Cree music and stories to be performed at The Gog

A July 24 event at The Gog promises to be a unique cultural encounter.

The Gog is a house (and former synagogue) Kelly Waters uses as a performance space. In honour of National Aboriginal Day, Waters is hosting a performance featuring Ross Paskemin, a Plains Cree singer and hand drummer, and Wes Fineday, a storyteller, elder, healer and Cree oral historian. Former city councillor Ray Fox will MC the event.

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Waters said she is excited for the event. She cooks for events at the Gog.

“Since I consider food preparation an art form, this is an opportunity for me to use indigenous ingredients as a source of inspiration,” Waters wrote in an email. “In addition to bison and other wild game, I have been experimenting for the first time with flavours such as juniper berries and spruce tips. I have little personal experience preparing traditional First Nation food, but I have been studying contemporary interpretations of established First Nations chefs and using my own imagination to form a unique, adventurous, and hopefully delicious menu of bite-sized tastings.”

According to Waters, psychologist Dr. David MacKinnon got “the ball rolling” on the event. MacKinnon came across Paskemin’s music while preparing for a documentary about two Cree artists, and MacKinnon said he has a close relationship with Fineday.

“To say I was pleasantly surprised [by Paskemin’s music] is an understatement,” MacKinnon wrote in an email. Paskemin is also a song keeper, drum maker, and member of The Sweetgrass Singers.

“His music transcends cultures,” MacKinnon said.

MacKinnon intends the event to be “in the spirit of reconciliation between both communities.”

While Paskemin will be singing, what Fineday will do is yet to be determined.

“We’ll leave it up to Wes,” MacKinnon said. “He’s a master storyteller.”

Fineday explained his role in the event.

“I’ll be doing a little bit of storytelling and talking about stories and their purpose, and their function, and as a system of learning.”

Fineday has been performing for over 30 years, and has been to a number of countries including Japan, Norway, Denmark, Sweden and all over the U.S.

“There’s not many decent storytellers,” Fineday said, laughing.

He said that there are many different kinds of stories, such as those for entertainment, those which are seasonal, and personal and family histories.

Fineday said that orally transmitted stories have the ability to relate truth in ways that aren’t compromised, as written words can be.

“Some of the stuff you find written down obviously lacks the integrity which would give it truth, it’s someone’s opinion, or it’s written with an agenda,” Fineday said. “Some of our storytellers are like that, too. But in terms of sacred stories and historical stories, you have to earn the right to speak about those things so that the telling of the story is done with integrity. And integrity is rooted in the dimension of the sacred.”

The event will be a sacred traditional sharing and alcohol won’t be served. Admission is $20 and all funds go to the presenters. There will also be a donation jar for food.

When asked if he’s excited for the show, Fineday said “I mean, I’m just as excited as I am for any other part of my life. Life is exciting.”

 

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