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Manito Ahbee Festival Churns Toward Aboriginal People's Choice Music Awards

Singers Ali Fontaine, Gabriel Ayala and other stars are on hand in Manitoba this week for the sixth annual Manito Ahbee Festival, the lead-up to the Aboriginal Peoples Choice Music Awards to be given out on November 4.

Many of the nominees will perform during the five-day celebration of aboriginal music, art and culture, including Ayala, a contender for Best Folk/Acoustic CD and Best Instrumental.

But there are a myriad of events to showcase the talents and skills of First Nations and American Indian artists from all around Turtle Island.

From the first round of the Aboriginal People’s Choice Music Awards (APCMAs) at the RBC Ohshkii Awards Night on November 3, which is Education Day, to the Red Carpet Event and the main event—the Aboriginal Peoples Choice Awards themselves—November 4, and the International Competition Pow Wow and the Indigenous Marketplace and Trade Show on November 5, the week promises to be energy-filled and inspirational.

“We’re happy to be kicking off our sixth festival today,” said Lisa Meeches, chair of the Manito Ahbee Board of Governors in a statement at a press conference kicking off the events. “Our goal each year is to bring people together, so we hope you will come out and enjoy the celebration of Aboriginal music, art and culture.”

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Fontaine, a young musical artist from the Sagkeeng First Nation, received the Most Outstanding Manitoban Award at the press conference, given annually to an emerging aboriginal artist.

Performing and writing songs since she was eight, Fontaine has been recognized for such accomplishments as winning at the 2010 NCI Jam Contest at age 16 for her song “Hey,” snagging a spot on the Manitoba Star Attractions Talent Showcase 2010 compilation CD, and releasing her debut self-titled album in June.

Among the attendees of the kickoff event was Ayala, who recently won Artist of the Year at the Native American Music Awards.

"It was great; they had a traditional opening to the event and brought in an Eagle staff,” said Ayala, already an award winner at the Native American Music Awards, for Artist of the Year. “They sang a traditional song and they also had a singer from this area.”

Ayala reveled in being among such a great showing of Native people. (Check out some of the nominee videos here.)

“It is great and exciting to be up here. It is my fourth time at this festival, and hopefully they will keep inviting me back,” he said. “I sure would love to bring an award home.”