For the second annual Okanagan Indigenous Music and Arts Festival, co-founders Jennifer Money and Danielle Crowe have successfully kicked off their second year with a reduced crowd and more future smaller events. The festival was on Saturday evening with a sold-out and streamable concert – held right in Money’s backyard.
Performers included Mr. Awesome, Old Soul Rebel, Crowd The Joanna, and Ms.PANIK. There was also virtual art, done by Crowe herself, and tipi pole peeling with Elder Noel Ferguson.
Crowe, who is of Algonquin descent and the vice-president of the Okanagan Indigenous Music and Arts Society, says, “We also wanted to create a platform for people living in the Okanagan that don’t have access to knowledge about Indigenous teachings, cultures, that sort of stuff, arts.”
“We wanted to create a place where, where people who weren’t Indigenous, and who are Indigenous, have a place for everybody to unite and really celebrate the Indigenous culture.”
Providing a platform
Money, who is Syilx from Westbank First Nation and the Society president, explains what first inspired her to create the festival.
“I went to BreakOut West festival here and I was coming out of a venue and I hear, like, in the distance, like a drum kit outside. And I was like, is somebody drumming?”
When Money approached the pickup truck, she discovered that it was popular Haisla hip-hop artists Snotty Nose Rez Kids, who were freestyle rapping outside of the venue.
Money approached the duo and asked who they were.
“And then they’re like, ‘Oh yeah, we play concerts and stuff.’ And I was just flabbergasted that…I never knew about them.”
Money adds, “As far as, you know, contemporary artists, such as up and coming hip-hop artists and stuff that were Indigenous, there was really no platform to showcase them. So we just kind of saw that lacking.”
Crowe, who had previous experience running large-scale events, approached Money and pointed out that, currently, there is no regular Indigenous festival in the Okanagan.
Money explains, “She’s like, ‘Do you want to start one with me?’ And I was like, ‘Yes, let’s do it.’”
Adapting to a pandemic
While this year’s festival was originally scheduled to span three days, from July 3 to 5, Money and Crowe say they cancelled the event on a month ahead due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and in an effort to avoid mass gatherings.
Instead, they opted for a smaller music festival over the weekend, with room enough for 50 guests, and a series of programs throughout the year.
Due to the cancellation, many funders pulled out, Money says.
She explains, “It was a little bit nerve-wracking about knowing whether or not our funders would agree to continue to support us if we weren’t such a large-scale festival as we were last year, which has resulted in, like, a lot of sponsorships that we had already secured for this year being cancelled.”
They were eventually able to secure some funding through a touring grant through the Province of B.C., Money says.
“So it’s a little bit tougher when you don’t have sponsorships and when you’re limited on ticket capacity, but I’ve just been really trying to hustle up some public funding to make it happen,” she says.
A promising future
Between now and December, the Okanagan Indigenous Music and Arts Society will host a variety of events and workshops.
“We just are kind of working towards more events, at least one event a month. And including a little bit more programming around, like, planting, foraging and food preservation,” explains Money.
Crowe adds, “I would just like everyone to know that everyone’s welcome.”
She also explains the importance of supporting local artists – especially now.
“How important it is to keep supporting these artists through these times … That’s why we, one of the main reasons why we started all of this.”