WIIKWEMKOONG – This coming weekend marks the start of the second-annual Wiikwemkoong Arts and Music Festival (WAMF) which will coincide with the Robinson-Huron Treaty Gathering (RHTG) that is hosting daytime events on some of the same days as the arts festival at their shared grounds at Thunderbird Park in Wiikwemkoong.
“As Indigenous people, we love to celebrate art and we love to share with people. This, as an arts and music festival is an excellent way to do that,” said WAMF co-ordinator Jason Manitowabi.
The weekend’s slate of events really gets underway tomorrow, Thursday, September 12 with a touring comedy group passing through the area. Visitors Drew Behm and Marc-Anthony arrive at the Wiikwemkoong Arena for an 8 pm showtime. Wiikwemkoong comediennes Lena Recollet and Stephanie Pangowish will be serving as the opening acts before the others take the stage. There is also a ‘nine and dine’ at Rainbow Ridge Golf Course starting at 5 pm.
The RHTG is a gathering that invites the 21 chiefs from the 21 First Nations included in the Robinson-Huron Treaty to meet and answer questions from people who fall under the purview of the agreement.
“They’re going to be able to hear conversations amongst chiefs in regards to the 1850 treaty. There will be many presentations in regards to historic events,” said Wiikwemkoong Ogimaa Duke Peltier.
Some of the discussion topics will include Anishinaabe governance and traditional governance systems as well as doodems (clans).
“There will be a number of other panels where elders will have opportunities to share as well as our youth members,” Ogimaa Peltier added.
Elijah and the Backburners, seen performing at last year’s WAMF, will be returning this year by popular demand.
According to the ogimaa, Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory and its council represents the interests of the Point Grondine band, a signatory to the 1850 treaty which amalgamated with the South Bay band and Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve in 1968. A significant number of treaty annuity beneficiaries are citizens of Wiikwemkoong.
On Friday morning, the RHTG begins with a sunrise ceremony at 5:30 am. Breakfast begins at 7 am and grand entry takes place at 9 am. Events pertaining to the RHTG take place throughout the day such as opening remarks, 1850 Treaty Anishinaabemowin with Rita Corbiere, a litigation update from the Robinson-Huron Treaty legal team and a chiefs circle. Closing remarks by Kevin Wassegijig take place at 5 pm followed by a feast.
Throughout all of the days of the RHTG, several land-based activities will take place including seed bomb workshops, wild rice preparation, plant identification, adobe oven cooking, smoking fish, hominy corn preparation, moose hide tanning and tobacco teachings with Ashley Manitowabi.
Lunch-hour entertainment during the RHTG at noon on Friday is Aaron and Blair Peltier, then Dawn Scott and Jason Manitowabi. Both will be in the upstairs of the Wiikwemkoong Arena. Daytime entertainment takes place from 2 to 3 pm at the main stage and features both Kristi Soule & the Collective and Everette Morrison.
The main set of music begins at 5 pm on Friday with Danielle Roy-McDonald, Leslie Neshkiwe and Jordan Assiniwe each getting half-hour sets until 7 pm. Tragedy Ann, Brian Mish/Wiky 3 and Pat Peltier each take 45-minute sets from 7 until 10 pm.
RHTG events begin once again on Saturday with a sunrise ceremony at 5:30 am, breakfast at 7 am and grand entry at 8:45 am. From 9 to 11:30 am, Heidi Bohaker will deliver a keynote address. After lunch, Dr. Darrel Manitowabi and Joseph Pitawanakwat have speaking engagements followed by a youth panel. Robinson-Huron secretariat Mike Restoule will deliver closing remarks at 5 pm before supper.
During the day on Saturday, the music and arts festival will have child-friendly activities such as kids’ performers and a bouncy castle. Saturday’s noon-hour entertainers are Kristi Soule & the Collective and Danielle Roy-McDonald. The 2 pm main stage entertainment features Leland Bell and Sheldon Sundown.
Saturday’s music is expected to be a night to remember. All of the evening’s sets are 45 minutes long and, starting at 5 pm, features Keegan Jacko, Elijah Manitowabi and Brothers Wilde.
Brothers Wilde is a group from Kettle and Stony Point First Nation that won the title of best new country duo of the year in April 2019 from the North American Country Music Association in Tennessee.
Hometown hero Crystal Shawanda takes the main stage around 8 pm, followed by a fire spectacle presentation at 8:45 pm and finally a performance by Micki Free at 9:15 pm.
“We’ve tried to feature as many local acts as we can, and also some visiting artists,” said Mr. Manitowabi.
Another guest that Mr. Manitowabi said he was excited about was Micki Free—a friend of Ms. Shawanda and her partner Dewayne Strobel—who has played with acts as large as Prince and has worked closely with Gene Simmons of KISS.
Saturday’s festivities wrap with a social at Rainbow Ridge Golf Course Bar and Grill from 11:30 pm to 1:30 am.
Mr. Manitowabi said his own love for festivals came from attending the Three Fires Music Festival in his youth.
“I used to perform there and I’d be up on the same stage as Buffy St. Marie. That was incredible,” he said. “It’s not always easy as an artist because you have to find your platform. We want to create that platform for up-and-coming artists so they are supported. That’s what it’s all about.”
He encouraged all to attend the event and said everyone was welcome. The event is sponsored by Wiikwemkoong and the Robinson Huron Treaty Group, which enabled the entire event to be offered free-of-charge to all visitors. This year’s edition of the WAMF should be bigger and better than the inaugural festival held last summer, and Mr. Manitowabi said he expected even more people to come celebrate the best artistic works that Wiikwemkoong has to offer.