'This is what our people need': Sask. First Nation hosting festival for Chief Poundmaker exoneration

Poundmaker Cree Nation is hosting a summer-long arts and storyteller's festival to commemorate Chief Poundmaker's exoneration from a treason conviction.

Poundmaker Storyteller's Festival will run all summer at Poundmaker Cree Nation

Chief Poundmaker was convicted of treason after the North-West Rebellion in 1885, but this year the federal government announced plans to exonerate the conviction. (Oliver Buell/Library and Archives Canada)

People in Poundmaker Cree Nation, Sask. are commemorating a moment years in the making—Chief Poundmaker being exonerated from a treason conviction.

Chief Poundmaker, also known as Pîhtokahanapiwiyin, is remembered by his people as a peacemaker who endured a life of hardship. 

However, Chief Poundmaker has also gone down in Canadian history as a convicted traitor. He was found guilty of treason after the North-West Rebellion in 1885.

This year, Chief Poundmaker will be exonerated of that conviction.

"For all of us in our community, it affects us in a very personal way because our grandparents and great grandparents were effected directly by these false charges," said Floyd Favel, a member of Poundmaker First Nation.

"For many decades thereafter 1885, our community lived in a form of repression, so our economy, our culture, everything was very much limited," he said.

"It was a way to repress the defeat that we had inflicted on the Canadian army."

Chief Poundmaker's belongings were taken following the 1885 resistance. His war club and other items are being loaned back to the Poundmaker Cree Nation as part of a museum exhibit July 18-23 on the reserve near the Battlefords. (Oliver Buell/Library and Archives Canada)

To celebrate the exoneration, Favel organized an arts and storyteller's festival on Poundmaker Cree Nation.

He says he wanted to organize an arts festival to both celebrate the "enduring spirit of Indigenous people" and to showcase Indigenous performance and art.

"Growing up here on Poundmaker in the 1970s, I was very much inspired by  some of our elders who lived in our community," said Favel.

"They used to bring many people from differentr tribes to our community and so there was a feeling of an Indigenous cross-cultural awareness when I was growing up,"

"I wanted to bring that spirit back to our community," he said.

Goal to increase self-knowledge

For Favel, it was crucial to invite the right performers.

"My first thoughts in organizing this festival was to bring people who would open our minds and open our understanding, to create wisdom and also sensitivity," he said.

"This is what our people need. They need to hear the universal truths within our Indigenous beliefs so they themselves could see themselves in reflection."

He says he hopes people learn "appreciation, a greater understanding, a broader knowledge and more intimate knowledge of our Indigenous cultures" from the festival.

The ultimate goal, according to Favel, is to increase self-knowledge and understanding.

He says people from as far away as Poland will be in attendance.

An art show is scheduled to launch at the Chief Poundmaker Museum on July 4, with the summer-long Storytellers Festival kicking off the next day in the same location.

Poundmaker Cree Nation is about 56 kilometers west of North Battleford.

With files from CBC Radio's Saskatchewan Weekend