Bemidji’s First-Ever Anishinaabe Art Festival to Celebrate Diversity and Indigenous Art – Bemidji Pioneer

ByJames I. Robertson

Jul 16, 2022

BEMIDJI — Through the lens of the arts, the first-ever Anishinaabe arts festival is intended to celebrate the rich culture and history of Indigenous peoples while bringing cross-cultural knowledge and diversity to the region.

On Friday, July 22 and Saturday, July 23 at the Sanford Center, festival-goers will experience a wide variety of authentic creations such as Indigenous art, traditional food tastings, child-friendly activities and demonstrations, and a range of cultural entertainment. .

According to the festival’s website, the aim is for artists to have new and expanded opportunities to market themselves beyond the borders of tribal nations, with the understanding that indigenous art is highly sought after due to its culture and history. unique.

“Our artists are so important to our tribal economies and are able to add tremendous value to the Bemidji and regional economies,” said Sharon James, Events Organizer and Executive Director of 4-Directions Development. “We need to support them like we would any other business.”

The Anishinaabe Arts Festival and Creative Enterprise Development Initiative is a creative opportunity to create spaces to support artistic enterprises and celebrate the region’s rich Anishinaabe history and culture.

With a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to help fund the festival, the three tribes of Leech Lake, Red Lake and White Earth and the town of Bemidji have partnered to open avenues for Indigenous artists, provide access to works of high value markets and create an exchange of artistic and cultural knowledge in the region.

“(The city has) been involved in the planning of this process from the beginning and we are so excited to host this event,” City Manager Nate Mathews said. “We think this is a wonderful event for our community to celebrate the richness of Anishinaabe art and a way to provide access to it for the community, but also for artists who can grow their businesses and gain great exposure here. .

Nate Mathews

For Ward 1 Councilwoman Audrey Thayer, the festival holds great significance for the diverse community of Bemidji.

“We’ve never really had a long history with our neighbors in the three directions, White Earth, Red Lake and Leech Lake, so to have this led by the three tribal nations and brought to the Sanford Center is huge,” said said Thayer. “We have never had the opportunity to see more than 55 indigenous art vendors in the town of Bemidji. Times are changing and I am so grateful that our city is home to unique and diverse populations.

Audrey Thayer headshot.jpg

Audrey Thayer

The main partners of the festival are 4-Directions Development, Leech Lake Financial Service, Gizhiigin Arts Incubator and the city of Bemidji.

“We have a lot of great sponsors that have helped the festival like the Minnesota State Arts Board,” added James, “and local sponsors like Paul Bunyan Communications, the Blandin Foundation, and First National Bank Bemidji.”

The festivities will begin at 11 a.m. on Friday with a traditional opening ceremony, invocation and drumming to welcome everyone to the event followed by a ribbon cutting.

From the opening ceremony to the closing ceremony on Saturday, the festival will be filled with fun activities for attendees, such as a variety of vendor stalls, workshops, demonstrations, tasting tables, entertainment and a parade. of fashion.

“We’ll have various art demonstrations throughout the two days so people have something to do while they’re there,” James said. “Sometimes you think these art festivals are just walking around and looking at what people have already done, but we try to have interactive demonstrations that everyone can participate in.”

Participants can learn techniques used to create original works of art and other cultural teachings throughout the festival, such as basket weaving, hand drum making, storytelling, beadwork and stone carving.

Tasting tables will be open at 4:30 p.m. on Friday and 11 a.m. on Saturday with traditional flavors so attendees can sample a variety of authentic Aboriginal foods like berry sauces, maple syrup, fern and much more. Tasting table tickets will be sold at the door.

“We wanted to share some of the culinary art of our culture,” James said. “We have a lot of traditional foods that we continue to incorporate into our diets and we wanted to share some of these unique food ingredients with the public.”
To wrap up the first day of the event, starting at 6:30 p.m., attendees can take to the stage for a fashion show where designers will present both traditional and contemporary fashion. A traditional tea bar will also be available at each show.

Sharon James

Sharon James

“A lot of our artists have pieces that are so beautiful that they’re starting to turn into wearable art,” James said. “We have artists who have attended big famous fashion shows in New York and California, so we try to showcase some of these new and upcoming fashion designers.”

The second day of events will begin with doors opening at 9 a.m. on Saturday, and attendees will be able to visit vendors, workshops and demonstrations.

From 11 a.m. the tasting tables will be open and at 1 p.m. the stage entertainment will begin.

“On Saturday there will be a performing arts show where individual people perform on stage, there will be singers and dancers and again it will be traditional and contemporary,” James said. “We’ll have an emcee who will tell the story behind our traditional dancing, our drumming and stuff like that so we can share some of those traditional and cultural pieces with contemporary artists who are there and well known.”

The event’s headliner is Sten Joddi, one of today’s most prolific Native American hip-hop artists and actors. As a member of the Mvskoke Nation of Oklahoma, her culture and love for hip hop gave her a voice in the unique struggle of growing up and surviving as a Native American.

In addition to his recording career, he is known for his role in the television series “Reservation Dogs” on Hulu.

Alongside Joddi, musical artists Annie Humprey and Doyle Turner and dance duo Sampson Brothers will also perform at the event.

Following the stage entertainment, there will be a children’s art session at 3:00 p.m. and a showcase of literary arts to highlight authors and writers at 4:00 p.m.

“We tried to incorporate authors and writers into our arts,” James said. “They will share their books and maybe even some readings. One of them even gives a demonstration on how to be a successful literary artist.

The festival will end at 5:00 p.m. with a traditional closing ceremony.

Friday events

  • 11:00 a.m. Opening Ceremony of the Festival
    • Invocation
    • Welcome
    • Ribbon cutting
  • Noon: opening of the festival
    • Vendor stands open
    • Workshops
    • Demonstrations
  • 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. “Traditional Flavors” tasting tables
  • 6:30 p.m. Seating for the fashion show
  • 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Fashion show with traditional tea bar

Saturday Events

  • 9 a.m. Opening of vendor booths
  • 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tasting tables “Traditional Flavours”
  • 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Stage entertainment
    • dance styles
    • Singing
    • Teachings
    • Other performers
  • 3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Art session for children
  • 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. Literary arts
  • 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Closing ceremony


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