Meet the Indigenous Artists Performing at Winnipeg Folk Fest

With headliners like Kacey Musgraves, Death Cab For Cutie and Jason Mraz, the 2019 Winnipeg Folk Festival has its usual share of big-name artists.

But what truly sets Folk Fest apart isn’t so much the star power, but its rich history of musical storytelling. Through its curated collaborations and workshops, the festival puts together a program that is culturally relevant, refreshingly diverse and flat-out entertaining. It also places a deliberate emphasis on Indigenous talent, both local and international.


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It’s #NationalIndigenousPeoplesDay and we are so fortunate to work year round with an incredible Indigenous Advisory Committee as well as spend the best 4 days of summer in Birds Hill Provincial Park on Treaty 1 territory and the homeland of the Métis people.⠀ ⠀ We are thrilled this year to have @shanleyspence joining us to teach Hoop Dancing for All Ages as well as doing demonstrations throughout the festival weekend. She is no stranger to the Winnipeg Folk Fest stage, she last performed with @djshub in 2017.⠀ ⠀ Spence is a 26-year-old Nihithaw and Anishinaabe woman who began her hoop dancing career at the age of 13 and has been graced with the opportunity to perform at a variety of nationwide and international events. ⠀ ⠀ To learn about more Indigenous art and work around the festival visit our website. ⠀ Photo: @mattduboff

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Over the last few years alone, Winnipeg Folk Fest has presented workshops like Native North America: A Selection of Musical Trailblazers on Stage (2016), Dub Step Pow Wow (2017), and a series of collaborations and solo sets from acts like A Tribe Called Red, Leonard Sumner, Archie Roach, Las Cafeteras and nêhiyawak (2018).

This year, the Indigenous lineup includes an Alberta rocker, a Johnny Cash-esque crooner, a Choctaw singer-songwriter all the way from Oklahoma, a hometown hoop dancer, and a collaborative workshop called Gichitwaawin Nagamon (Honour Songs). Get to know the talent below.

Bebe Buckskin 

Born and raised in the swampy woodlands of Northern Alberta, Bebe Buckskin — a proud Cree/Metis artist — is the embodiment of Northern grit and soul. Her velvety robust vocals paired with her dynamic heavy hitting blues band, whisks the listener away on a journey through soundscapes of vintage inspirations.

Performances: Friday, July 12, 3 p.m. (Little Stage); Saturday, July 13, 4:15 p.m. (Gichitwaawin Nagamon workshop at Spruce Hollow); Sunday, July 14, 11:30 a.m. (Something Borrowed, Something New workshop at Green Ash)

Samantha Crain

Samantha Crain is a Choctaw singer, songwriter, musician, producer, and poet from Oklahoma. “To make an impact as an artist, you have to make people a little uncomfortable,” says Crain. The musician believed so strongly in this ethos, that she started by shaking up her approach to songwriting. By radically rethinking the way she wrote and recorded her fifth album, You Had Me at Goodbye, Crain has managed to put her wholly original aural fingerprint on pop music.

Performances: Friday, July 12, 9:10 p.m. (Main Stage); Saturday, July 13, 12:15 p.m. (Little Stage); Saturday, July 13, 4:15 p.m. (Gichitwaawin Nagamon workshop at Spruce Hollow); Sunday, July 14, 11:30 a.m. (Something Borrowed, Something New workshop at Green Ash)

William Prince

Recently signed to Glassnote Records, William Prince is a JUNO Award-winning singer-songwriter whose music is full of emotionally-charged experiences that linger in memories. Raised on the Peguis First Nation of Manitoba, William has been honing his craft since the age of nine when he first picked up the guitar and piano. His biggest inspirations include Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Charley Pride, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson and most significantly, his preacher and musician father.

Performances: Sunday, July 14, 4:30 p.m. (Bur Oak); Saturday, July 13, 11:30 a.m. (I’m Going To Steal That Song workshop, Big Bluestem); Saturday, July 13, 4:15 p.m. (Gichitwaawin Nagamon workshop at Spruce Hollow)

Shanley Spence

Shanley Spence is a 26-year-old Nihithaw and Anishinaabe woman who was born and raised in Winnipeg, but a member of Mathias Colomb Cree Nation on her mother’s side and Lake St. Martin First Nation on her father’s. She began her hoop dancing career at the age of 13 and has been graced with the opportunity to perform at a variety of nationwide and international events. She has participated in multiple community organizations including mentorship and hoop dance instructing with the Sacred Seven Healthy Relationships Program, the City of Winnipeg and the Manitoba Youth Centre. Her participation within her community has earned her a Top 40 Under 40 Manitoba Award, a Manitoba Aboriginal Youth Achievement Award for Artistic Performance, the community champion award for volunteerism, the Anita Neville Member of Parliament Award, second runner up for Miss Indian World 2017 and other recognition from her community.

Performances: Friday, July 12, 12:30 p.m. (Family Area – Chickadee Bigtop); Friday, July 12, 1 p.m. (Hoop Dancing workshop, Family Area – Field); Saturday, July 13, 12:15 p.m. (Family Area – Chickadee Bigtop); Saturday July 13, 12:45 p.m. (Hoop Dancing workshop, Family Area – Field); Sunday, July 14, 1 p.m. (Hoop Dancing For All Ages Workshop, Folk School)

For more festival information and the full lineup, visit winnipegfolkfestival.ca.

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