This Week In Art/Culture/Entertainment

By John Swartz

Taking in the annual Gathering Festival of First Nations Stories is always educational. On one hand, many of the speakers have tales to tell from their own experience, or that of people close to them, which makes one wonder – what the hell were our parents and grandparents thinking?

On the other, they collectively have a good sense of humour about their struggles, how things are now, themselves, and us. Sometimes one doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Keesic Douglas and Mike Nichols

One of the reading sessions in particular was particularly troubling to me. It was the one with Keesic Douglas and Mike Nichols. They were talking about a video project they are involved in called Binoojiinyag gaa bi giiwejig – Children Who Came Home. Keesic was the videographer. Last week this session about the ‘60s Scoop was mistakenly characterized as being about the residential school system. Because residential schools weren’t closed until the 90s, it seemed the two were related.

The Scoop is different, maybe more insidious than the residential schools, if that’s possible. The Children’s Aid Society had a program to take Native children from their families and place them in foster homes. They didn’t take all the kids from each family, just some of them.

Imagine being a father and coming home to ask, ‘where are the children?’ and being the mom having to tell him, ‘they took them and I couldn’t stop it.’

Or imagine being a mother of a one-year-old and pregnant and being told to choose which child will be taken.

Imagine being the one taken and not finding out until he was 19-years-old the family he was living with was not his family .

Imaging finding out 6 years later he had two other siblings born after he was.

Needless to say there was a significant dose of coming to grips with your life has been a lie.

That is Mike Nichols story. He was there to tell it in person. Mike was not one of the 20 people who we saw telling their thoughts in the 30 minute video which was shown publicly for the first time. Previously the video, produced 5 years ago, was only shown to people in the Native community working directly on undoing the damage.

The stories are horrific. I know that’s a term which gets thrown about like candy these days and has lost it’s meaning, but if you heard them you’d likely agree. Some of the children were just old enough to understand what was happening, but not able to understand why. Some of the stories were from parents who lost all contact with their children and only through the grace of modern tracking methods initiated by their children were brought together again.

It’s as if those children had no parents and those parents no longer had their children. The CAS in a heartless manner ripped these kids away under some ignorant and misguided idea they were doing the right thing. Not once stopping to consider the effects from the point of view of the people they victimized.

It’s difficult to understand how this occurred without the general population being aware of what was going on, that there was no public outcry. It’s as if no one was talking and there was nothing to listen to.

From my own perspective, being in elementary school at the time and obviously not too concerned with events beyond the tip of my nose, I heard not one thing about this until last Saturday. I had friends in school who came from the reserve and they never spoke of it. My parents, if they were aware, never spoke of it. It wasn’t on the news.

I don’t know how I would have processed the information if I had it. I do know now it makes me angry the adults in the room let this happen.

Heck, the people from their own communities exhibited animosity toward these children when they first started to resurface in their midst. As expressed by those in the video, in some respect their real communities may have had some animosity these children had a better material life than they did – those kids weren’t part of the community.  Those attitudes have changed. In Rama, the community has made efforts to bring these children back into their community. One example is being honoured at the annual Pow Wow.

The Children’s Aid Society has offered an apology, and to some extent are involved with rectifying the injustice, but it’s not enough. The CAS was acting on our behalf.

I don’t know what we can do on an individual scale, expect maybe to understand the various responses that may have been exhibited over time by these people. Mike should be filled with rage for what was done to him and his family. But, he seems to have made peace with the reality of his life and to all appearances is a well-adjusted individual, thoughtful and pleasant to speak with. He may be an outlier.

Of the other speakers, Sherry Lawson is one of the best storytellers. She is the embodiment of not knowing whether to laugh or cry. Even when she is telling about something sad she manages to inject some humour. The words of Armand Garnet Ruffo’s poetry had a distinctive rhythm and with the words he chose it was like he was painting picture in the air.

Drew Hayden Taylor, twice shortlisted for the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour, is guaranteed to have you laughing. He read three chapters, one each from as many books. Each was from a story told in a different genre of fiction; fantasy, supernatural, and a forthcoming horror novel.

Not a reading, but it was of sorts, Julie Williams spoke of the findings of research she has been doing into how native communities historically governed themselves, which included the structure and relationships between (for the times) far flung settlements. Of interest was the significance of The Narrows as a meeting place and how the various communities regarded this tiny little place in our larger community.

Concerts In The Park
Dan Austin

Dan Austin is a former student at Twin Lakes Secondary School and has been the director of bands at Guelph Collegiate Vocational Institute for 24 years. Not long ago he started to write his own band music.

Dan has an impressive list of accomplishments, industry and teaching awards. He also finds time to lecture at the University of Toronto and McMaster and York Universities.

The Orillia Concert Band will be premiering his newest piece, The Beauty Within, June 23 at the first Music in the Park (Aqua Theatre) of the summer, June 23. He also announced last week he picked up a publishing deal for that same piece with one the largest publishers of band and orchestra music in the U. S., Randall Standridge Music. You can listen to his compositions here.

The rest of the schedule for Concert sin the Park is:

  • July 7, Baytowne Big Band
  • July 14, Orillia Silver Band
  • July 21, Barrie Concert Band
  • July 28, Orillia Big Band 
  • August 4, Skyliners Big Band
  • August 11, Newmarket Citizens Band
  • August 18, Markham Concert Band
  • August 25, Simcoe County Band
  • September 1, Orillia Brassworks

All concerts start at 6:30 p.m.

