Annual Ottawa Indigenous Festival Goes Virtual This Year

Indigenous chefs and artisans are teaching the public their crafts in video tutorials and other online spaces.

Each year in Ottawa the Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival is held in June to celebrate the traditions of First Nations, Inuit and Métis cultures of Canada. Typically, over several days, pow-wows, craft work shops, cooking shows and concerts are held primarily outdoors and in person. This year, however, with COVID-19, the festival has been cancelled and virtual workshops were made available in its place online.

While some of the SSIF events over the last couple of weeks were by registration only so that participants could receive the supplies required, those who are interested in learning more about other cultures, or sometimes even their own, can still access the website for excellent resources in the form of craft workshop videos and authentic Indigenous recipes. There are also still some Indigenous artists’ dance and music concerts scheduled online, including one tonight and one tomorrow, Saturday, June 20. You can read more about these concerts on the website here.


This year, among the free and accessible crafting videos are workshops on creating: leather and bead pouches, rattles, Inuit seal skin earrings and Métis fish scale earrings.

There are also two virtual culinary workshops that are upcoming – that of Anishinaabe Chef Cézin (Marie-Cecile Kakgoosh Nottaway-Wawatie) scheduled for June 20 and that of Anishinaabe-Jewish chef Shawn Adler on June 21. These virtual workshops require registration and a purchased ticket from people living specifically in the Ottawa, Manitoulin or Toronto region, since they will have ingredients delivered to them in order to actively participate in the workshops.

You can find detailed recipes for authentic bannock, cedar bone broth, pan-seared Arctic char and venison stew, as well as recipes for various foraged traditional teas.

For those who live outside of the area, or who could not afford the ticket or register on time, the main recipes for all of the culinary workshops are available for free on the Summer Solstice website.

There, you can find detailed recipes for authentic bannock, cedar bone broth, pan-seared Arctic char and venison stew, as well as recipes for various foraged traditional teas.


For example, Chief Paul Owl, Anishinaabe from the Serpent River First Nation, led a virtual workshop for SSIF on June 14 about how to forage for the ingredients to make his signature traditional teas – cedar and mint, and cedar and wildberry chai. Owl creates and sells his own teas under the name of TreeTeas. (You’ll find his recipe for cedar wildberry chai at the bottom of this article.)

From beaded crafts to wood art, you can find dozens of artisans’ work for sale that would go a long way to support the Indigenous artists who were looking forward to the summer festivals to earn the most from their crafts.

This year, the SSIF has also partnered with Social Distancing Pow Wow, where pow wow vendors can share their arts and sell their wares as they would have done in person pre-pandemic. There will also be a Social Distancing Pow Wow live competition held from June 19 to June 21 at that SDPW Facebook page.

Additionally, the SSIF website offers its own marketplace for the vendors it had originally booked for the physical event that was cancelled. From beaded crafts to wood art, you can find dozens of artisans’ work for sale that would go a long way to support the Indigenous artists who were looking forward to the summer festivals to earn the most from their crafts. Candles, jewelry, paintings and even syrups are available for purchase at the Summer Solstice Marketplace.

Chief Paul Owl’s Cedar wildberry chai

Ingredients:

  • 5 grams cedar leaves.
  • Cinnamon, star anise, cardamom, cloves, black pepper. 
  • Small handful each of blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries.

Directions:

Fill pot with cold water and put on high to boil.
This is the fun part, mix your cinnamon, staranise, cardamon, clove and black pepper in equal or unequal parts to suit your taste. Try a few different ratios.
Add your cedar and roughly 10-15g of your spice mix and berries to the pot.
Once boil starts, reduce to a simmer.
Once cedar goes dark green and just starts to dull is best to remove from heat and remove from the pot.
Ladle to your cup and enjoy … or sweeten… with smokey maple syrup.


Cover photo credit: Courtney Edgar, Summer Solstice Festival 2016.

Photo 2, 3 and 4 credits: Courtney Edgar, Summer Solstice Festival 2016: Inuit artisan Dennis Nakoolak, photographer Barry Pottle and flat-lay of polar bear carving workshop.

Photo 5: Courtesy TreeTeas Brewing Co. Facebook page.

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