Arboretum or­ga­niz­ers con­sulted with na­tive rep­re­sen­ta­tives be­fore­hand

Ottawa Citizen - - YOU - PETER SIMP­SON

The Arboretum Mu­sic Fes­ti­val is deal­ing with the is­sue of be­ing staged on sa­cred abo­rig­i­nal land by mak­ing that is­sue a for­mal part of the fes­ti­val.

The an­nual fes­ti­val is to be held Aug. 19 to 22 on Al­bert Is­land, the sliver of land in the Ot­tawa River be­hind the Cana­dian War Mu­seum that is con­sid­ered to be un­ceded Al­go­nquin ter­ri­tory. The is­land is part of the ma­jor Zibi de­vel­op­ment of residential and com­mer­cial spa­ces, and the devel­oper, Wind­mill, of­fered to space to Arboretum, which had to va­cate its ex­ist­ing home be­hind Arts Court due to the pend­ing de­vel­op­ment there.

When Arboretum an­nounced the new lo­ca­tion sev­eral months ago, or­ga­niz­ers said in a state­ment posted to the fes­ti­val’s web­site on Wed­nes­day, “we were al­most im­me­di­ately faced with chal­leng­ing ques­tions about the is­land’s history, its sig­nif­i­cance to First Na­tions, and its im­pend­ing re­me­di­a­tion and de­vel­op­ment.”

The ques­tions were so sub­stan­tial that the or­ga­niz­ers con­sid­ered can­celling the fes­ti­val, but af­ter con­sult­ing with abo­rig­i­nal rep­re­sen­ta­tives they’ve de­cided to con­tinue. Here’s an ex­cerpt from the state­ment re­leased Wed­nes­day:

“We needed to be ac­count­able to our com­mu­nity, our part­ners, our per­form­ing artists, and our­selves ... We had a chance to meet with a coun­cil mem­ber at Kit­i­gan Zibi Anishin­abeg, we spoke with ac­tivists from the Free The Falls move­ment, oth­ers from the Al­go­nquin com­mu­nity, had on­go­ing dis­cus­sions with Wind­mill, and con­cerned mem­bers of our com­mu­nity ...

“One thing we did see was a com­mon need amongst all par­ties for aware­ness and har­mony for all peo­ple, not only here in the Ou­taouais, but glob­ally.

“In­stead of can­celling the fes­ti­val, we de­cided to move for­ward and fa­cil­i­tate public dis­cus­sions, of­fer­ing peo­ple a chance to come to the land, ask their own ques­tions, and learn from those will­ing to share. The chance to con­nect is what made all the dif­fer­ence for us, and we hope it will for you as well.”

The state­ment, and its more de­tailed fol­lowup, de­scribe many con­ver­sa­tions and “the en­cour­age­ment of peo­ple of vastly dif­fer­ing pri­or­i­ties and back­grounds” in de­cid­ing to go ahead with the fes­ti­val.

Sev­eral public talks will be held on Satur­day, Aug. 22, at the fes­ti­val site, and the key dis­cus­sion will in­clude Chief Kirby Whit­e­duck (Al­go­nquins of Pik­wàkanagàn First Na­tion), Verna McGre­gor (Min­waashin Lodge, Kit­i­gan Zibi Anishin­abe), Al­bert Du­mont (Poet, writer, speaker, Kit­i­gan Zibi Anishin­abe), and Josée Bour­geois (Pow­wow dancer, Me­meng­weshii Coun­cil, Pik­wàkanagàn).

“Choos­ing to move for­ward was by far the path of most re­sis­tance, and one of the hard­est de­ci­sions we’ve ever made as friends and col­leagues,” the or­ga­niz­ers said.

“We feel that fa­cil­i­tat­ing a public dis­cus­sion, of­fer­ing our public a chance to come to the land and speak with those af­fected will raise aware­ness; em­power our public; and ul­ti­mately al­low the com­mu­nity to hold each other, and the pow­ers that be, more ac­count­able.”

One thing we did see was a com­mon need amongst all par­ties for aware­ness and har­mony for all peo­ple.

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