First Peoples Festival celebrates its 25th birthday

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The silver anniversary of the upcoming First Peoples Festival will be one for the ages. With the lineup of concerts, gallery events and parades, the weeklong festival takes place at Place des Festivals in the heart of downtown Montreal from July 29 to August 5.

La traversee-promo-petite - copieThis year the event marks its 25th year of existence and starting from humble beginnings, it has managed to become an integral part of the festival season in Montreal.

Founded during a time of heightened tension following the Oka Crisis of 1990, the issue of finding resources for the festival almost put a stop to it before it even began. “It was difficult to get people interested in a festival for First Nations at that time because of the situation at Oka,” said André Dudemaine, President of event organizer Land InSights.

It was thanks a benefit concert held at Café Campus in the spring of 1991 that the festival was able to launch. As a tribute to the original benefit concert, the organizers are bringing back Florent Vollant and Richard Desjardins to perform together as they did 25 years ago.

Also marking the anniversary is the Transcestral concert, which is the brainchild of artists Moe Clark and Katia Makdiss-Warren. Over 22 performers from around the world will be collaborating together to bring their culturally rich music styles to life for the audience. For the more electronically inclined among us, the night with DJ Mad Eskimo and Inuit singer Sylvia Cloutier will help you find your groove.

In addition to the music, the film selection of this year’s event also hearkens back to the festival’s origins with a special showing of Alanis Obomsawin’s Khanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance. Plus, there will be a few world premieres in the lineup with international submissions as well as shorts by Aboriginal artists.

For the second consecutive year, APTN will be handing out their recognition award to Aboriginal filmmakers who have made their mark. APTN is also offering four master classes for First Nations filmmakers.

With so many activities it can be hard to decide which one to check out, but one event you cannot miss is the Nuestroamericana Friendship Parade, featuring over 700 costumed dancers, on August 1.

But remember no matter which day of the event you attend, there will be galleries, including the Espace Ashukan or the Canadian Guild of Crafts, showcasing the talent of Aboriginal artists. Jeff Veregge, an interesting artist from Seattle, will inspire the comic-book nerd in all of us as his works combine comic-book imagery with traditional Salish design.

No matter what your interest, there is something for everyone and everyone is welcome at the festival as it celebrate its 25th year.

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