Inaugural All Nations Festival completed in Coquitlam

Image via Irwin Oostindie‎ on Facebook
Image via Irwin Oostindie‎ on Facebook

Events held at David Lam campus and Coquitlam Town Centre Park

By Lauren Kelly, News Editor

A new three-day Coquitlam festival took place over the weekend of July 23–25. Named the All Nations Festival, the festival is a celebration of the Coast Salish peoples.

The Coast Salish peoples are a group of tribes who span the Pacific Northwest, specifically BC, Washington, and Oregon. The Lower Mainland is the Coast Salish peoples’ territory, and they were the original residents of Coquitlam—then named Kwikwetlem, meaning “red fish up the river.” Some members of the Kwikwetlem First Nation now live on two reserves in Coquitlam, and the rest live in Western Canada.

The Douglas College Campus and Evergreen Cultural Centre hosted the Kwikwetlem Colloquium on July 23 and 24. It included panel discussions, traditional art and foods, and dialogue with artists, scholars, and cultural leaders. Finishing this part of the festival with a discussion on Coast Salish stories was Lee Maracle, an award-winning novelist, poet, and performance storyteller from North Vancouver. She is an expert on Coast Salish culture and has been referred to as a “walking history book.”

The Ideas Stage at Lafarge Lake hosted discussions on reconciliation, salmon, legal rights, and Tri-City citizen engagement. There was also a discussion about the expansion of the oil pipelines, which First Nations groups have been strongly opposed to. Another feature was a Green Energy Fair on Saturday, which included solar panels and electric cars for guests to look at, as well as discussion on protecting the Tri-City region from global warming and environmental threats.

The festival had 20 musical acts, including 2014 Juno award winner George Leach, classic rock band Doug & the Slugs, and Bill Henderson from the band Chilliwack. One performer, rapper Ronnie Dean Harris, is a descendant of a Kwikwetlem First Nations chief. There were also two sets from Vancouver’s DJ Hedspin, winner of the Canadian and National Redbull Thre3style titles.

The festival brought together aboriginal culture and discussion in order to involve the Tri-City community with First Nations issues. After a successful first outing, the All Nations Festival will move forward into next year, bringing with it hopes for a more culturally understanding, environmentally friendly future for the Tri-Cities and Canada.