In 2003, hundreds of people gathered in Moose Factory to celebrate the inaugural Creefest event along with Moose Cree’s Gathering of Our People.
A decade later, the two cultural festivals will combine again to celebrate Mushkegowuk traditions in northeastern Ontario from July 25-28 in Moose Factory.
Since its inception, Creefest has taken place in each of the seven Muskegowuk communities, which includes Attawapiskat, Kashechewan, Fort Albany, Taykwa Tagamou, Chapleau Cree, Missanabie Cree and Moose Cree.
Coordinator Greg Spence said Creefest began because Elders felt a need to revive the old tradition of families coming together for a month in the summer after spending the winter months out on the trapline and the goose hunt in the spring.
“A hundred years ago when our people used to live off the land, they spent a month together in the summer, meeting families, people, and they would have dancing, music and games,” Spence, who has coordinated all of the Creefests, said.
Creefest is a modernized version of the tradition, Spence said, as families and Elders from each of the communities are expected to travel to Moose Factory to take part the celebration.
“Most of the Elders that have started with us in 2003 will be coming back this year,” Spence said.
As with previous Creefests, artists and musicians from across Canada have been invited to perform.
Aboriginal country singer Crystal Shawanda will headline the Saturday music event while hip-hop group Winnipeg’s Most and Cree rock band CerAmony from Quebec will also perform.
Singer Jesse Bieber and ventriloquist-puppeteer Derek Starlight will be on hand to entertain the crowd with some comedy. There will also be fiddling and square and traditional dancing along with local bands to support the main acts.
While the evening concerts are a big draw for Creefest, Spence said they are not entirely what Creefest is about.
“For the last 10 years, everyone seems to think that Creefest is a music festival,” he said. “And while it’s a large component of it, the daily activities are what’s important.”
A variety of workshops focusing on traditional activities take place during the day. Elders will hold workshops on netmaking, traditional trapping techniques, and storytelling.
Square and traditional dancing groups will also be holding workshops, which includes the Creeland Dancers from Saskatchewan and a group from Kashechewan – both of whom will perform at the evening events. Moose Cree hip-hop artist Shibastik aka Chris Sutherland will be also perform and hold a workshop.
A traditional powwow will be held on the Friday and Saturday, which will feature renowned dancer Mahikan.
In addition to the Mushkegowuk community members, there will be other visitors that will taking part or helping with the festivities. A group of 14 Canadian Jr. Rangers will be on hand to assist with setups, along with Roots Canada – which consists of international volunteers from countries such as Germany and Japan.
The theme of the 10th Annual Creefest is “unity through celebration.”
“It’s about celebrating life and the communities coming together as family,” Spence said. “That’s what Creefest is about.”
Spence said he wanted to give thanks to the Elders for helping to start and support Creefest and keeping it going for the last 10 years.
“We’re expecting a lot of Elders from Kash, Fort Albany, and hopefully the people of Moose Factory will welcome them to the event,” he said.
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