Inc. will explore the Niagara landscape through the lens of archaeological evidence revealing in detail Indigenous inhabitation in the Niagara Peninsula reaching back 13,000 years. A team of professionals from the Niagara Parks Commission and the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority will give a presentation on environmental challenges and stewardship responsibilities along the Niagara River and its tributaries. Victoria Poet Laureate Janet Rogers returns to curate the Empathic Poetry Café with a group of creative and vocally expressive Indigenous writers.

This year’s Her Moccasins Talk panel discussion will focus on the health and well-being of our waters. The panel, composed of inspirational and visionary women, including celebrated artistic luminaries Christi BelcourtAngela DeMontigny and Santee Smith, will share traditional insights on the relationships and bonds humans have with the living earth and the inescapable consequences of natural law.
In addition, this year’s Celebration of Nations will introduce the Indigenous Niagara Living Museum Tour, an online experience that will transport visitors to several significant cultural and historical Indigenous locations within the region. From archaeological sites, ancient geologic landmarks, and unique ecosystems, to amazing art installations, important battlegrounds, and Niagara Falls itself, visitors will have the opportunity to follow Niagara’s Indigenous trails in search of knowledge and adventure.

Celebration of Nations is proud to also feature One Dish, One Mic, a dynamic duo and Canadian Journalism Foundation and CBC Journalism Fellowship Award winners Karl Dockstader and Sean Vanderklis. The virtual edition will also feature Teepee or not Teepee, the latest media project of CBC featured Anishinaabe comedian, writer, actor and media maker Ryan McMahon.

Celebration of Nations is part of a long-term vision of the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre, Kakekalanicks and the City of St. Catharines to build on the Two Row Wampum that promotes all Nations walking together, in parallel, with respect, compassion and understanding to cultivate an inclusive community for our shared future. It is intended to provide opportunities for national and international visitors to actively participate in an inclusive and engaging community gathering that will foster a greater sense of belonging, support meaningful reconciliation, and leave a lasting legacy of goodwill for future generations.

Photo: Blood, Water, Earth by Kaha:wi Dance Theatre. © Andy Morro.