Festival to showcase traditional forms of Indigenous storytelling

The annual festival for storytellers kicks off Monday in Regina, held annually by Sakewewak Artists Collective in Regina. The event will run for six days from Jan. 30 to Feb. 4.

Elder Harry Francis will open festival on Monday afternoon at First Nations University of Canada

Detail from "Left Behind" by artist Jamie Reynolds. This was one of the paintings displayed at the Sâkêwêwak Artists' Collective Storytellers Festival. (Submitted to CBC)

First held in 2001, the annual Sâkêwêwak Artists' Collective Storytellers Festival will see a more relaxed approach than last year, focusing more on traditional aspects of storytelling, says Adam Martin.

Martin is the executive director of Sâkêwêwak Artists' Collective, based out of Regina, and has held the position since 2014. Since he started, the festival has been focused on mixing local members of the artists' collective with established Indigenous artists. Martin is from the Six Nations of the Grand River, located on Mohawk land in Ontario. 

"These pairings of the established professional artists from around Canada coming to Regina and able to work with in the same venues as our emerging artists, that [has] been the focus of the last couple of festivals," Martin said. 

The Festival will mostly take place at the First Nations University of Canada but will have events throughout the city. (Adam Martin/Submitted to CBC)

Juno-award winning artist Murray Porter — also from Six Nations — held a concert as part of the festival in 2016, which saw him share the stage with Cree artist Lindsay Knight, also known as Eekwol, and Regina-based hip-hop group Rezofwar Dawgz.

The festival showcases Indigenous storytelling across multiple platforms, such as music, paintings, on-stage plays, spoken word and more.

The audience wanted to see more of an emphasis on traditional aspects of storytelling, Martin said. Back in 2001, the festival was held at Scott Collegiate and focused on elders telling stories, Martin said. 

"From there, it sort of evolved and carried on," he said. 

In 2017, the festival will be centralized at the First Nations University of Canada. Monday through Thursday will see storytelling sessions in the FNUC's atrium. The final storytelling session on Friday will take place in the University of Regina before moving to the Saskatchewan Writers Guild for a workshop on Saturday.

During the evening, events will be spread throughout the city. A full schedule and list of artists can be found on the Collective's website.

There will be no admission costs, Martin said. 

"Free for everyone, an opportunity for all audiences interested in the arts to come and experience the festival that's focused on Indigenous storytellers and artists telling their own stories," Martin said. 

With files from Brad Bellegarde