One Wave Gathering 2020 Meets Pandemic Challenges

By Jaimie Sumner, PPP Operations Coordinator and One Wave Program Coordinator

Over the last decade, One Wave has grown into a much-anticipated annual event here in Lekwungen and W̱SÁNEĆ territories, with big crowds gathering in downtown Victoria for Indigenous and South Pacific art, music, food, and dialogues.  With the Covid-19 pandemic demanding many changes, we got creative with new ways to gather safely – for instance, planning many smaller events, taking programs online, and holding events outside.  It has been great to work with partners to offer free cultural programs, bring Pacific communities together, and share stories from Indigenous and Pacific perspectives.  This year we held nine public events, with one still to come!

Bradley Dick’s Territorial welcome at the One Wave ceremony, with PPP President, Muavae Va’a.

Our Opening Ceremony took place at Songhees Point on September 3 with a territorial welcome by Bradley Dick and opening words from PPP’s President, Muavae Va’a and Executive Director April Ingham.  We hold up our hands to Bradley for honouring our gathering this year with his welcome, sharing of knowledge, and powerful song and to Mua for his opening words in Samoan and English.  It was a sunny day near the water, and where we stood with Bradley was steps away from a beautiful cedar spindle whorl designed by his father Butch Dick, one of the seven Signs of Lekwungen.  The location, Songhees Point or PAH-lu-tsuss in Lekwungen, is an important site to Songhees and Esquimalt people.  It was meaningful to open our One Wave events on a special Lekwungen site on the shores of the Pacific Ocean that connects us North and South.

Later on that day, we opened our Together / As One exhibit at MediaNet’s FLUX Gallery.  On select days from September 3-18, the gallery came alive with costumes and songs from the youth opera Flight of the Hummingbird based on Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas’ Haida manga, as well as set-pieces and footage from the theatrical production of Peace Dancer by Roy Henry Vickers. 

Flight of the Hummingbird performers with Pacific Opera Victoria and Opera Vancouver.

This opera is the story of a brave hummingbird taking on a forest fire, while Peace Dancer is the story of a big flood descending on a community after the village’s children mistreat a crow.  These compelling, artfully presented stories that encourage each of us to take action to make a difference, like the little hummingbird, and ensure we treat all living beings with respect.  Flight of the Hummingbird was produced by Pacific Opera Victoria and Opera Vancouver, and Peace Dancer was a collaboration between Theatre Inconnu, Story Theatre, and Puppets for Peace along with Roy Henry Vickers and a community cast.  Complementing these two features were Pacific cultural items from PPP’s collection, along with short films on PPP’s work by youth multimedia makers and a special short on Fijian masi (bark cloth) from UBC Curator Carol Mayer.  Visitors to the gallery were also invited to share their thoughts on the guiding themes of this year’s One Wave:  resilience and allyship.

Our next public offering was the outdoor KAIROS Blanket Exercise.  More than 20 participants braved the weather under tents at Royal Athletic Park to take part in this interactive workshop about Indigenous history.  Facilitating the exercise were Muavae Va’a and his wife Marie Va’a from Tsartlip First Nation, facilitator Linda Flynn, and Tsartlip elder Judy Bartleman.  The facilitators did a great job of adapting the exercise to keep everyone safe and socially distanced and bring Canada’s difficult Indigenous history to life.  In the circle at the end, participants shared that they were deeply moved and eager to help bring this knowledge forward.

WildFlowers Drum Group at Orange Shirt Day Market. Credit: Jesse Holland

Then, on September 30, One Wave hosted the Orange Shirt Day First Nations Market & Mural at Royal Beach in Colwood in partnership with Songhees & Esquimalt Nations and Royal Beach.  This event was part of the Orange Shirt Day movement across Canada to honour all who went through the horror of residential schools and reaffirm that “Every Child Matters.”  It was an amazing, sunny day with art by Indigenous makers, songs from the WildFlowers girls’ drum group, Tongan dance by Ruby Kafalava, and bannock from Songhees Catering. 

To open this Orange Shirt Day event, Florence Dick shared opening words and her grandson Darwyn Seaweed did a territorial welcome.  Local artists Brianna Bear and Margaret August facilitated the mural, inviting community members to add a handprint and messages of love for residential school survivors.  We are grateful to Florence Dick for her guidance in arranging this beautiful day and Sara from Royal Beach for all the event planning support. 

During September, we also held several youth workshops.  Local youths had a chance to learn from Cowichan artist Stella Johnny and help out in the Tsawout Learning Garden with Tiffany Joseph.  Footage from these small group workshops will be released on social media this December.  A group of South Pacific and Indigenous youth committee also started plans for a community storytelling project to be announced soon!

