One of the most culturally rich and exciting festivals is coming to Ottawa June 21-24. Starting festivities on National Indigenous People’s Day, which happens to coincide with the summer solstice, the Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival (SSIF) will attract over 40,000 visitors to celebrate the diverse cultures and heritages of Indigenous communities across Canada. For over 20 years, the SSIF has been a family-oriented and multi-disciplinary arts festival that seeks to recognize the vast and important contributions of Inuit, First Nations, and Metis peoples have made to Canada.
Family-focused and multi-disciplinary, you ask? That means this festival has a little bit of everything, entrance is free, and you can bring the kids. If you don’t have any, you can just enjoy the event like you are one. From Indigenous craft demonstrations, like watching Inuit soapstone carved live, to an Indigenous long table dinner that features indigenous fusion courses by renowned Indigenous chef David Wolfman, there is no shortage of things to do or see.
If you’re going to pick one thing to see, though, the competition Pow Wow taking place on June 23 and 24 would be my pick. I saw my first competition Pow Wow at the Calgary Stampede several years ago and I’ve seen a handful since. It’s kind of tough to describe the energy that these displays generate – it’s both electric and captivating. The drums draw you in while the background vocals give you goosebumps, and the dancers just simply impress you. Wearing their regalia, they turn, spin, and their feet trace shapes along ground – each movement telling a story, especially during the traditional dances. If you happen to watch the “Fancy Bustle”, you’ll see dancers using powerful and athletic movements, constantly changing their level, and their foot speeds never really slowing. The Pow Wows are wonderful tributes to Indigenous heritage with modern inflections throughout, demonstrating contemporary Indigenous culture.
If you’ve never been to an event like this, the SSIF is a great place to start. If you’re attending the Pow Wow, listen to the MC who will walk you through the Pow Wow, tell you when you should or shouldn’t take photos, and give you historical tidbits about Pow Wows. You can check out SSIF’s Pow Wow 101 ahead of time too.
So, if my gushing over how cool this festival is hasn’t convinced you to go, maybe this video will.
The Ottawa Summer Solstice Festival takes place June 21-24 at Vincent Massey Park. Visit the website for a full schedule of events.