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Manikashuna; Downtown Encampment Attracts Thousands

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Emilie-Gamelin Park in downtown Montreal played host the Manikashuna, the
Innu word for an outdoor encampment, June 17 - 20. The encampment featured
artists and craftspeople demonstrating and selling their wares. The site
was laid out in three symbolic zones: one area dedicated to Plains, one to
Iroquoian and one to Algonguian cultures.

This year saw the kickoff of the Wapikoni Mobile on June 17, an original
project by Manon Barbeau for the benefit of First Nations' youth. Les
Productions des Beaux Jours and the National Film Board of Canada (NFB)
transformed an RV into a training studio that will visit six Quebec First
Nations communities to introduce video and the Internet to Aboriginal
youth.

The Wapikoni Mobile will stop off first in Mauricie, in the Atikamekw
communities of Wemotaci, Manawan and Opitciwan and will travel on to
Abitibi-Temiscamingue, to the Algonquin communities of Pikogan, Kitcisakik
and Lac Simon.

The highlight of the festival was the dance demonstration and parade held
June 19. Seven dance troupes representing cultures from North and South
America performed on a center stage intended to represent Turtle Island.

Alnobak was the first group of nine performers hailing from the Abenaki
communities of Odanak, Wolinak and the United States. They wore traditional
buckskin and performed the Grass Snake Dance to chase away evil spirits,
the Corn Dance to honor Mother Earth for feeding us, and the Teal Dance to
attract feathered game.

A Bolivian group followed the first with their whimsical folk dance and
bright outfits. Next was the flamboyant Armonia Andida who brought the
traditional dance and costume of Peru to the northern audience.

The female drum group Andicha n'de Wendat (Wendat Moon) performed next.
Their four drummers and three dancers held a smudging ceremony and
performed traditional Huron-Wendat dances. Andicha n'de Wendat was chosen
to represent Canada at Folkloridas Internationales in Hungary this August
in the Authentic Group category.

Ballets Folkloriques Mexico-Magico returned again this year with their
representation of their rich south-central Mexican heritage. Up next was
Nuevo Amanecer, a folk troupe from Boliva which drew upon their Aymara and
Quechua traditions.

Capping off the performance was the local group the Thunder Hawks Dancers,
founded in 1995 by Mohawk sculptor Steve McComber. This group performs
their Mohawk ceremonies and dances extensively at conferences and cultural
events throughout Canada.

The festival was a great success said organizers. The mid-June weekend was
the first truly warm and summer-like weather Montreal had experienced.
Perhaps as a direct result of cabin fever, thousands of visitors found
their way out of their homes and came to the park to browse the crafts and
enjoy the demonstrations.