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Schedule of Events

Friday, May 31st

Rama Community Hall

7:00 pm: Welcome Circle with Rama Leaders, Elders, and Guest Speakers

8:00 pm: Concert - DJ Boogey the Beat (Les Boulanger)

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• Coffee, tea, and snacks available throughout the afternoon

Saturday, June 1st

Victoria Park

5:20 am: Sunrise Circle

Rama Community Hall

7:30 - 9:00 am: Community Breakfast

9:00 - 10:30 am: Sherry Lawson & Chief Lady Bird

10:30 - 10:45 am: Break

10:45am - 12:00 pm: Keesic Douglas & Binoojiinyag gaa bi giiwejig - Children Who Came Home

12:00 - 1:00 pm: Lunch (for purchase at Rama Community Hall)

1:00 - 2:00 pm: Indigenous Governance - Christa Big Canoe & Julie Williams

2:00 - 3:15 pm: Armand Garnet Ruffo & Brandon Reid

3:15 - 3:45 pm: Break

3:45 - 5:00 pm: Alicia Elliott & Drew Hayden Taylor

5:00 pm: Closing Remarks by Kate Hilliard (Arts Orillia) & Sherry Lawson before the Traveling Song

  • Arts Orillia is proud to bring our guest speakers to local elementary and secondary schools as part of Gathering: Festival of First Nations Stories

All events are free of charge. Gathering is made possible through public funding, private donors, and sponsorships. Donations are welcome.

With Generous Contributions From 

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Festival Guests

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Alicia Elliott

Alicia Elliott is a Mohawk writer and editor living in Brantford, Ontario. She has written for The Globe and Mail, CBC, Hazlitt, and many others. She’s had numerous essays nominated for National Magazine Awards, winning gold in 2017 and an honorable mention in 2020. Her short fiction was selected for The Best American Short Stories 2018, Best Canadian Stories 2018, and The Journey Prize Stories 30. Alicia was chosen by Tanya Talaga as the 2018 recipient of the RBC Taylor Emerging Writer Award. Her first book, A Mind Spread Out on the Ground, was a national bestseller in Canada. It was also nominated for the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction and won the Forest of Reading Evergreen Award. Her latest novel And Then She Fell is a mind-bending, gripping exploration of Native life, motherhood and mental health that follows a young Mohawk woman who discovers that the picture-perfect life she always hoped for may have horrifying consequences. It was longlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction and was named a Globe and Mail and CBC Best Book of the Year. 

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Armand Garnet Ruffo

Armand Garnet Ruffo’s research and writing intersect creatively with his Ojibwe culture. He recently co-edited a new edition of The Oxford Anthology of Indigenous Literature. He also published a wide-ranging book of observations called Treaty # which was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award in 2019. He wrote a libretto for a musical called Sounding Thunder: the Song of Francis Pegahmagabow, which is based on the real life experiences of an acclaimed Ojibwe WW I sniper. He is also the author non-fiction biographies of Grey Owl: the Mystery of Archie Belaney and Norval Morrisseau: Man Changing Into Thunderbird which was also shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award. He is also an accomplished filmmaker. He is the National Scholar in Indigenous Literature at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario where he teaches Creative Writing.

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Brandon Reid

Brandon Reid holds a B.Ed. from UBC with a specialization in Indigenous education, and a journalism diploma from Langara College. His work has been published in the Barely South Review, the Richmond Review and The Province. He is a member of the Heiltsuk First Nation, with a mix of Indigenous and English ancestry. He resides in Richmond, BC, where he works as a TTOC. In his spare time, he enjoys cooking, playing music and listening to comedy podcasts. His debut novel, Beautiful Beautiful, was published with Nightwood Editions in fall 2023.


Chief Lady Bird

Chief Lady Bird is a Chippewa and Potawatomi artist from Rama First Nation and Moosedeer Point First Nation. She holds a BFA in Drawing and Painting and a minor in Indigenous Visual Culture from OCAD University. She spent many years living and working in Toronto but has recently returned to Rama where she lives with her partner and step-kids; she is currently involved with the Rama Harvester's Group which assesses the environmental needs of her community in regards to climate change, invasive species, food sovereignty and security, and harvesting/treaty rights, which informs and inspires much of her work. Through her art practice, Chief Lady Bird aims to empower and uplift Indigenous people through the subversion of colonial narratives and use of technology to express the nuances of Anishinaabe worldviews to a global audience.
Chief Lady Bird was the recipient of the Donna Mclean Award for Portraiture in 2015 and the Leading Women Building Communities Recognition Award in 2017. She is well-known for her large scale spray paint murals throughout the GTA but has most recently turned to digital art. She has been creating vinyl murals for local organizations in Rama and Toronto, and will soon have one installed at the Art Gallery of Ontario. She is currently illustrating her fourth children's book, with these notable books already under her belt: Nibi's Water Song, Together We Drum Our Hearts Beat As One, and Smile So Big. Her animated short film Heart Like A Pow Wow can be viewed on CBC Gem, as part of the How To Lose Everything series. Her work and life can be found on Instagram @chiefladybird.

