First Peoples' Festival designed to educate and entertain

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MONTREAL, Quebec - The summer season will officially kick off with four days of peace, sharing and understanding under the newly opened maple leaves of our northern neighbor.

Canada's First Peoples' Festival will mark its lucky thirteenth annual gathering this year. Exceptional showcases of indigenous film, music, art and aboriginal culture promise to draw record numbers of visitors to Montreal again from June 10 - 22.

The festival is organized by Terres en vues (Land InSights,) a Montreal-based society dedicated to the preservation and promotion aboriginal culture throughout the Americas.

Festivities commence with the wildly popular aboriginal film screenings at the Cin?math?que qu?b?coise.

One of this year's most anticipated screenings is Robert Flaherty's masterpiece "Nanook of the North" on June 11. The striking images of the classic film will be coordinated with live accompaniment by the eerie voices of throat singers Sylvia Cloutier and June Shappa providing a counterpoint to the piano improvisations of Gabriel Thibaudeau. Thibaudeau is a consummate pianist and composer and is considered one of the best silent movie accompanists in the world.

New Zealand's first female feature film director Merata Mita, Maori, will be present for the screenings of her films at the Cin?math?que qu?b?coise and the NFB cinema. Showings will include "Patu! Mana Waka," "Mauri" and her latest project "Hotere" which focuses on one of New Zealand's greatest artists, Ralph Hotere.

Mita is a sensitive and committed filmmaker who has worked relentlessly against racism to ensure the Maori culture earns respect and recognition. She will be joined at the screenings by the prolific Abenaki filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin to share their common passion for their cultures and art.

The festival kicks into high gear on June 19 with the annual Blues, Blanc Rouge show. This year's edition at Usine C will bring together Cree singer and actor Tom Jackson, Mohawk bluesman Derek Miller, Joanne Shenandoah, the great lady of Oneida folk song, and Chlo? Sainte-Marie, who carries love with her.

The festival will also feature a wide range of shows and public events on the outdoor site at ?milie-Gamelin Park at Berri-UQAM from noon - 10 p.m. June 19 - 21 and from noon - 5 p.m. June 22.

The Manikashuna - an Innu word for a nomadic campground - is laid out in a circular arrangement to honor the four directions and bear respectful witness to First Nations material and spiritual cultures.

On-site events include eight daily performances by storytellers, singers and drummers who will enchant festival goers with legends and poetry under the tipis. There will also be workshops introducing traditional crafts, demonstrations by artists and craftspeople, wild game on the fire and traditional dance performances.

Finally, the Biblioth?que nationale du Qu?bec is hosting the exhibit "Games of Creation" throughout the month of June. Chess sets created by aboriginal artists throughout North and South America are the focal point.

For more information and event schedules, visit www.nativelynx.qc.ca/eqdeneuf.htm.