August 6-9 was the perfect time for an amazing Edmonton Folk Music Festival that was filled with wonderful music, an exceptional setting on the hill at Gallagher Park, fabulous weather and the warmest, friendliest people you could ever hope to come into contact with. It was like being at a reunion each day for your closest 25,000 friends and family.
This year’s festival was special for the Edmonton Aboriginal community – not only because Metis Fiddler Calvin Volrath was performing for the first time since the 1990s (he was awesome) and not because festival producer Terry Wickham banned festival goers from wearing First Nation headresses to the site (which he did).
This year’s festival had a very special opening in advance of the usual opening speech from CKUA radio host Andy Donnolly. The Festival began with a traditional powwow drum and an opening prayer offered by drummer Rocky Morin and Elder Bob Cardinal from the Enoch Cree Nation. The special opening was honouring the fact that “Indigenous people held ceremonies on this very land, up to 10,000 years ago.” Indigenous rights and education activist, consultant Lewis Cardinal reiterated this message later in the day when he welcomed the crowd and talked about the people who have lived here. He said, ” No race, no colour – just humans. We are all Indigenous.”
The Edmonton Folk Music Festival (EMFM) is internationally renowned both for its professionalism and for its congenial atmosphere. It is a respectful event and everyone is there to have a good time. This year, the EFMF became one of a growing number of music festivals to ban patrons from wearing First Nations headdresses. The special note on the festival website read: “At this time of greater awareness, the Edmonton Folk Music Festival would like to ask our patrons to respect First Nations cultures and to not wear any type of First Nations headdresses during the festival. Such headdresses have a sacred, cultural meaning and we ask that you respect and honour that by not using them as a fashion accessory.”
EMFM producer Terry Wickham told media that doesn’t believe anyone has ever worn a headdress at this event, but an incident in Winnipeg prompted him to get ahead of the issue.
“Our audience is very intelligent, but it only takes one or two people to mess things up,” he said.
The move was applauded by the city of Edmonton’s Aboriginal Relations office. Mike Chow, Director of Aboriginal Relations told media, “This is a positive and proactive step by the Folk Music festival to bring awareness and education around issues of cultural appropriation, and how all within the city play their part in making all peoples feel welcomed and respected.”
Stay tuned for our interview with the incomparable Calvin Vollrath later this week.
by Alberta Native News Staff