April 27, 2017

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THE 1st ANNUAL GCHI DEWIN INDIGENOUS STORYTELLERS FESTIVAL

THE 1st ANNUAL GCHI DEWIN INDIGENOUS STORYTELLERS FESTIVAL

Gchi Dewin Indigenous Storytellers Festival Poster | Image source: Aimee Rochard 

Marking winter and the onset of the storytelling season, on December 4 2015, MUSKRAT MAGAZINE and Rez 91 co-presented the 1st Annual Gchi Dewin Indigenous Storytellers Festival. The Festival was held to honour Indigenous storytellers and acknowledge stories rooted in and around Wasauksing First Nation located in Georgian Bay on Lake Huron. Festivities were held at the Parry Sound Friendship Centre during the day, and the Stockey Centre for Performing Arts in the evening. Since time immemorial, storytelling has been a tradition in Indigenous culture that is used to pass on cultural history, values, beliefs and a way of life. Gchi Dewin refers to the big hearts of individuals who learn, hold onto and pass on the knowledge and traditions of our ancestors.

Darrin Bloor shows off the bracelet he just made at the Porcupine Bracelet Making Workshop
Darrin Bloor shows off the bracelet he just made at the Porcupine Bracelet Making Workshop

Early in the morning, the festival opened with the Porcupine Bracelet Making Workshop led by Elder, Audrey Pawis and owner of G’zaggin Art Gallery, Tracey Pawis. The workshop was attended by students from Wasauksing Kinomaugewgamik School from grades 6,7,8.

Feasting time, Indian Tacos
Festival goers eating build your own Indian tacos

Yummy build your own Indian tacos were fed to a full room of festival attendees during feasting time at the Parry Sound Friendship Centre.

Vince Chechock
Vince Chechock

Vince Chechock, founder of CHRZ Rez 91, who also has a keen interest in history and politics, presented a slideshow on historic people from Wasauksing First Nation midday. The presentation was delivered with a humorous tone which the crowd thoroughly enjoyed.

Amy Desjarlais
Amy Desjarlais

The crowd then gathered around in a circle to listen to stories told by Brian McInnes, Waubgeshig Rice and Amy Desjarlais. During this sharing circle Amy, founder of EarthTALKER Magazine, read from an excerpt from her newly released book Starblanket; McInnes shared a traditional story that incorporated Anishinaabemowin, Ojibway language for the youth; Rice told stories of his travels to Germany and how that impacted his career.

Host, John Rice
Host, John Rice

During the evening, the festival moved to the Stockey Centre for Performing Arts. Host, John Rice, (Ojibwa/Anishinabeninni) who is a 3rd Degree member of the Three Fires Midewiwin Society, opened the night with telling traditional Anishinaabe creation and migration stories.

Waubgeshig Rice
Waubgeshig Rice

Waubgeshig Rice, read an excerpt from his newly released novel, Legacy. Rice grew up in Wasauksing First Nation listening to stories from Elders in the community, which propelled him into a career in creative writing and journalism with CBC.

Ella Beaucage and Zeegwon Shilling-Tabobondung
Ella Beaucage and Zeegwon Shilling-Tabobondung

During intermission Zeegwon Shilling-Tabobondung and Ella Beaucage served helpings of freshly made strawberry juice to guests.

Brian McInnes
Brian McInnes

Brian McInnes read an excerpt from his soon to be released book, which honours his great grandfather’s legacy – The Untold Stories of Francis Pegahmagabow. McInnes is a professional educator and author who has dedicated his life to preserving the Indigenous culture and language. Francis Pegahmagabow was a World War 1 sniper from Wasauksing First Nation that was awarded two Military Medals for exemplifying bravery as a runner and a scout.

Performers, Lisa McLaughlin and James Lewis
Performers, Lisa McLaughlin and James Lewis

Musical father and daughter duo, Lisa McLaughlin and James Lewis livened up the crowd with a country music performance.

Musicians Nancy Pawis and Austin Guimond
Musicians Nancy Pawis and Austin Guimond

Musicians Nancy Pawis and Austin Guimond performed traditional drum songs during the festival.

Screenshot from My Story
Screenshot from My Story | Image source: youtube.com

My Story, a short film written and directed by local youth Shania Tabobondung, was screened during the festival. The film expressed the pain she endured being bullied growing up while also dealing with the suicide of someone close to her.

Gaa-Ondinang Dakwaano Makwa
Still from Gaa-Ondinang Dakwaano Makwa | Image source: imaginenative.org

Gaa-ondinang Dakwaana Makwa (How The Bear Got A Short Tail), a hilarious animated short film based on an Anishinaabe traditional story screened entirely in Anishinaabemowin. The film was produced by Heid E. Erdrich, from Wiigwaas Press/ Birchbark House, written by Anna Gibbs and directed by Elizabeth Day and is available for anyone to download.

The festival honoured the life and achievements of one of Canada’s first First Nations authors, Basil H. Johnston. Born in Wasauksing First Nation, during his lifetime Johnston wrote over 18 books on Anishinaabe culture, traditions and modern life.

As the night ended the crowd cheered on as John Rice led the give-away that included donations from Parry Sound Books, G’zaagin Gallery, The Mystic Loon, and Bearly used Books with Zeegwon Shilling-Tabobondung and Ella Beaucage by his side. His little helpers then performed a choreographed routine before announcing the winner of the big prize, a limited print of Anishinaabe artist, Norval Morrisseau’s Tree of Life generously donated by G’zaagin Art Gallery. Amy Desjarlais closed out the festival performing a solo traditional drum song.

Artistic Director, Anita Chechock
Artistic Director, Anita Chechock

MUSKRAT Magazine and Rez 91 look forward to co-presenting the second annual festival in December 2016. We hope that you will join us!

Crowd shot from above at the Stockey Centre for Performing Arts
Crowd shot from above at the Stockey Centre for Performing Arts
Youth from Wasauksing Kinomaugewgamik School perform at drum song
Youth from Wasauksing Kinomaugewgamik School perform at drum song
Festival goers at The Stockey Centre for Performing Arts
Festival goers at The Stockey Centre for Performing Arts
Tracey Pawis and Rebeka Tabobondung
Tracey Pawis and Rebeka Tabobondung
Youth at the Porcupine Bracelet Making Workshop
Youth at the Porcupine Bracelet Making Workshop
Festival attendees at The Stockey Centre for Performing Arts
Festival attendees at The Stockey Centre for Performing Arts
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About The Author

MUSKRAT Magazine

MUSKRAT is an on-line Indigenous arts, culture magazine that honours the connection between humans and our traditional ecological knowledge by exhibiting original works and critical commentary. MUSKRAT embraces both rural and urban settings and uses media arts, the Internet, and wireless technology to investigate and disseminate traditional knowledges in ways that inspire their reclamation.

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