Professing peace among all nations, the fourth annual Spruce River Folk Festival will see hundreds gather for a laidback get-together on Saturday.
© Herald file photo
A scene from a previous year’s Spruce River Folk Festival is seen. This year’s first annual event is set to take place on Saturday.
“Last year we had pouring rain and still had 200 people, so (with) good word of mouth it’ll be bigger than that, hopefully,” one of the event’s organizers, Ray Funk, said.
The underlying goal of the afternoon is the fostering of a better relationship and greater understanding of the area’s cultures -- most notably focusing on First Nations bands.
The annual festival originally started as a means of furthering a partnership between the Young Chippewayan First Nation and the Mennonite Central Committee of Saskatchewan and Grace Mennonite Church, fulfilling a memorandum of understanding signed in 2006.
A universal goal among Mennonite organizations is to help people regain lands and livelihoods lost -- something that Funk notes to have taken place in Saskatchewan, where settlers adopted First Nations land.
“This does affect us directly -- it affects me directly,” Funk said. “I inherited my grandfather’s homestead, which is on the former Stoney Knoll Indian Reserve.”
The Government of Canada dissolved the Stoney Knoll Indian Reserve in 1897 without First Nations consent, and have yet to provide compensation.
“I’m dedicated to making sure that we do what we can to see these Young Chippewayan get recognition and compensation for what they have lost,” Funk said. “It does bother me that my country hasn’t yet seen fit to settle with these people on land that our family has now had since 1915.”
Originally focusing on the Young Chippewayan First Nation, this year’s festival has expanded to include other bands that have seen illegal government action, such as The Chakatopasin, Mathias Colomb, John Cochrane, Chacachas, Peter Chapman and Big Bear First Nations.
All of these bands have been invited to share their stories during historical presentations titled “Stories of Landless Bands,” set to be told from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Last year we had pouring rain and still had 200 people, so (with) good word of mouth it’ll be bigger than that, hopefully. Ray Funk
“We have to deal with this stuff if we want a good future,” Grace Mennonite Church pastor Ryan Siemens said. “We come from where we come from, and if our past is scarred between settlers and First Nations then the future will be, too, so we need to do some work.”
Throughout the afternoon, folk music will wash over the crowd, providing a blend of various cultural inspirations.
Multicultural food will also be available for purchase on-site.
“We’ve had great atmosphere the last three years,” Siemens said, noting that the crowds have remained upbeat and welcoming even when it’s rained.
“Rain or shine, this thing will go,” he said.
“There aren’t a lot of opportunities where people can get together in a setting like this, where it’s relaxed and pretty easy to start conversations,” Funk said.
“We try and make it a family friendly environment, it’s supposed to be a nice sunny day for the kids to run around.”
Musical performances will begin at 1 p.m., featuring the groups Constant Reminder, O’Kraut, Jake Felix, Karen Blackwell Jones and The Saskatunes.
Tickets are $10 a person or $20 for a family, and will be available at the door.
The festival will take place at the Spruce River Farm, located 20 kilometres north of Prince Albert off of Highway 2. In the event that the Highway 2 detour is still in place on Saturday, 20 kilometres north of Prince Albert translates into less than one kilometer north of where the Pulp Haul cut across road detour re-meets Highway 2.