MÎNÎRHPA – The month of June not only heralds the official arrival of summer but is also a cherished occasion to celebrate and pay homage to the profound richness of Indigenous cultural heritage across the country.
The Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity is honouring this with a chock-full schedule celebrating Indigenous ways of knowing and being all throughout National Indigenous Peoples Month.
“To allow for more community engagement, we’ve programmed the whole month to help celebrate Indigenous storytellers, musicians, artisans, and also our cultural workers and dancers,” said Janine Windolph, director of Indigenous arts at the Banff Centre.
The month-long celebration in Banff, known as Mînîrhpa to Îyârhe Nakoda First Nation, meaning ‘the waterfalls,’ aims to foster understanding, awareness, and appreciation for vibrant communities such as the Îyârhe Nakoda.
Countless Indigenous groups will be represented in performances, storytelling events, dance workshops, film screenings and a virtual marketplace – open to Indigenous artisans from coast-to-coast.
Windolph, a Woodland Cree woman born and raised in La Ronge, Sask., is also a member of Waswanipi Cree Nation in Northern Quebec.
She stressed the importance of all people taking part in festivities and conversations throughout the month, on National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21, and all throughout the year.
“All our events welcome community. It’s an invitation to participate and celebrate together. By engaging in these events together – Indigenous and non-Indigenous – it helps foster understanding and is an active way to build relationships to engage in Indigenous ways of knowing,” said Windolph.
“It’s a very welcoming space, and it celebrates all Indigenous artists and cultural workers and our community, which are all doing great work every day of the year.”
The month begins with the opening of the virtual marketplace on June 1 and welcome messages from Indigenous Banff Centre staff available to watch online.
The marketplace, which runs until June 30, will include a mix of Indigenous-made jewelry, photography, clothing, soaps, and more.
On June 10, respected Treaty 7 elders Randy Bottle, of the Blood Tribe First Nation and Philomene Stevens, of the Îyârhe Nakoda Bearspaw First Nation, will share stories connected to territories and life experiences at the Max Bell Auditorium.
“Then on June 15, we’ll have the Ivan Flett Memorial Dancers at the Banff Centre Dance Studio, where they’ll be hosting a workshop and demonstration,” said Windolph.
“The dancers are doing this contemporary mix of hip-hop and jig. They have a Métis background and are national youth representatives. They’re doing some pretty amazing work, so to be able to welcome them to Treaty 7 to help share their energy, gifts and teachings, is really amazing.”
That event, she noted, will be focused on youth engagement and will take place online and in-person.
On June 16, Cree artist Cikwes, will be performing in concert as part of the Banff Centre’s new series, Live at Maclab, and on June 21, Muskoday First Nation’s Eekwol, will be performing at the Jenny Belzberg Theatre.
Cikwes will perform songs from her debut album Isko and 2023 Juno-nominated album, kâkîsimo.
Eekwol is an award-winning hip-hop performing artist who uses her music and words to spread messages of resistance, revolution and keeping language, land and culture alive for future generations.
“Eekwol was one of the names put forward for who people wanted to see, and so she’s also bringing EXL, a DJ,” said Windolph. “I’m familiar with Eekwol in my prior work in Saskatchewan, and she’s definitely a really amazing and talented hip-hop performer and speaker, with a national voice. We’re so lucky to have both her and Cikwes joining us.”
The month will end with films curated and screened by the Nakoda Audio Visual Club, a storytelling society, arts collective and group of emerging artists with roots in Îyârhe Nakoda First Nation. Their work will be available to watch online from June 21-28.
A closing story from Travis Rider, also of Îyârhe Nakoda First Nation, will also be available to watch online to wrap up the month’s events.
“This month is a time and space to spend with your family and friends, and to have conversations and support the community. Everyone is welcome. Let’s keep the conservation going,” said Windolph.
All events are free to attend online or in-person, with the exception of Cikwes’ and Eekwol’s concerts, at $25 per ticket. For more information, including event times, visit www.banffcentre.ca/national-indigenous-peoples-month.
The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada. The position covers Îyârhe (Stoney) Nakoda First Nation and Kananaskis Country.