Wiikwemkoong Annual Cultural Festival is 59 this year

The jingle dress, a dance style which originated in Ontario, is set to be a main feature of this year’s Wiikwemkoong Annual Cultural Festival, including a jingle dress gathering taking place Friday.

WIIKWEMKOONG – The Wiikwemkoong Annual Cultural Festival is celebrating its 59th edition this year as Canada’s largest and longest running event of its kind and once again the schedule is jam packed.

“The Wikwemikong Heritage Organization (WHO) is thrilled to present our annual Indigenous Art Show and Sale,” noted organizer Sheena Wassegijig. “Join us for the opening reception on Saturday, August 3 at 3 pm, with light refreshments offered in the Artist Pavilion.”

Ms. Wassegijig noted that the Art Show provides a space for established and emerging Indigenous artists to display and sell their work in a gallery setting onsite. The art show runs August 3-5 from 10 am to 4 pm daily within the grounds at Thunderbird Park in the Artists Pavilion. “It is a great opportunity to purchase some of the best Indigenous art on the scene today,” she said. “This art show showcases new art from local Anishinaabe artists.”

“The WHO is also pleased to announce a Commemoration of past Wiikwemkoong Artists as this year’s featured artists for the Wiikwemkoong 59th Annual Cultural Festival,” she said. “These past Wiikwemkoong artists heavily influence current Wiikwemkoong artists and are respectfully remembered for their culture, spirit and masterful artistry.”

This year’s staff will feature some familiar faces as well as some star power brought in from across Turtle Island.

Since you can never get too much of a good thing the tag team of masters of ceremonies will include two stars of the powwow mic, Ruben Little Head Sr. hailing from Lawrence, Kansas and Wiikwemkoong’s own Chris (the Pleasant) Pheasant.

“This year we are using a lot of our own staff,” said Ms. Wassegijig. Arena director is David Trudeau, head male dance judge will be Jesse Osawamick and head female dance judge will be Sophie Pheasant. Host drum will be Red Man singers.

There will be a few out of town faces in place as well, including Walker Stonefish of Walpole Island, who will serve as head veteran, and Sheldon Sundown of Seneca, New York who will do double duty as the head drum judge and Smoke Dance singer.

The Jingle Dress Classic will include Sisters by Choice: Honouring Our Learning Path and a master’s degree graduation ceremony for Liz Eshkibok and Naomi Recollet.

A celebration of the jingle dress is a major focus point for this year’s event, with a jingle dress gathering taking place at the Wiikwemkoong Teaching Lodge at the powwow grounds on Friday, August 2. The gathering will begin at 10 am when the teachings start and will close at 5 pm. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own feast bundles and their own jingle dress to hang inside the lodge for the day. Everyone is welcome to attend this event.

“Our vision for this gathering is to facilitate a culturally safe place for learning, sharing teachings amongst one another, remembering the value and spirit of the dress and an expression of what the dress means,” explained Ms. Wassegijig.

On Sunday there will be a dance special for women 16-plus to celebrate the original style/old style jingle. “For this special we ask that jingle dresses be similar or reflect the style of the grandmother dresses,” said Ms. Wassegijig. “This is to honour the resourcefulness and resiliency of grandmothers, mothers, aunties and Anishnaabe-kwe in our communities.”

The prize board will include cash prizes and star quilts.

The up and coming singer songwriter Elijah Manitowabi will be performing at the cultural pavilion from 5:30 to 6:30 pm on Saturday. This is a must catch event for any serious Island musician or fans of great music. Mr. Manitowabi is recognized as one of the top guitar slingers in the North.

The Chase the Ace (CTA) draw has been a major success for the community and it will be celebrated with powwow weekend specials. Day one will see an original hand drum song competition with two push-ups, day two it is open mic (favourite story or skit) and day three will feature a Karaoke Kings competition. Prizes will be first, $3,000; second, $2,000; and third, $1,000. That’s some serious zhooniyaa.

There will be a special Luck of the Draw event sponsored by CTA with $7,500 in prizes up for grabs.

On Sunday, champion hoop dancer Lisa Odjig will be holding a workshop on the popular dance style as well as providing an interactive demonstration at the Cultural Pavilion from 3 to 4 pm.

Also on Sunday, from 4 to 6 pm Joseph Pitawanakwat of Creator’s Garden will focus on the legitimacy of plant-based medicine, including the intricacies of how to sustainable harvest and use every part of the medicine plants.

On Monday John Dubé, the legendary Indigenous chef, will be showcasing his specialty dishes that infuse modern day techniques of using traditional Anishinaabe fish and wild game.

For a complete rundown of the events at the cultural festival see the advertisement on Pages 22-23 in this paper.