First Nations peoples from across Canada are convening in Nova Scotia this week for Grand Chief Membertou 400. This celebration is being held to commemorate the milestone anniversary of Mi’kmaw Chief Henri Membertou’s baptism in the Catholic Church. Membertou participated in the ritual to signify an intention for peace with the European peoples. Dancing, drumming, cuisine, and celebrations honouring the history and contemporary character of First Nations communities are set to take place. Event organizers have emphasized that with the intention of fostering openness and cross-cultural connections, the location will not be fenced in or have pre-existing points of access restricted in any way.
While many of these big celebrations are taking place on the Halifax Commons, a daylong music and arts festival will be held in the local community named after the Grand Chief. From noon until 10:00pm on June 26, the concert will be held at the Membertou Powwow grounds.
Hosted by Winston Wuttunee, the show’s roster of performers includes Lennie Gallant, Eagle and Hawk, Pura Fe and Jennifer Kreisberg, Sons of Membertou, Lone Cloud, and many more. One of the concert’s highlights will be Buffy Sainte-Marie. Artist, musician, activist, and educator, and recipient of many awards and honours, Sainte-Marie’s music ranges from politically assertive to contemplative and spiritual.
Born in Saskatchwan to Cree Parents, Sainte Marie was orphaned at a very young age and adopted by relatives living in Maine. After graduating from university, she reconnected with the Cree Nation and strengthened her sense of belonging to the aboriginal community. Sainte Marie came onto the scene in the US in the 60s, and her song Universal Soldier became the anthem of the resistance to the Vietnam war. She was one of the voices that was blacklisted during the Nixon/Johnson administrations in the United States. Another of her songs “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” references the murder of Mi’kmaw activist Anna Mae Pictou Aquash, who was prominent in the American Indian Movement in the early 1970s. Aquash worked with traditionalists in the South Dakota Oglala-Sioux Pine Ridge reservation in an effort to stop uranium companies being granted leases for reservation land.
The free concert at the Powwow grounds is scheduled to conclude at 10:00pm with a fireworks show. For more information on the local music and arts festival, visit www.membertou.ca/400. For more on the Grand Chief Membertou 400 celebrations, visit www.membertou400.com.