The annual Roots and Blues Festival is not only “where musicians go to play,” it is an event that encourages play for people of all ages.
Centred between four stages and formerly known as the Engage Stage, is the new Plulk’w Stage, whose meaning is “gathering of the people” in the Secwepemc (Shuswap) language.
Emcee for the family oriented stage is Kenthen Thomas, a Secwepemc educator who shares stories handed down through generations and knowledge of Shuswap Nation history from pre-contact through contact.
Thomas’ father and well-known Elder and knowledge-keeper Gerry Thomas will be at the Plulk’w Stage with his display of authentic Secwepemc artifacts. He will also share his rich culture through stories.
Stspetkwll, or “Secwepemc Legends that Teach,” are a part of the oral history that has been passed down for thousands of years. These legends contain two primary lessons: creation stories about how the world came to be and lessons about how to behave and the consequences of not behaving.
Attendees will learn about plant technologies and the importance of the Salmon River. QR codes will allow people to tap into the Secwepemc legends on site, but they can also be accessed now on the Roots and Blues website.
“We’re not only working to really Indigenize the zone but other parts of the festival as well,” said Thomas, noting the Shuswap Tribal Nation allowed the use of the Secwepemc logo and flags on the fairgrounds. “There are other phenomenal Indigenous acts, including Northern Cree, Snotty Nose Rez Kids, William Prince and Piqsiq.”
Thomas said there will be many activities for kids to enjoy, including inflatables, a sandpile and badminton. As well, Circus West, Oot n’ Oots, the Psychic Alliance and Kiki the Eco Elf will perform on the Plulk’w Stage.
Thomas will tell some of the stories he has gleaned from many sources, including books and Indigenous encounters with people of his own and other nations.
One of his favourites encounters was at Canim Lake where an 11-year-old girl approached him with the story of The Crow as told to her by her grandmother.
“My granny says you can use that,” he said of the gift. “I get awesome transactions like that, but that’s my absolute favourite.”
Thomas says that whether the stories be thousands of years old or more recent, the ancestors of this land knew how live on and protect the land.
“These stories are more relevant than they were 40-50 years ago,” he said, noting there have long been warnings that the land will turn on its inhabitants. “We’re seeing signs of that in wildfires, Covid. We’re taking things from Mother Earth and doing away with other things.”
Thomas is hopeful by the growing acceptance of Indigenous people.
“We’re waking up with understanding, education and the ability to see each other not as a colour or race, but as human beings,” he said, noting Indigenous people are not asking for lands to be returned to them but to be become stewards to help protect Mother Earth and make it last for another seven generations. “And in terms of acceptance of being the way you are, it’s a beautiful thing.”
For more information, tickets and Indigenous stories, go online to rootsandblues.ca.
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