Spotlight On Niagara

CELEBRATION OF NATIONS: Reconciliation Rocks, Rolls and Rumbles!

CELEBRATION OF NATIONS: Reconciliation Rocks, Rolls and Rumbles!

By David DeRocco

Screenings of the critically acclaimed documentary “RUMBLE: The Indians Who Rocked the World”, an all-star jam and a headline performance with Buffy Sainte Marie are just a few of the more than two dozen events planned for this weekend when the CELEBRATION OF NATIONS rumbles into downtown St. Catharines.

CELEBRATION OF NATIONS is a three-day Indigenous arts extravaganza that aims to provide a  far-reaching platform for the community of Niagara to embrace and honour the unique heritage, diverse cultures, and outstanding achievements of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples within Canada. Celebration of Nations will showcase a wide variety of Indigenous arts and artists, ranging from traditional and contemporary music, dance and visual arts to film screenings, creative workshops, a distinguished speaker series, and hands-on activities for both children and adults.  

According to Artistic Director Michele-Elise Burnett (Métis) , the size of Celebration and the diverse programming is perfectly aligned with the original blueprint for the initiative.

“From inception, I visualized Celebration of Nations to be a strong voice for our people,” said Burnett. “However, the interest level has been greater than I ever imagined. The message of unity, sharing, peace and friendship to build a strong future filled with pride and dignity, seems to have resonated amongst many Chiefs, Veterans, Elders and community leaders.  It has been heartwarming to receive their interest and desire to participate!  I feel Celebration of Nations can only gain more momentum over the years.”

One of the highlights of the weekend will be the two exclusive screenings at the First Ontario PAC Film House of the Sundance and Hot Docs acclaimed film, RUMBLE: The Indians Who Rocked the World. The film features such influential artists as Robbie Robertson, Buffy Sainte Marie, Jimi Hendrix and the legendary Link Wray, whose song “Rumble” inspired the film. That 1958 instrumental utilized largely unexplored distortion and feedback techniques to fuel a power chord that gave the song a feel so menacing it was actually banned from the radio in the United States. The film has been well received everywhere it’s been shown according to organizers.

“In keeping with the public response to the Smithsonian Institution exhibit the film is founded upon, RUMBLE has open up a whole new chapter of popular music history,” said Tim Johnson (Mohawk), Artistic Producer of CELEBRATION OF NATIONS and Executive Producer of RUMBLE. “Audiences are coming away from the experience not only with a broader understanding of musicians who had or have Native heritage, but also amazed at the depth of their contributions to the development of the blues, jazz, folk and rock and roll, the very shaping on contemporary global music. I highly recommend the film be shown and discussed in every music class. It’s that important.”

 As part of the second screening September 10th, the First Ontario PAC also presents Rumble: Unity All-Star Jam session. The event scheduled for Partridge Hall includes performances by Kenny Lee Lewis (Steve Miller Band), Derek Miller (two-time JUNO Award winner), Peter Shea (TD Niagara Jazz Festival), Harrison Kennedy (JUNO Award Winner), Juliet Dunn (TD Niagara Jazz Festival), Ritchie Franzen (The Linda’s), Mark LaForme (Columbia, RCA and EMI Recording Artist), the Ollivanders (Native American Music Awards) and many other special guests.

While music will be a big part of the weekend schedule, the CELEBRATION OF NATIONS also hosts more than 20+ other compelling events being curated by Burnett  and Johnson, with support of the Celebration of Nations Advisory Council and FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre programming staff.  In this, the Year of Reconciliation acknowledged as part of Canada’s 150th, the weekend of events emerges as an opportunity for Niagara residents and visitors to actively participate in an inclusive and engaging community gathering, one that organizers hope will foster a greater sense of belonging, support of meaningful reconciliation, and leave a lasting legacy of goodwill for future generations.  

 While the festival is certainly rich with entertainment, Burnett is hopeful that people leave the Celebration of Nations with a deeper connection to the true reason behind the event.  

 “We hope to polish the silver Covenant Chain that was left to tarnish some 200 years ago following the War of 1812.  Our Celebration of nations programming intends to reawaken the spirit of solidarity amongst friends and allies who once forged history together and by doing so renewing a legacy founded upon national equality, peace and mutual respect. I would like people to leave the gathering having a greater understanding and respect of the deep beauty of our culture, traditions and heritage.” 

 For a full CELEBRATION OF NATIONS schedule click here: