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Tom Wilson Concert

Programs are being hosted by the Chippewas of Rama First Nation and St. Paul’s Centre and we are grateful to work collaboratively with the Gojijing Truth and Reconciliation Roundtable, Barrie Area Native Advisory Circle, Mamaway Wiidokdaadwin and the Simcoe District School Board and Reconciliation Canada.

Schedule of Events

Hosted by


Thursday, June 1st

Rama Community Hall

7:00 pm - 8:00 pm: JP Longboat’s Painted Story Canoe featuring work by Chief Lady Bird in collaboration with Mark Douglas

8:00 pm Sunset: JP Longboat’s Story Lodge, in collaboration with guest storytellers | Coffee and Tea served

Friday, June 2nd

St. Paul's Centre

7:00 pm: Welcome to St. Paul’s Ogimaa Miskwaaki Gallery


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Tom Wilson Concert

With Jesse O'Brien and Thompson Wilson. 

Including a Special Message from Jeff Monague

St. Paul's Centre

8:00 pm 


Saturday, June 3rd

John Snake Memorial Multi-Purpose Community Grounds

5:20 am: Sunrise Ceremony

Rama Community Hall​

7:00 -9:00 am: Community Breakfast - free! Please RSVP.

9:00 - 10:30 am: Block #1 with Sherry Lawson, Brenda Wastasecoot  and S.P. Joseph Lyons

BREAK - 10:30 - 10:45 am

10:45 am - 12:00 pm: Block #2 with Karen McBride and Tom Wilson

** Coffee, tea and snacks available for purchase throughout the morning

12:00 - 1:00 pm: Lunch for purchase on site.

1:00 -2:15 pm: Block #3 with Armand Garnet Ruffo and Leanne Betasamosake Simpson

BREAK - 2:15 - 2:30 pm

2:30 -3:30 pm: Community Learning/Truth & Reconciliation with Dr. Cynthia Wesley Esquimaux


BREAK - 3:30 - 3:45 pm

3:45 - 5:15 pm:  Block #4 with Amanda Peters and Michelle Good

5:15 - 5:30 pm: Closing Remarks by Sherry Lawson

** Coffee, tea and snacks available for purchase throughout the afternoon

St. Paul's Centre​

7:00 pm: Welcome to St. Paul’s Ogimaa Miskwaaki Gallery

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with vocalist Patricia Cano and saxophonist Marcus Ali

Tomson Highway Concert

St. Paul's Centre



Sunday, June 4th

St. Paul's Centre

10:30 am: Water Bundle Ceremony led by Elder John Rice and community

Couchiching Park

12:00 pm: Release of the Water Bundle at Gojijing - Lake Couchiching (Meet near the Champlain monument plinth)

LUNCH - (Bring a picnic)

1:00 - 3:00 pm: Awakening the Pathways: Stories On the Land - Invitation to visit the Story Lodge, Story Canoe, reflect on the bioregions Indigenous Living History, the Call to Action 83 art project, make a friendship bracelet with the Binoojiinyah Gaa-Bi-Giiwejig artists, and more.

*** We are heartened to share that the Elders, artists and presenters participating in this year’s 2023 festival will work in-person with over 400 Youth!

With Generous Contributions From 

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Tomson Highway Concert

Festival Guests

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Amanda Peters

Amanda Peters is a writer of Mi’kmaq and settler ancestry. Her work has appeared in the Antigonish Review, Grain Magazine, the Alaska Quarterly Review, the Dalhousie Review and Filling Station Magazine. She is the winner of the 2021 Indigenous Voices Award for Unpublished Prose and a participant in the 2021 Writers’ Trust Rising Stars program. A graduate of the Master of Fine Arts Program at the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Amanda Peters has a Certificate in Creative Writing from the University of Toronto. She lives in the Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia, with her fur babies, Holly and Pook. 

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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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Brenda Wastasecoot

Brenda Wastasecoot is from the York Factory Cree Nation in Manitoba. She is a mother, grandmother, and great-great Aunt of the Wastasecoot and Brightnose family. Their roots begin from the York Factory fur trading post, flowing south along the Hudson Bay railway to Winnipeg. Currently, Dr. Wastasecoot teaches at the University of Toronto, where she resides in Toronto. She consults with the Arts & Science Faculty members to better reflect the historic truth and to open doors to reconciliation. Dr. Wastasecoot’s doctoral dissertation is titled: Showing and Telling the Story of Nikis: Arts Based Auto-ethnographic Journeying of a Cree Adult Educator.  In telling the stories from a memory map of her childhood home in the 1960’s she exposes the impacts of the Residential School policy. Brenda is also the author of the children’s book Granny’s Giant Bannock. She is Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto’s Centre for Indigenous Studies. 

