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Celebration of Nations

Celebration of Nations

The sacred fire will burn once again in the backyard of the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre as they partner with Kakekalanicks Indigenous Arts to bring Celebration of Nations, a gathering of Indigenous arts, culture, and tradition to downtown St. Catharines from September 6-8. More than 40 events will take place in the core, within the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre’s four venues, as well as The Mann Raceway Plaza (the FirstOntario PAC’s outdoor gathering space commonly referred to as “the Backyard”), and within spaces at Brock University’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts.

The three-day gathering showcases a wide variety of Indigenous arts and artists, ranging from traditional to contemporary music, dance performances, sunrise ceremonies, film screenings, creative workshops, an outdoor artisan market that includes food vendors, and hands-on workshops and an activity zone for both children and adults. The full weekend will include 40+ free events!

“Our theme for 2019 is Empathic Traditions: Honouring Mother Earth,” explained Artistic Director Michele-Elise Burnett. “The programs we’re producing will present a wide range of Indigenous artistic expression and knowledge, combined with scientific research, designed to nurture human connections to the natural world that foster environmental ethics and manifest our responsibility for future generations.”

Artistic Producer Tim Johnson added, “We’ve recruited a group of prestigious allies who are working hard to address the complex environmental issues that are challenging the health of our living earth. These include Brock University, the Canadian Biosphere Reserves Association, Centre for Climate Change Management at Mohawk College, Niagara Parks Commission, Plenty Canada, Ontario Nature, Trent University, Walpole Island Land Trust, Youth Circle for Mother Earth, Canadian Commission for UNESCO, and many others. In addition, we’ve asked our participating artists to present creative works that reflect upon this year’s theme.”

“Celebration of Nations has become a wonderful tradition of cross-cultural learning and celebration each year. With a focus on honouring Mother Earth, this year’s Celebration will encourage us to focus on sustainability and the natural environment that we are fortunate to share with all of the people and First Nations of the Niagara region” said St. Catharines Mayor Walter Sendzik.

Celebration of Nations is an opportunity for Niagara residents and visitors to actively participate in an inclusive and engaging community gathering that provides cultural and historical insights infused within entertainment and social activities that forge connections and strengthen the bonds of community.

For full schedule of more than 40 events and to sign up for workshops, visit the website:


Master Canoe Builder Chuck Commanda: Birch Bark Canoe – ONGOING Over the past four centuries, colonialism, natural resource industries, and climate change have severely altered Algonquin ways of life. The birch bark canoe, however, continues to be a link to cultural strength, retaining the power to bring people together for a common cause. The art of building birch bark canoes was lost for generations and Commanda hopes to help Indigenous communities reclaim that part of their culture and spread the knowledge to others. All are welcome to visit Commanda (and assist him!) while he undertakes his build in Algoma Central Lobby between 9am–4pm daily from Aug 25 to Sept. 7. NOTE: The completed canoe will be proudly displayed at the FirstOntario PAC.

Down the Dirt Road: Origin and Evolution of the Blues – FRI, 7:30PM Travel along the visceral and deeply emotional dirt road of the blues from the Mississippi Delta to St. Catharines! This headline concert, from the producers of RUMBLE, features renowned bottleneck slide player Lakota John, and multiple award-winners: Harrison Kennedy, Murray Potter and the Pappy Johns band! NOTE: Lakota John is a talented Oglala Lakota and Lumbee blues guitarist and vocalist from Southeastern North Carolina who excels in playing roots, bottleneck slide, and country blues Piedmont-style guitar.

Procession of Nations – SAT, 10AM Always a very powerful and moving part of Celebration of Nations. It displays, in glorious sight and sound, the breadth and diversity of Indigenous peoples who live within the Niagara region and who traveled long distances from across Turtle Island to participate. As a point of solidarity and inspiration, it is vitally important that we showcase the resilient beauty of our cultures and peoples. NOTE: This year’s procession will feature seven Eagle Staff Carriers and many Nations proudly carrying their flag. All are welcome to join in the backyard of the PAC. Bring a blanket and a friend.

See Also

Empathic Poetry Cafe – SAT, 4pm A powerful showcase of Indigenous artists from diverse nations performing storytelling and poetry styles that address unique Indigenous perspectives involving empathic traditions and environmental consciousness. The event will be hosted by Janet Marie Rogers, a Mohawk/Tuscarora poet, spoken word, performance artist and media producer from the Six Nations of the Grand River and feature Dennis “D-Scribe” Scherle, Danielle Boissoneau, Kahsenniyo Tahnee Williams and Kay’la Fraser.

Unsettled Scores: Contraries: A Chamber Requiem & RADAR – SAT, 7:30PM An evening of music by the powerhouse composing team of Spy Dénommé-Welch and Catherine Magowan. Featuring world class Indigenous-Canadian and allied musicians, this evening showcases two compelling works that respond to Canada’s missing and murdered Indigenous persons, and the Residential School system. Deeply meaningful, moving and provocative, these works invite the audience into a new conversation around difficult Canadian histories that bridges mutual respect and understanding.

Backyard Programming – SAT + SUN from 10am–6pm Visit the backyard of the PAC and take in the Métis encampment, sit by the sacred fire, enjoy interactive activities and an artisan market, listen to music and teachings on the backyard stage and learn more about the beautiful culture and traditions of the Indigenous community.

Celebration of Nations is part of a long-term vision of Kakekalanicks, the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre, and the City of St. Catharines to build on the Two Row Wampum teaching that promotes all Nations walking together, in parallel, with respect, compassion, and understanding to cultivate an inclusive community for our shared future. All are welcome!

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