Anishnabe Nation opens Winnipeg Folk Festival

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WINNIPEG, Manitoba – Anishnabe elder and spiritual leader Dave Courchene will open the 2010 Winnipeg Folk Festival with a message of peace and a call for vision.  The festival, the largest in North America, takes place from July 7 to 11 at Birds Hill Park. This year’s festival features over 80 artists including Andrew Bird, The Levon Helm Band, Jimmy Cliff, The Cat Empire, Arrested Development, The Swell Season, Emmylou Harris and Her Red Dirt Boys, Gord Downie and the Country of Miracles, and more.

On Wednesday July 7 at 6 pm, Courchene will be conducting the Opening Welcome for the festival.  “As the Anishnabe people who belong to this territory, our homeland, our traditional role has been to take care of these lands, and to welcome visitors to our area,” said Courchene.  “We always begin by acknowledging our gratitude to Spirit and seek a blessing for the gathering.”

To the Aboriginal people of Manitoba, the site of the Winnipeg Folk Festival at Bird’s Hill Park is very significant.  It is located in the geographical centre of the continent, between two sacred sites of gathering, sharing and ceremony.  The first, Manitou Api, “Where the Great Spirit Sits” is a pilgrimage site and home of the petroforms of Manitoba and the second is at The Forks in Winnipeg, where the Red and Assiniboine rivers meet and where a natural gathering place developed centuries ago.

Courchene, also known as Neeghani Aki Innini (Leading Earth Man) has traveled internationally, carrying a message of hope and peace, and sharing ancient indigenous knowledge that is the foundation of mankind’s relationship to the Mother Earth.

Courchene is excited that Aboriginal people are receiving opportunities to share their perspective and be acknowledged for their role as hosts in their homeland.  “We thank the Winnipeg Folk Festival for this invitation and opportunity to share our perspective as the First Peoples of this land,” he said.  He shares an ancient Anishnabe prophecy that tells of a time when the human family would unite in North America and gather at the center of the continent, and Aboriginal people would lead a movement of peace.

“This is a time of choice.  There is great urgency for all of us to be reminded of our sacred responsibility to treat the Earth with more respect.  What we are witnessing in the Gulf of Mexico is tragic.  We must now join together in supporting a vision that will support a respect for all life and the Earth.”

“The Winnipeg Folk Festival was born from the centre of the continent,” said Courchene.  “Very close to our traditional sites of gathering, sharing, and ceremony has emerged a festival that celebrates people – that celebrates music.  Music is a universal language that can nurture our soul and our spirit.”

Courchene is part of the newly-formed Aboriginal Advisory Group for the festival.  In addition to hosting the Opening Welcome on the main stage July 7, he will lead a sacred fire ceremony of blessing for international indigenous performers at this year’s festival on July 8.  Last year Winnipeg Folk Festival organizers initiated the Aboriginal Advisory Group to strengthen partnerships with the Aboriginal community, with the aim to increase Aboriginal participation in the festival.

Rising star and Aboriginal singer-songwriter Shy-Anne Hovorka will have the honor of performing her new hit “Can’t Change the World” at the opening ceremonies with child guest performer Brooke Rajala.  Her video, released June 13, made it to 12th on the top Canadian youtube videos viewed in its first week and can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SmFm7qNjLq8 .  Hovorka recently performed this song at the G8 World Religions Summit 2010 and with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra earlier this month.

Anishnabe lead singer Carl Swan of the multiple music award-nominated Red Shadow Singers traditional drum group, will support the Opening Welcome with a ceremonial prayer song on the hand drum.  To Aboriginal people, the drum represents the heartbeat of Mother Earth and carries the voice of the people.

Other international indigenous performers in the 2010 festival include Christa Couture, Pure Fe, Ghostkeeper, Michael Kusugak, Oka, Kinnie Starr, and indigenous artisans include Natural Hide Drums and Voila by/par Andreanne.

For more information about Dave Courchene and Winnipeg Folk Festival, go to www.theturtlelodge.org and www.winnipegfolkfestival.ca.

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