By Andrea Smith
The Drum is Calling, Vancouver.
Or so is a festival of that name.
This weekend, July 22, marks the start of a nine-day arts and culture festival in the city, in honor of Canada 150+ celebrations.
Vancouver has taken the step that no other city has, by adding a plus sign to the 150, an acknowledgement of the Indigenous population, the original peoples of this land, prior to colonization.
The Drum is Calling is a special event managed around that.
“Part of it is about that Indigenous and non-Indigenous collaboration. So everything we’re doing is with our staff and producers and the three host Nations,” said Marnie Rice, cultural planner with the Canada 150+ team in Vancouver.
“Before we did anything, we asked the permission of the chiefs and their councils to actually host the festival on their territories, to really acknowledge the land and the people who are being welcomed on it… And there are three times when protocol is involved. The first is opening day and the official welcome, and then Friendship Day, and then the official ceremony for the closing day,” she said.
The three host nations Rice is referring to are the Squamish Nation, the Tsleil-Wahtuth Nation, and the Musqueam Nation—all of whose traditional territory is unceded, but which the city of Vancouver rests on.
They worked together with the city in planning the Drum is Calling and played a key role in deciding the themes each day.
“The theming was really so that people would be able to come to each day and experience something different… From acknowledging our host nations that first day, to honoring our Elders, our matriarchs, our youth, our warriors… and right in to the ceremonies of the last day,” she said.
Margo Kane, artistic director of the festival, has booked some big name acts to fill the schedule. Buffy Ste. Marie is the biggest headliner, according to Kane. Also on the schedule are Murray Porter, Crystal Shawanda, Tanya Tagaq, and Chantal Kreviazuk to list a few.
As well, Kane was sure to include up-and-coming artists, and emerging artists and performers, both young and old, she said.
“Every day there is going to be different cultural groups dancing and singing… We have representation from the Haida, the Sto:lo, the Lilloet… We have different Nations every day. And from the urban Aboriginal community, as well,” said Kane.
“One of the other things that’s really quite lovely is something called Teepee stories. These are children teachers worked with and we worked with, and they sit at a little teepee, and there’s a little audience. So it’s children sharing stories. That’s exciting because it brings children and families into the festival,” she said.
Along with the above mentioned performances, there are also talks, inter-active seminars, and even a film series on the menu for the week.
The RedX Talks has a special presentation planned, led by Kane herself; short films will be screened by Indigenous curators, while two longer films—Making of an Elder and Colonization Road—will screen the opening night.
There is a cooking series with Cities Changing Diabetes and various Indigenous chefs. And the inaugural Vancouver Indigenous Fashion Week will run from July 26 to 29. And Kane also mentions one particularly meaningful (to her) event taking place on Matriarch Day, July 24.
“There is a group of women and matriarchs that are going to be doing an honoring our matriarchs ceremony and installation to remember our women and honor them…. That will be something very special, as they drum and sing, and do a little installation for our missing women,” she said, adding that while the celebration is not solely about murdered and missing Indigenous women, it is important to honor them, particularly because Vancouver is a city tragically tied to the violent deaths of Indigenous women.
Tewanee Joseph will be performing with his band Bitterly Divine, just before Murray Porter and Buffy Ste. Marie take the stage on the opening night.
Bitterly Divine established themselves as a musical act 12 years ago, and they’ve reached a lot of success since then. Despite this, Joseph was still excited to hear he would be one of the acts kicking off the festival.
“A lot of our songs come from stories we’ve grown up with in our community, so we’re always making sure we represent our Elders and youth, but also the strength… That we’ve always survived no matter what happened. There’s a song we’ll play for the first time called “When Blood Comes Calling’ and it’s really about our survival, and that we’re still here and not going anywhere,” he said.
Joseph plans to check out some of the other performances, as well as some of the activities available. He emphasises that while the event celebrates Indigenous culture, it is open to everyone.
“I really hope people from all cultures come and participate... I’m really hopeful people come with open hearts and open minds, and bring their children and aunties and even grandparents… so they can also celebrate Indigenous cultures,” he said.
To view the full festival schedule , or to find out locations and times for sessions go to: mailto:https://canada150plus.ca/drum/