The Talking Stick Festival delivers Indigenous performance art with impact throughout all four seasons
(This story is sponsored by Full Circle: First Nations Performance.)
The 20th anniversary of the Talking Stick Festival began earlier this year, providing Indigenous art enthusiasts and knowledge-seekers with an abundance of free online programming. From eclectic dance performances and theatrical presentations to nature walks, virtual workshops, and discussion panels, there’s an event that will spark interest for everyone.
Full Circle: First Nations Performance calls to the Four Directions and all their relations to gather around the four fires, one in each season. The celebration began with the Winter Lodge: Sitting with our Ancestors, followed by Spring Awakening, and now Summer Sojourn.
“In Indigenous country, there are significant things that happen each season so we decided to present our programming in time with these seasonal changes,” says Margo Kane (Cree/Saulteaux), the artistic manager director and founder of Full Circle: Firsts Nations Performance. “It’s a new way to think about where we are on the land, what happens on the land, and the conversations that could arise from where we are as Indigenous artists.”
In addition to running the nonprofit organization for two decades, Kane is celebrating a year of special acknowledgements for her lifetime of work as a cultural leader, writer, actor, teacher, and performing artist.
For the entire month of June, the Summer Sojourn celebration will offer a wide range of Indigenous art to audiences. This will include a children’s book launch, storytelling sessions, dance performances, and much more.
“Typically in the summer, we all start a journey and come together through ceremonies, sundances, feasting, and in gathering certain food items. We might go berry picking or hold a powwow,” says Kane. “This part of the festival is called Summer Sojourn because this June, we’re gathering with several of our partners across Canada.”
The summer installation will include programming from the NAC Indigenous Theatre, the Adäka Cultural Festival in the Yukon, the Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival in Ottawa, and the Vancouver International Film Festival—to name but a few.
“The sharing of these valuable resources is a step toward reconciliation,” says Kane.
In addition, attendees can expect to see a virtual performance from Indigenous singer and poet Tara Williamson and her band, The Good Liars, on June 18. And the immensely inspiring Embodying Power and Place will start on June 3 and run on-demand until July 1.The full event schedule can be found online.
Through its partnership with the first Indigenous francophone performance company in Canada, Ondinnok Theatre, viewers can tune in to their gala, showcasing their talented artists. This will be released on National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21.
Summer Sojourn will also feature in-depth conversations with Indigenous artists and presenters, which folks can take part in over Zoom.
“I find the conversations very inspiring because whenever I perform, I want to talk to my audience about my work and the issues that it brings up,” says Kane. “It’s so important for us to personally connect with others about what’s happening in the world and how it affects us, as Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.”
Since 1992, Full Circle: First Nations Performance has supported Indigenous artists by creating opportunities for them to share their life experiences with audiences. By engaging with people of all ages and backgrounds, artists have been able to help others better understand First Nations, Métis, and Inuit culture.
For the participating Indigenous artists, the festival provides them with much more than an opportunity to showcase their works.
“It’s a great way for the Indigenous community to get inspired,” says Kane. “They get to show their work, share the thoughts behind their pieces, meet other Indigenous artists from Turtle Island, support each other, and build lasting relationships.”
By taking the time to learn about different cultures and their values, we can form a more inclusive community where people can peacefully coexist.
“There’s a wealth of stories, ideas, and opportunities for the Indigenous arts community to share with a non-Indigenous audience,” says Kane.
“We know our people will be there but we are eager to welcome other people to explore Indigenous culture through the arts and get to know our communities. We need to learn about each other so that we can build a better future for everyone in this country.”
For more information on the festival and its components, visit www.talkingstickfest.ca/.
To learn more about Full Circle: First Nations Performance and the nonprofit’s history of events and initiatives, click here.