June is National Indigenous History Month (which includes National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21), a time to celebrate the rich and diverse history, languages, and cultural traditions and practices of Indigenous Peoples in Canada.
At Business & Arts NL, we’re big believers in the power of art to innovate and educate, and help people express thoughts and emotions that are difficult to convey, while bringing us closer to one another’s stories and experiences.
During National Indigenous History Month and National Indigenous Peoples Day, we encourage you to embrace the arts as you learn more about the significance of this time. Support the work of Indigenous creators by reading books by Indigenous writers, watching films from Indigenous filmmakers, listening to music from Indigenous artists, and purchasing work from Indigenous crafters and makers.
We reached out to some of our arts members and others in the community to share some of the ways in which you can mark the occasion.
A non-profit organization that serves the urban Indigenous and non-Indigenous community through a range of programs and services, First Light hosts a National Indigenous Peoples Day celebration every year on June 21, usually starting with a sunrise ceremony.
This year, an event will take place at the Techniplex in St. John’s featuring Indigenous arts and crafts, food and performances. To stay in the loop, check out First Light’s website and/or follow them on Twitter @FirstLight_NL or Facebook @FirstLightNL. (First Light has put out a call seeking vendors for this event. Deadline to apply is June 16. Click here to complete the application.)
To fully appreciate National Indigenous History Month, you might want to brush up on your knowledge of the Indigenous groups and cultures in Newfoundland and Labrador. You can’t go wrong with First Light’s Indigenous Cultural Diversity Training. Available in 1-hour, 3-hour and 8-hour sessions, topics covered include residential schools, truth and reconciliation, stereotypes and myths, symbols and ceremonies, and much more. Whichever length of session you choose, it’s learning that’s sure to stick with you.
Regardless if you’ve only visited once or many times, there’s always something new to discover at The Rooms, the province’s largest public cultural space.
During National Indigenous History Month, The Rooms is hosting several exhibitions and events that will help inspire and illuminate, including Jerry Evans’ “Weljesi” (the first major survey of iconic prints, paintings, projections and video portraiture by the celebrated visual artist) and Alex Antle’s “Njiknam (My Younger Brother)” (a photography series, embellished with beadwork, that focuses on Antle’s brother Matthew and his connection to Mi’kmaw culture through the land).
Opening on June 16 is “ᑕᑯᒃᓴᐅᔪᒻᒪᕆᒃ Double Vision,” which features work (including textiles, drawings and paper collages) by three late, groundbreaking Nunavut artists: Jessie Oonark and her daughters Janet Kigusiuq and Victoria Mamnguqsualuk. Drop by the opening reception from 7pm-9pm.
A few days later, on June 20 from 7pm-8pm, The Rooms will host a “Meet the Authors” event where Judy A. White, K.C., will speak with authors Douglas Sanderson (Amo Binashii) and Andrew Stobo Sniderman about their acclaimed book Valley of the Birdtail: An Indian Reserve, a White Town and the Road to Reconciliation.
On June 21, The Rooms invites visitors to celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day with free admission to exhibitions all day, as well as a performance by Kilautiup Songuning-Strength of the Drum from 2pm-2:30pm.
Finally, on June 22, The Rooms will host an artist talk by Glenn Gear, a visual artist, animator, filmmaker and graphic designer from Newfoundland who’s currently based in Montreal. Hear more about his immersive art installation “Sinew and Stars,” which will be projected onto the gallery walls. (Check The Rooms website soon for further details about the installation.)
St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival
Launched in 1989, the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival (SJIWFF) is the longest-running women’s film festival in the country and hosts a range of events throughout the year. If you missed their recent screening of Madison Thomas’s excellent documentary “Buffy Sainte-Marie: Carry It On” (hosted in partnership with Lawnya Vawnya), you can still check out a special Q&A with the legendary performer, moderated by Salome Barker, on the SJIWFF’s YouTube channel (click here to view).
SJIWFF also has a watch list on their blog (originally created for Red Dress Day) consisting of movies by Indigenous filmmakers, including Marie Clements’ “Bones of Crows” (which you can catch at the St. John’s Cineplex this evening and tomorrow).
Speaking of film, the Northern Film Initiatives’s (NFI) Indigenous Youth Training Summit will be taking place in St. John’s from August 17-20. Designed for emerging and mid-level Indigenous creators from Newfoundland and Labrador, it features keynote speakers, industry panels, professional development workshops, film screenings and more. The deadline to apply is July 22 (click here and scroll down to request an application).
Formerly The Writers’ Alliance of Newfoundland and Labrador, WritersNL supports writers at all levels and stages of their careers through a range of programs and services, fosters recognition and appreciation of local writers, and promotes the literary arts in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Again this year, WritersNL will be celebrating National Indigenous Peoples Day in Happy Valley-Goose Bay in partnership with the Labrador Friendship Centre. Their free event will include drum dancing, storytelling, crafting, Northern games and a traditional clothing contest. Prize draws will also take place, with prizes including country food, Indigenous crafts, and books by Newfoundland and Labrador Indigenous authors donated by WritersNL. Everyone is welcome. (Visit WritersNL and the Labrador Friendship Centre on Facebook for the most up-to-date details.)
Since 1992, MusicNL has been helping cultivate and celebrate local music and musicians through various programs and services, partnerships, advocacy and education.
For them, says CEO Rhonda Tulk-Lane, National Indigenous Peoples Day “is about action.” As such, they encourage their membership and anyone interested to check out “The Path,” an Indigenous cultural awareness certificate program offered by the Canadian Live Music Association and NVision Insight Group. Consisting of five online modules, the course looks at the history of Indigenous peoples and their relationship with European settlers, the British Crown, and the Dominion of Canada; provides context to better understand the importance of cultural traditions and values of Indigenous peoples; and much more.