Montreal is North America’s festival city during the summer, and one of the most exciting is the First Peoples’ Festival. This year’s festival—the 21st annual event—takes place August 2–9.
The year’s theme is “And now, the world,” according to Andre Dudemaine, Innu, the co-founder and director of Land InSights, a nonprofit organization that organizes and sponsors the event.
“Artists from First Nations of the whole planet will come to meet their North American counterparts and showcase their works. It is an opportunity here on Native land to reaffirm messages of welcome and peace they left as sovereign peoples to all the world’s peoples,” Dudemaine says on the festival website.
The festival’s central location is the Places des Festivals in downtown Montreal, a full city block that has been specially designed with fountains, dramatic lighting, built in benches on the side, and a grassy area for a touch of nature in the downtown cityscape. Events also take place at the Grande Bibliotheque and in the nearby Mohawk communities of Kahnawake and Kanehsatake.
There will three major concerts this year. The first is a benefit concert on August 1 in the auditorium of the Grande Bibliotheque and will feature the Forestare Ensemble performing the Canadian premiere of the work by contemporary Chilean composer Javier Farias, titled Arauco por Fuerte, Principal y Poderosa, a work in eight movements for guitars and double bass, inspired by an epic poem by Alonso de Ercilla (1533–1594). The work is a tribute to the Mapuche people’s resistance against the Spanish invaders.
Two free concerts will follow at the Place des Festivals. On Thursday, August 4, Anishinabe rapper Samian will present his show Rap Incantations at 8:30 p.m. On Friday evening, August 5, Inuit songstress Élisapee Isaac will face the four directions and present a show called North-South.
During the weekend of August 5, 6 and 7 the Places des Festivals will feature singing, dancing, demonstrations of traditional arts and crafts, the raising of a giant tepee and mythic animals, archaeological demonstrations and more. Here’s the full schedule.