St. Catharines residents received a chance to experience Indigenous arts and culture at the Celebration of Nations, hosted downtown at the FirstOntario PAC. Throughout the weekend there was something for everyone to immerse in. The schedule started from as early as 6:30 a.m. with a sunrise ceremony and events were hosted until 10:00 p.m. According to the show’s artistic director, Michele- Elise Burnett, the Celebration of Nations is just the beginning of ongoing efforts and initiatives by the PAC to offer to the community of St. Catharines.
The weekend’s festivities included various art, musical, dance, film and teaching workshops, most of these installations being free of charge to the public. Available events included a Hand Drum Workshop, a Metis Fiddler Quartet, a workshop on activism, Resistance and Resilience; and a sold out performance by Buffy Sainte-Marie. Sainte-Marie performed on Friday to an enthused audience at Patridge Hall. The Olilvanders opened the show with their up tempo rock style. The talented four piece band got the crowd up and going with their set including ‘the dove song’ which was a dedication to Sainte-Marie herself. The stage production was simplistic, with the absence of props and special effects. This was most likely done to place the emphasis on the musicians and their instruments, and you could not have asked for more.
Sainte-Marie stays true to her Indigenous roots through her music, songwriting and performances. She continues to use her influence to raise the issues of politics, environmental exploitation, war and social justice. It was amazing to see her perform ‘Cripple Creek’ with a mouth bow as her sole instrument. Sainte-Marie’s political satire and commentary through her songs can be appreciated by anyone in and after her generation – and it was. The audience composition had individuals from various age groups, demographics, cultures and denominations. This was truly the vision of the Celebration of Nations, to see persons from all demographics come together to appreciate a showcase of their talents and cultural contributions to society.
The show ended, and it was if as though there was a campfire on the stage, everyone stood up clapping hands and celebrating the messages of unity, equality and love. Each and every audience member was engaged and present, and even when Buffy exited stage left, members of the audience participated in the rhythmic background till it faded out.
It didn’t matter if you were familiar with the works of Sainte-Marie before seeing her perform, because you surely left your seat a fan.