Anskohk Literature Festival place to be
- EFN Staff | October 20, 2017
The Anskohk Literature Festival’s SAWCI (Saskatchewan Aboriginal Writers Circle Inc) board has partnered with SaskCulture and a number of sponsors and partners to create a very special Anskohk in 2017, commemorating thousands of years of storytelling in the context of Canada 150. The conference theme, e-sohkiyehtamahk, la forss ki Ootinaynaan, (“we take strength” in Cree and Michif) focuses on the resiliency of language, ties to the land, the importance of youth, and the Anskohk tradition of carrying the story forward generation to generation. More than 20 artists are featured, with an open mic portion for more inclusion.
The festival will open Thursday evening 6-9 pm with soup, bannock, and desserts at St. Mary’s Wellness and Education Centre featuring an evening of Honouring the Storyiors (Story Warriors) such as Tracey Lindberg, Mika Lafond, Wilfred Burton, and others. Performances from Tenille Campbell’s Indian Love Poems and Indigenous Poets Society’s Shawn OVERFLO Joseph will conclude the event.
Friday will take place beginning at noon at Station 20 West from bannock and stew at noon, to panel presenters such as Harold Johnson, Jesse Archibald-Barber, Doug Cuthand, Greg Younging, Karon Shmon, Deborah Lee, Melody Wood, Rita Bouvier, Mika Lafond, on to Keynote speaker Tracey Lindberg who notes the importance of youth.
“As I grow older, I become more and more aware of the beautifully onerous work that our young people are doing to make the world safe, loving and supportive for Indigenous peoples,” noted Lindberg by interview. “I am able to see, in their activism, their writing and their art, that our young people are building something magnificent and something we have not been able to do as well as them: unapologetic assertion of their right to be free. Of racism. Of sexism. Of the colonial embedded ideas of Indigenous peoples as Others.”
She adds that she is impressed with their diligence, poetry, and unwavering commitment to better.
“Look to [youth such as] Erica Violet Lee, Billy Rae Belcourt, Joshua Whitehead and others to see the best of what our ancestors wanted for us. This new generation is intellectually profound, artistically unfettered and emotionally grounded. It's an exciting and challenging time and our youth are well up to the challenge.”
Her keynote will be followed by an open mic MC’ed by another example of youth leadership, Zoey Roy, who will also present the following day at Station 20.
Events take place all day Saturday, beginning at Station 20 West at 9 with panels by Greg Younging on Cultural Appropriation; Playwriting with Jesse Archibald-Barber, Carol Greyeyes and Marcel Petit; and readings by Archibald-Barber and SAWCI member Rita Bouvier, who also assisted with the Prince Albert portion of the event held earlier this fall.
"Perhaps, the greater work—our greater responsibility in this time of Indigenous renaissance or resurgence (as some have described it) lies within our own communities,’ said Bouvier. “By returning to place and to the sounding—the music of our mother’s movement and voice, which our languages are a part of, we can animate through our artistic expressions our rich cultural legacies as a gift to our communities and the world.”
Carrying the story forward from generation to generation is the general meaning of the word “Anskohk”, from knowledge keeper Joseph Naytowhow. The event was founded by Gordon Tootoosis Nikaniwin Theatre (GTNT), then known as SNTC, a number of years ago along with national literary prizes. When funding ran out for that, a group which included Maria Campbell and Louise Halfe eventually became SAWCI - Saskatchewan Aboriginal Writers Circle Incorporated - including many other notable “storyiors” such as Lisa Bird-Wilson who came forward to reinstate and continue Anskohk. The substantive contribution of Gabriel Dumont Institute (GDI) and many others have helped continue the festival.
The event will end Saturday with an afternoon tribute of Richard Wagamese at AKA Paved Arts to begin about 3 pm, leaving an open time for attending GTNT’s current production of Dominion at 8 pm which closes this weekend. The creator is also a longtime contributing member of SAWCI.
Wagamese’s passing was something the community wanted to mark, given his contribution to Indigenous literature and strong tradition of mentorship in carrying the story forward. The event is titled “Indigenous Writing Continuum” and honours him via Janice Acoose and students from the University of Saskatchewan’s Department of English.
All events are free and open to the public, with grateful support from SaskCulture, GDI, the Government of Canada, Eagle Feather News, and many other sponsors and partners such as the school systems and venues.