On Friday (June 16), a group of traditional canoes will depart from Songhees Point near the Delta Ocean Pointe Resort and make a symbolic journey to the Inner Harbour’s Commonwealth Corner.
It’ll make for a dramatic opening to the fourth annual Aboriginal Cultural Festival, being held on the grounds of the Royal B.C. Museum, but that’s only the beginning.
Each canoe will carry dignitaries and youth of visiting and host First Nations, each of whom will help mark the beginning of three days of celebrations of aboriginal culture, language, values and cuisine.
The canoes will be met by event hosts, Songhees Nation Chief Ron Sam and Esquimalt Nation Chief Andy Thomas, who will lead the traditional protocol and opening ceremony. A parade of First Nations will officially launch the celebration.
Paula Amos, Aboriginal Tourism Victoria’s manager of regional initiatives, said the event will spotlight the diverse nature of First Nations culture in Victoria and beyond.
“B.C. is home to more than 60 per cent of all First Nations languages in Canada. We have 60 dialects of more than 34 languages,” she said.
The festival is also an important event to build the relationships between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples, she added.
“It’s all about building bridges between our respective communities,” she said.
Building those bridges was part of the inspiration for the first gathering.
“We realized there was a gap in the festival schedule in Victoria and a need to show off the broad variety of First Nations cultures in the province. We have this rich heritage and we needed to give it a showcase,” Amos said.
As part of the opening ceremonies, Mayor Lisa Helps will declare at 11 a.m. that Victoria is an official city of reconciliation with the Esquimalt and Songhees Nations. Amos said it’s a major step to establishing the theme of mutual respect the festival hopes to foster.
The main stage venue in the museum’s plaza will host more than 100 performers from across B.C. and around the world, who will tell the story of their heritage through dance and song.
Special guests, HeWaka Kottuia from New Zealand, are performing for the first time in Canada in a much-anticipated appearance, and well-known hoop dancer, Alex Wells, will take the stage to amaze and enthrall audiences with his intricate styling of this unique art form.
Authentic First Nations arts and artist demonstrations will take place at the adjoining Indigenous Arts Marketplace. Visitors can sample and purchase a wide variety of traditional and modern fare, including West Coast clam chowder, fried bread and barbecued sockeye salmon.
Tours of the Bonaparte Nation Mungo Martin House on the grounds will also be available.
Traditional dancers will be on hand throughout the festival, with representation of several First Nations and even a dance group representing the Maori of New Zealand.
Admission is free. For more information, visit aboriginalbc.com.