Reconciliation is a philosophy for reconfiguring society in ways that include Aboriginal people as never before, and acknowledge the past wrongs on which Canadian culture was built.
The Coldsnap Music Festival is using its musical platform to open a wider and more focused discussion about what this means in our local lives. The organizers of the seminal Canadian winter event have always made a point of programming Aboriginal musicians each year, but they are taking it deeper this time. They are going on the record and talking about it in detail, in public.
Each festival has, in addition to its slate of concerts, a built in workshop series they call Ice Jam that is rooted on social themes.
"With the topic of reconciliation being such as important one, we thought it was a good time (to ask nationally acclaimed local musician) Kym Gouchie to help formulate a plan," said Coldsnap artistic director Sue Judge.
The result is the Monday workshop entitled Embracing Reconciliation starring Gouchie and a group of carefully chosen friends to aid in the discussion. The Lheidli T'enneh First Nation is a full sponsor of the conversation.
Also aiding the discussion is the concert-mentary Gouchie and other local musicians made together last March, when her concert For the People Live @ The Prince George Playhouse was filmed.
"I pride myself in the work that I have done as an artist and I've used my music to create awareness and foster change," said Gouchie. "I have had countless conversations off the stage after a show where non-Indigenous people will ask me how they can engage with the local First Nations where they live and my answer is always this: Find someone in the community that you can form a friendship with and start there. Attend community events and become a familiar face. Offer to help where needed. Learn the protocols. Support youth events and community fundraisers. Be patient as it may take time to earn trust and acceptance but once you're in, you become family and often become adopted as aunty, uncle or a brother sister."
From personal understanding, a person-to-person relationship can replicate into government-to-government relationships and better connections between the sub-sectors of a community. That is a large part of what reconciliation involves.
"Reconciliation means the restoration of friendly relations," Gouchie explained. "Where do we start? Has there ever been a friendly relationship? When you look back on history, we have always been pitted against each other. Can we truly move past the 'Cowboy and Indian' mentality? How do we reconcile what has never been a friendly past. We need to start with the truth and we need to embrace it. We cannot heal what we do not acknowledge and I believe that Canada has made progress but since the TRC (Truth & Reconciliation Commission) released the final reports and 94 calls to action, who can honestly say that they've read them? Who has the time for that, anyways? We need community forums. We need to sit down over a coffee and have conversations and ask questions in order to fully grasp just what it is that our country and our communities need to do to heal and move forward. There's so much to discuss and for me music is the perfect vehicle to do just that."
"Reconciliation with our Indigenous peoples is an intricate journey, so let's get involved now," said Judge. "Come to participate or simply to observe and learn."
The event will include a panel discussion moderated by CBC Radio's Andrew Kurjata, who has played a leading role in past Ice Jam successes.
Some of the confirmed names on the discussion stage in addition to Gouchie are young LTFN cultural leader Joshua Seymour, Lheidli elder Darlene McIntosh, city councilor Cori Ramsey and others pending confirmation.
It will happen from 1-3 p.m. that day at the Uda Dune Baiyoh-House of Ancestors building (355 Vancouver Street).
Coldsnap is the platform for two sets of workshops that involve the musicians on their annual program of performers.
The Integris Ice Jam Series is centred on social issues, which is why it contains the reconciliation event.
The Sound Factory Workshop Series is aimed at musicians wanting to study their craft.
Here are the complete lists of the two sets of Coldsnap side-events. Attendance is free for both series.
Integris Ice Jam Series:
Jan. 27 "Sunday Gospel Hour" with Kat Danser and Guy Davis 12-1 p.m. at Trinity United Church
Jan. 28 "Kids Ice Jam-Inspire The Children" with Ginalina 10:30-11:30 a.m. at Two Rivers Gallery
Jan. 28 "Embracing Reconciliation" with Kym Gouchie & Friends 1-3 p.m. at Uda Dune Baiyoh-House of Ancestors
Jan. 29 "Not Quite Classical" with Atlantic String Machine 1-2 p.m. at Brunswick Seniors Activity Centre
Jan. 30 "Music: The International Language" with Amir Amiri and Richard Moody 12-1 p.m. at IMSS Building
Jan. 31 "Free As The Northern Prairie Wind" with the Celeigh Cardinal Trio 12-1 p.m. at the Native Friendship Centre
Feb. 1 "Roots Rockin' Calypso with Kobo Town 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. at The Exploration Place
Feb. 2 "Swagger And Swing" with Red Haven 12-1 p.m. at Railway & Forestry Museum
BOLDFACE Sound Factory Workshop Series
Jan. 28 "True Acoustic Blues" with Guy Davis 10:30-11:30 a.m. at Sound Factory
Jan. 30 "Intro To Sound Engineering" a Music BC How-To class with Stephen Darke 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Sound Factory (registration required via the Coldsnap website)
Jan. 31 "Guitar Magic" with Terra Lightfoot and special guest Sam Weber 10:30-11:30 a.m. at Omineca Arts Centre
Feb. 1 "Fiddle And Cello" with Élizabeth and Élizabeth 12:30-2 p.m. at P.G. Conservatory of Music