The idea was simple – invite the public into shíshálh Nation’s celebration of National Indigenous Peoples Day – but it soon snowballed into a three-day smorgasbord of Indigenous arts and culture.
“I think of it as a cultural buffet, that I’m setting the table and people can choose what they would like,” said Dionne Paul, lead organizer of shíshálh Nation’s National Indigenous Peoples Day Celebration Cultural Crawl.
At least two dozen events will be open to the public in Sechelt and Gibsons from June 21 to 23 – a first for the Nation in recent memory, according to Paul.
“I’ve always wanted it to be more inclusive,” she said of the Nation’s decision to open up the celebrations and invite people in, referencing the fact that Sunshine Coast is home to many Indigenous cultures.
Through her work as a former teacher, artist and as Indigenous faculty advisor at Capilano University, Paul has cast a wide net of invites and forged partnerships with organizations.
For example, a Capilano University Student Film Fest is being held on Saturday, and acclaimed Coast Salish filmmaker Amanda Strong will be featuring three of her pieces. Virago Nation, an all-Indigenous burlesque troupe, will be performing Saturday, June 22 at Raven’s Cry Theatre, as well as holding a workshop.
More traditional events, such as oral history, sweat lodge teaching and cultural workshops on cedar weaving and beading are also taking place over the three days.
All events will take place on shíshálh Nation territory, but the number of events forced some creativity for venues.
“As this started to grow bigger and bigger, our venue space was running out. Raven’s Cry is used, the longhouse is used, all our offices are used,” said Paul, which prompted her to request a teepee from School District No.46.
That’s where Joseph Dandurand will be sharing his storytelling – exemplifying another partnership, this time with Gibsons Public Library, which is funding the trip for the Vancouver Public Library artist-in-residence.
The siyaya reconciliation group will also be hosting events during the weekend, including a totem pole carving, also open to the public.
The Culture Crawl is being funded through a mix of grants, internal resources and volunteer time.
Some events – such as a feast at the longhouse, moonlight paddle and outdoor viewing of the critically-acclaimed film Smoke Signals – will be free of charge or by donation, while others, such as the film fest and burlesque show, will require tickets.
“I want to inspire … the shíshálh Nation artists and our youth and our storytellers and our traditional workers that they can feel a sense of pride in what we have to offer,” said Paul of her motivation to expand the event, adding, that she wants to show the outside community “that we have a spectrum, from the traditional basket weaving to the very non-traditional burlesque… All of it is valid and beautiful.”
Those interested in volunteering can reach Dionne Paul at 604-885-9404 ext. 273.