FESTIVAL TO CONTINUE ON ALBERT ISLAND
Arboretum organizers consulted with native representatives beforehand
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.