Gathering: Festival of First Nation Stories
At the meeting of Lakes Couchiching and Simcoe, the Chippewas of Rama First Nation territory has been called ‘The Gathering Place’ where travelers could meet, rest, and share stories along their journeys. Gathering: Festival of First Nation Stories continues this story, bringing together Indigenous storytellers, musicians, and artists for four days of conversations.
Presented by Arts Orillia the festival runs June 1-4, 2023, with programs hosted by the Chippewas of Rama First Nation and St. Paul’s Centre. This year’s line up includes a robust list of insightful presentations and performances.
Visual Art & Story
The festival begins on Thursday, June 1st with a welcoming Story Circle at Rama Community Hall, featuring a painted story canoe installation. Local Rama First Nation artist Chief LadyBird will be painting part of the canoe.
Throughout the festival, you can also visit the Ogimaa Miskwaaki Gallery at St. Paul’s Centre. This gallery holds the three rounds of the Call 83 Truth and Reconciliation Art Project, which was started in 2018. In each round, First Nations and Settler artists draw upon each others’ works to create works of art that look at what Truth and Reconciliation means, where it has been and where it is going.
The works are shared and drawn upon in a “broken telephone” round robin kind of way. Each artist only sees the work of the artist before them, and draws upon that work for inspiration and meaning. It is amazing to trace the progress of the inspiration around the circle and the room.
The gallery is open Monday to Thursday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., at 7 p.m. on the Friday and Saturday nights of the Festival, and the Sunday of the festival from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Music & Story
Tom Wilson returns to Orillia for a Friday night concert at St. Paul’s Centre with Jesse O’Brien and Thompson Wilson. Wilson was last in Orillia in 2022 to induct the late Gordon Lightfoot into the Mariposa Folk Hall of Fame. As both a solo musician and member of Blackie & The Rodeo Kings, and author of the bestselling book Beautiful Scars: Steeltown Secrets, Mohawk Skywalkers and the Road Home, Tom Wilson’s storytelling is one to behold. The evening will also feature a special message from local Elder and storyteller, Jeff Monague.
Saturday’s concert features Tomson Highway with vocalist Patricia Cano and saxophonist Marcus Ali. Tomson Highway is an award-winning playwright and author of The Rez Sisters, amongst many other works and accolades, including the Order of Canada. Patricia Cano is a Canadian singer and actress who has worked with Tomson Highway for several years now. This trio will be sure to delight, with Highway playing St. Paul’s acclaimed and very special Bosendorfer piano.Purchase Tickets
Saturday will be full of fascinating round-table discussions from a series of presenters at Rama Community Hall. Indigenous authors will sit down to share their stories on a wide range of topics during round table discussions. Catch readings from authors in a variety of genres, from children’s stories to biographies, fiction and non-fiction.
On Sunday, there will be a full day of programming at St. Paul’s Centre hosted by the Gojijing Truth and Reconciliation Roundtable, including Learnings in the Land.
Where to Stay
Stay in Rama First Nation and explore the beautiful setting of the region. Black River Wilderness Park is a family campground owned and operated by the Chippewas of Rama First Nation. The park is situated along the Black River with tent camping, RV Sites, yurts, cabins and more available. Paddle the Black River, hike along the interpretive trails and learn more about the Indigenous culture of the region. Be one of the first to enjoy the season in over 180 acres of wilderness.
Casino Rama Resort offers relaxation with a luxurious hotel and amenities including dining, spa, gaming and entertainment.
Stay at an Orillia hotel for cozy accommodations after a full day of learning and exploring. Orillia’s hotels are situated within 15 minutes from each of the festival’s various event locations.
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