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Arts & Culture ᐊᔨᐦᑐᐧᐃᓐ

Indigenous Peoples Day 2020 will still be observed – from a distance

BY Lachlan Madill Jun 3, 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic has been an agent of change that has forced people to rethink how things can be done when it comes to large gatherings.

Most live events have either been postponed or canceled across Quebec, and the rest of the country. National Indigenous Peoples Day celebrations on June 21 are among those.

In Montreal, this year’s edition of the Cabot Square celebration has been postponed until next year. 

Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal executive director Nakuset is the event organizer. She explains that the cancellation is not only because of social distancing, but also because the park is being used by the homeless during the Covid-19 crisis, including a high number of Indigenous people. She is still planning to acknowledge Indigenous Peoples Day but hasn’t decided how.

On the national level, one of the largest events in the country is the Indigenous Day Live concert on Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN). It has also been postponed.

But the network has found a way to acknowledge June 21. APTN chief operating officer Sky Bridges said that their approach has two components. First, the concert is being reformatted and rescheduled.

“Our current plan right now is that it will be pre-taped with an audience, if we are able to. And we will broadcast it in the week of December 21,” explained Bridges.

The details on the concert are still being worked out, as locations and venues must be determined. Bridges said that once that has been done, they will begin booking artists. It will likely be a few months before an announcement is made. He noted that because it will be in the winter, the event will be held indoors.

Photo Credit: Sherry Brunet

The second component is to acknowledge Indigenous Peoples Day, which APTN will do by broadcasting a virtual concert.

“In place of Indigenous Day Live, we’re going to have a summer solstice concert June 21-22. June 21 will be the English version and June 22 will be the French version,” said Bridges. “We have a lot of exciting ways to celebrate together still.”

The concerts will feature well-known Indigenous artists from across the country performing from their own homes.

The show was quickly put together. Bridges credits the APTN team for moving so fast on the project and is proud of the calibre of the performers.

During the English show on June 21, 6 pm-8 pm, featured artists include Carolina East, Cris Derkson, Federal Lights, Ghostkeeper, Julian Taylor, Leela Gilday, Nelson Tagoona, Sierra Noble, Susan Aglukark and Twin Flames.

Burnstick, Elisapie, Florent Vollant, Samian and Shauit will perform for the French version on June 22, 8 pm-9 pm.

Huron-Wendat actor Charles Bender will be hosting the event in both French and English. The Montreal-based thespian is excited to be a part of the show. With the Summer Solstice concerts, he said, seeing artists performing from their homes will create a sense of intimacy and solidarity for Indigenous People.

“There’s a digital powwow going on right now and this is more of the same. We’re trying to stay together and keep the community together during these tough times and making sure that we’re still celebrating all together,” Bender reflected.

Bridges observed that people are learning to adapt to the lockdown, especially when it comes to live music. “We’ve seen a lot of concerts happen throughout Canada and the world right now where artists are performing from home – the appetite is there.”

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Lachlan Madill is a Saulteaux/Cree journalist from Treaty 4 territory in Saskatchewan. He has been working as a television, radio and web journalist the past 15 years. Originally from Regina he now lives in Montreal with his wife, daughter, dog and lizard.