The Shorts

  • The Sunshine Festival is continuing Sunday afternoon at the Port of Orillia with Dav Dickenson and Farrucas providing music. This is the former Spring Boat and Cottage Show. The chamber of commerce is also interested in hearing from musicians to perform at their summer Saturday evening concert series. Apply online. DJ Santa Steve entertains at Christmas in June (22) and the Offcuts play June 29.
  • Creative Nomad Studios has two things happening. One is their annual contest to give away use of the facilities by a charity for a fundraising event. You can vote online for your favourite, or add a charity to the list. They also have a Summer Kick-Off Concert June 21 with Craig Mainprize and Jakob Pearce. Get tickets online.
  • Mariposa Arts Theater has their 2nd annual Queer Cabaret happening June 21 and 22 at their rehearsal hall on Brammer Drive. Tickets are not available yet, but will be online here.
  • The Opera House has the Laugh For Lake Simcoe fundraiser with Ron Josol, Fiona O’Brien, and Jeff McEnery June 22. Get tickets online.
  • The Coldwater Studio Tour happens June 22 and 23. All the venues are in Coldwater with 38 artists showing their work.
  • Anne Walker has Tannis Slimmon and Lewis Melville in for the next of the summer concerts at the Coulson Church on June 23. The rest of the schedule is: July 28 Wendell Ferguson; Aug. 25 Anne Walker; and Sept. 29 Blair Packham. You can get tickets online.
  • It’s almost Summer Theatre season. The Opera House has The Long Weekend by Norm Foster opening July 3; Every Brilliant Thing by Duncan Donahue opening July 24; and Those Movies by Norm Foster opening Aug. 14. Get your tickets, including special deals, online. The Opera House also has the Laugh For Lake Simcoe fundraiser with Ron Josol, Fiona O’Brien, and Jeff McEnery June 22. Get tickets online.
  • The Canada Day midway will be up and running starting June 28, through to end of the day July 1. The Wheely Great Parade registration opens at 10 a.m. Canada Day and the parade starts at 10:30. The other parade starts at noon from City Hall, then down Mississaga Street to the park. The opening ceremonies are at 1 p.m. at the Aqua Theatre, and the cake from Mariposa Market gets cut up and served at 2 p.m. at the pavilion by the boardwalk. Live music starts at the 11 a.m. at the Aqua Theater and ends with Jakob Pearce performing from 8 p.m. until the fireworks at 9:45. Register to volunteer, or be in the parade online.
  • If you are near a radio July 1 tune in to the CBC Radio One from noon to 2 p.m. to hear the Gordon Lightfoot Tribute concert that happened at Massey Hall in May.  The musicians participating included the Lightfoot Band, Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson, Blue Rodeo, Allison Russell, Aysanabee, Burton Cummings, Caroline Wiles & Bob Doidge, Meredith Moon, Sylvia Tyson, The Good Brothers, Tom Cochrane, William Prince and many others. You can also see the concert on CBC Gem (sign up), or catch it on CBC Music from 4 to 6 p.m.
  • The Orillia Youth Centre has a bunch of concerts happening, mostly in September with artists like Matchedash Parish, Skye Wallace, Roger Harvey, Zachary Lucky, The Ronnie Douglas Blues Band and many more. There is one July 1, Farm Fest. See the complete list and get tickets online.

  • The Orillia Museum of Art and History has submissions open until Aug. 16 for the 23rd annual Carmichael landscape show in the fall; find the details and application online; the 27th annual International Women’s Day Art Show is in the main gallery; you can also see an exhibit of work from an art program for kids called Regent Park Public School Grade 6/7 Garden Design Program; OMAH also hs Backra Bluid an exhibit of works by photographer Stacey Tyrell; the June  19 History Speaker’s Night is with Anna Marino of the Leacock Museum speaking about A Leacock Love Story; it’s online and you can register here… St. Paul’s Centre has the Call to Action 83 Art Project in the Ogimaa Miskwaaki Gallery… Hibernation Arts has new art by Susan Field this month and the ODAC artists wall has changed; Hibernation is also the ringleader for an Art Hop – with all the Peter Street galleries participating – from noon to 4 p.m. June 15…  Peter Street Fine Arts has a collection of work by Marcia Godbout featured in June. ODAC artists have a new show up in the Green Room at the Opera House called Spring AwakeningCloud Gallery still has their
    My Happy Place show up.
  • Couchiching Craft Brewing has Burke Erwin playing June 14;  Cam Galloway is in June 15; Choir Revolution ( you do the singing) does Mama Mia June 19 (tickets); Even Steven is in June 21… Quayle’s Brewery has a comedy festival happening June 20 (tickets) with Ben Miner, Jen Sakato and Daniel Shaw and June 21 (tickets) with Tracy Hamilton, Ben McKay, Craig Fay and Daniel Shaw; Kyle Moning is in to play music June 13; Giant’s Tomb June 14; Bob Galloway June 15 (afternoon) and Jess Bowman (evening); James Gray is in June 16; Samantha Windover plays June 20 and Sydney Riley is in June 21… The Hog ‘N Penny has an Open Mic Sunday afternoons with Sean Patrick, Michael Martyn John MacDonald, Jessica Martin and whoever else shows up…  Lake Country Grill has Mitch Beube playing June 19 playing May 29…  Blue Moon Junction has Mitch Beube and Jason Crawford playing jazz June 23… Fionn MacCool’s has an open Mic hosted by Jamie Drake Wednesday evenings… The Griddle Pickers play the Common Stove’s Bluegrass Brunch June 23.

(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia and Images Supplied) Main: Farrucas making music at this weekend’s Sunshine Festival at the Port of Orillia.

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