Skip to content

Dakota Bear headlining Youth Indigenous Festival in Sechelt

After a pandemic hiatus, the Youth Indigenous Festival is back on Aug. 19 at Hackett Park
A. Dakota Bear
Dakota Bear headlining Youth Indigenous Festival in Sechelt.

An upcoming Sunshine Coast youth music festival will feature an Indigenous hip-hop artist as its headline performer while incorporating a subtle change to make the event more inclusive after a two-year COVID hiatus.

“In 2019, the original event was called the Indigenous Youth Festival,” said organizer Holly Neate. “This year, it’s the Youth Indigenous Festival, so we are welcoming any youth, Indigenous or not. Whether you’re shíshálh Nation, whether you’re Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw, whether you’re settlers, everyone is welcome to participate.”

The event, which takes place on Aug. 19 in Sechelt’s Hackett Park, will feature Vancouver-based Indigenous hip-hop artist and activist Dakota Bear. Dakota Bear has performed across Canada, including in remote northern communities and at large-scale concerts during the 2019 Global Climate Strike with Greta Thunberg and the Black Lives Matter Freedom March.

According to Neate, who is an education case manager with the shíshálh Nation’s Community Services Division, the original event was an initiative of the Sunshine Coast Community Services Society. In January, the society began talks with representatives of the shíshálh Nation to explore a collaborative approach to this year’s festival.

“We decided that it would make a lot of sense to have the shíshálh Nation involved, increase our budget, try to expand the horizons of the event, and bring more people to it,” said Neate.

The free public event begins at 4 p.m. Workshops will offer instruction in traditional weaving methods, drumming techniques, and Indigenous songs. The hip-hop concert gets under way at approximately 8:30 p.m., with local shíshálh freestyle rappers opening for Dakota Bear.

“We are very excited to make our way down [to Sechelt],” said Dakota Bear.

Dakota Bear will be joined in performance by his partner Casey Desjarlais. The two also own and market a line of contemporary streetwear under the name Decolonial Clothing.

“Hopefully Dakota Bear will bring some of his clothes that he can sell,” said Neate. “Because he’s an entrepreneur, we’re really hoping that he can inspire youth to follow in his footsteps, if they like his music, if they like his clothing, if they want to make a name for themselves. He’ll be sharing his story alongside his performance.”

Dakota Bear was born in Saskatoon of Cree lineage. Desjarlais is Nehiyaw and Anishinaabe (Cree and Ojibway) from Treaty Four territory. In childhood, Dakota Bear developed a penchant for writing stories and poems. The release of the 2002 film 8 Mile, which starred Detroit rapper Eminem, stoked his passion for creative expression through hip-hop. In addition to live performances, he composes original tracks — most recently, he released the album Blue Thunder in May 2022.

“His music is really focused on Indigenous identity, connecting to culture and addressing colonialism. He explores lots of really pertinent, culturally sensitive and current events, rapping about what he’s passionate about,” said Neate. 

Dakota Bear’s 2021 release Dark City 4 samples the voice of former CBC broadcaster Peter Mansbridge citing statistics about contemporary Indigenous issues. Dakota Bear picks up the theme by rapping in his forceful tenor, “How much, brothers, do we lose? / They don’t end up on the news.”

The Youth Indigenous Festival festival is open to all ages. Further details and a detailed schedule will be available online at