Usually, One Wave wraps up in September, but this year we reached the end of September with lots more to offer!  This is mainly due to the Covid-19 pandemic, as we found that each event took hours of extra planning.  The pandemic also meant we had to set attendance limits, making our free events less accessible than usual.  By the end of the month, we had plans still in the making with several Indigenous and Pacific artists, speakers, and partners and decided to extend One Wave, offering our remaining events online so that more people could enjoy them.

Pacific Story & Song storyteller Erin Blondeau

The first of these online events was Pacific Story & Song, an evening of Pacific arts and culture live-streamed by Sunset Labs on October 15.  Sharing stories at the event were Sḵx̱wu7mesh / W̱SÁNEĆ storyteller Tiffany Joseph, Métis storyteller Erin Blondeau, and Polynesian actress Rena Owen (Once Were WarriorsStar WarsSiren).  The evening also featured live songs by Stz’uminus singer-songwriter Nate Harris from his upcoming album Precious You, PPP President Muavae Va’a, and local Hawaiian performer Anela Kahiamoe, as well as a song by Khu.éex’ centering on a story told by Tlingit / Iñupiaq / Paiute / Kaigani Haida vocalist Nahaan.  Thank you to all the presenters for your cultural sharings and to our special guest Rena Owen for making time from across the Pacific to speak about your journey and encourage each of us on our own.  Our recording of Pacific Story & Song will be released soon on social media.

Next up in the virtual space was our Together / As One Film Festival from October 23 to November 24.  Thank you to local Coast Salish filmmaker Steven Davies for putting together this powerful program of Pacific-based Indigenous features and shorts!  Our two opening films were Feature Film Vai by nine female South Pacific filmmakers, and the National Film Board short Now is The Time about Haida carver Robert Davidson and his reclamation of cultural traditions.  We then featured 6 films from Aotearoa, Haida Gwaii, Australia, and Kapuivik.  While the free viewing period for most of these films is over, we encourage you to check out our Film Festival webpage for some great films to add to your list or order at your local library!

Virtual Feast Panelist Tiffany Joseph

A final unique online One Wave event was called A Virtual FeastHonouring and Revitalizing Indigenous Food Systems.  This was an interactive panel and film premier on Indigenous food sovereignty co-organized with our partners at the University of Victoria Centre for Indigenous Research and Community-Led Engagement (CIRCLE).  We had more than 100 participants registered for the online event!  The dialogue was hosted by Lisa Kenoras and Jeff Corntassel with a traditional Lekwungen welcome by Brianna Dick.  The Virtual Feast fed us all with presentations by local Indigenous knowledge holders, Tiffany Joseph and Cheryl Bryce, and Papua New Guinean cultural TV producer, Jennifer Baing-Waiko, as well as a premier of CIRCLE’s new short film Rising Tides which you can find on our  Vimeo here.

And that’s a wrap… almost!  We have one more One Wave event we hope to present this winter, the raising of the Pacific Peace Post at Macaulay Point, a beautifully carved house post by local Lekwungen carver Bradley Dick and Solomon Islands carver Ake Lianga.  We hope to see the Peace Post go up in early January — watch our social media channels for news!

Ake Lianga and Bradley Dick carving the Pacific Peace Post.

We were thrilled to offer a bountiful One Wave 2020 program in spite of the pandemic, making space for Pacific cultural sharing while offering paid opportunities for local artists and Indigenous knowledge keepers. To the volunteers who came with open hearts; to the artists and speakers who shared at One Wave events; to our amazing partners and funders who worked with us to make it happen; to the participants who came ready to learn and share; and to our team who pulled together in this challenging year  – thank you, thank you, thank you. 

Our programming partners for One Wave Gathering 2020 were Songhees Nation, Esquimalt Nation, MediaNet Flux Gallery, CIRCLE at UVIC, Theatre Inconnu, Puppets for Peace, Story Theatre, Pacific Opera Victoria, Vancouver Opera, and Royal Beach.  Thank you for helping design inspiring programs enjoyed by so many.

Key funders and contributors were Canadian Heritage, BC Arts Council, Government of Canada, Province of BC, CRD, City of Victoria, Township of Esquimalt, City of Colwood, CTV / CFAX, Rika Design, Peppers Foods, Royal Scot Hotel & Suites, Metropol, The Sign Pad, Black Press Media, and Sunset Labs.  Your contributions were crucial to the success of our One Wave Gathering.

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