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Christa Big Canoe

Christa Big Canoe is an Anishinabek woman, mother and lawyer. She is from Georgina Island First Nation. She has been the Legal Director of Aboriginal Legal Services since 2011.  She took a 2.5 year leave of absence to be senior and then Lead Commission Counsel to the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Christa has been before all levels of court, including the Supreme Court of Canada. She represents families at Inquests and has been before various tribunals providing Indigenous perspective and representation. She passionately advocates for Indigenous women and children.


DJ Boogey the Beat (Les Boulanger)

For years Anishinaabe DJ and producer Les Boulanger — known by audiences as Boogey the Beat — has toiled behind the scenes, laying the sonic foundations for other musicians’ anthems. As a longtime lover of hip-hop and rap, collaboration is his comfort zone. He’s worked with the likes of The Halluci Nation (formerly a Tribe Called Red) and Snotty Nose Rez Kids, playing stages across Turtle Island.

In homage to the sounds of a sundance, Boogey builds each song around a percussive heartbeat, then adds vocals and other instruments, letting the drum lead the way. He remembers walking up to one of his first childhood pow wows and hearing the big drum, a guiding force that stays with him today. 

While he hopes his music will resonate with revellers from all walks of life, he beams at the thought of Indigenous youth hearing pow wow and sundance songs for the first time at one of his shows. 

“It’s important to not forget that at one time it was illegal for us to sing these songs, play these drums, and go to these ceremonies,” he says. “Now it’s a time for celebration, and for us to take over the main stage.”

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Drew Hayden Taylor

Drew Hayden Taylor is Anishnawbe/Ojibway from the Curve Lake First Nation in Ontario and an award-winning playwright, journalist, short-story writer, novelist, commentator, scriptwriter and documentarian. As a writer/creator, he strives to educate and inform about issues that interfere with, reflect on and celebrate the lives of Canada’s First Nations.

Taylor has authored over 30 books, including Chasing Painted Horses, which won the 2020 PMC Indigenous Literature Award. He edits the series that considers First Nations’ lives through the themes of Me Funny, Me Sexy and Me Artsy, with the latest instalment Me Tomorrow: Indigenous Views on the Future in 2021 (Douglas & McIntyre) and has been nominated for two Governor General’s Awards. Taylor lives on the Curve Lake First Nation and in Toronto, ON.


Julie Williams

Julie is Ojibway of the Fish clan of Rama First Nation. As a lifelong learner her education approach has been to balance formal euro-centric academic learning with Indigenous knowledges. She is a historian and has built a career in First Nations policy and governance. Her latest work is historical research on the traditional governance of Rama First Nation.

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Keesic Douglas

Keesic Douglas is an Ojibway artist from Rama First Nation. His practice utilizes photography, video and performance focusing on themes of exploring history, identity, representation, and the environment through an Indigenous perspective. Keesic’s work has been exhibited both across Canada and internationally. His work has been shown in solo exhibitions in Winnipeg, Toronto and recently the Orillia Museum of Art & History as well as group exhibitions in Budapest, Prague, Mexico, Vancouver, Montreal,Toronto and New York City. In 2009 his video War Pony screened at the Berlin International Film Festival in Germany. His short film The Vanishing Trace won best short documentary at the imagineNATIVE Film Festival in 2007. In the summer of 2014, his work was exhibited as part of Before and After the Horizon: Anishnabek Artists of the Great Lakes at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Keesic graduated with a BFA from OCAD in 2008 where he won the medal for photography and completed his MFA at UBC in Vancouver BC in 2010.


Sherry Lawson

Sherry Lawson grew up on Rama Reserve near Orillia, Ontario in the lean 50’s and 60’s.   Her father and his mother were a wealth of knowledge on topics of Native People, history, language and culture, and she thrived under their tutelage. Sherry never meant to be an author but turning fifty convinced her to leave a record for her children and grand-children. Sherry’s stories take us through a chaotic childhood and instances as a young adult of outright racism.  There are tears and laughter, just like in real life.     Sherry’s professional life took her from the halls of justice to helping deliver a breakfast program in area schools, from improving library and literacy services to First Nations communities,  to speaking to audiences large and small, about how things used to be B.C. (Before casino). She was fortunate to travel the world with her late husband Rob and has two accomplished, grown children. Sherry likes to describe herself this way: wife, mother, community member and Nookomis (Grandmother). She is at work on the fourth collection of her Stories From My Life series.

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