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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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Cynthia Wesley Esquimaux

In September 2016 Dr. Cynthia Wesley Esquimaux was appointed as the 1st Indigenous Chair for Truth and Reconciliation in Canada for Lakehead University and she continues to develop pathways forward to reconciliation across Canada. Cynthia is responsible for the development and implementation of the President’s Council for Truth and Reconciliation. She was the inaugural Nexen Chair for Indigenous Leadership at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity and remains a faculty member in the Indigenous Learning program. Cynthia was inducted as a “Honourary Witness” by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada in 2014, and is the Chair of the Governing Circle for the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at the University of Manitoba. She is a member and resident of the Chippewa of Georgina Island First Nation in Ontario. She is deeply committed to public education and active youth engagement from all cultures and backgrounds.

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JP Longboat

JP Longboat is a Storyteller, Multi-disciplinary Artist. He is Kanyen'kehà:ka (Mohawk), Turtle Clan, and grew up along the River Ouse, Haldimand Deed territory, Ontario. JP has a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree through combined education at the University of Michigan and the Ontario College of Art and Design. He has extensive professional training and practice in traditional and contemporary forms of visual art and live performance.

JP has trained, collaborated, and performed with many professional theatre and dance companies across Canada. His work emanates from the cultural ways of his people and his

creative process is grounded in the legacy of Haudenosaunee artistic practice. He is the founder and Associate Director of Circadia Indigena – Indigenous Arts Collective based in Algonquin territory, along the Kichi sibi at Akikodjiwan Falls. The collective creates full length performance works and land-based Multi-disciplinary festivals. He currently serves as Board Chair for the LodgePole Arts Alliance.

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Karen McBride

Karen McBride is an Algonquin Anishinaabe writer from the Timiskaming First Nation in the territory that is now Quebec. She holds a bachelor of arts in music and English, a bachelor of education from the University of Ottawa and a master of arts in creative writing from the University of Toronto. Karen works as an elementary school teacher on her home reserve. Crow Winter is her first novel. 

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Leanne Betasamosake Simpson

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson is a Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg writer, scholar, and musician, and a member of Alderville First Nation. She is the author of five previous books, including This Accident of Being Lost, which won the MacEwan Book of the Year and the Peterborough Arts Award for Outstanding Achievement by an Indigenous Author; was a finalist for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and the Trillium Book Award; was longlisted for CBC Canada Reads; and was named a best book of the year by the Globe and Mail, National Post, and Quill & Quire. She has released two albums, including f(l)ight, which is a companion piece to This Accident of Being Lost.

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Michelle Good

Michelle Good is a writer of Cree ancestry and a member of the Red Pheasant Cree Nation in Saskatchewan. After three decades of working with Indigenous communities and organizations, she obtained her law degree. She earned her MFA in creative writing at UBC while still practising law. Her novel, Five Little Indians, was nominated for the Writers’ Trust Award for Fiction and the Scotiabank Giller Prize. It received the HarperCollins/UBC Prize for Best New Fiction, the Amazon First Novel Award, the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize and the Governor General’s Award for Fiction. Five Little Indians was also chosen for Canada Reads 2022. Michelle Good’s poems, short stories and essays have been published in magazines and anthologies across Canada.


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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S.P. Joseph Lyons

S.P. Joseph Lyons is a best-selling author through He is the 2022/2023 recipient of the First Nations Communities Read, PMC Indigenous Literature Award for Little Bear in Foster Care, the first book in his Foster Care series. S.P. Joseph Lyons is also a novelist of other published works. His work has been featured in collaborative and charity publications.

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Tom Wilson

Tom Wilson was raised in the rough-and-tumble world of Hamilton - Steeltown, in the company of World War II vets, factory workers, fall -guy wrestlers and the deeply guarded secrets kept by his parents, Bunny and George. For decades Tom carved out a life for himself in the shadows. He built an international music career and became a father, he battled demons and addiction, and he waited, hoping for the lies to cease and the truth to emerge. It would. And when it did, it would sweep up the St. Lawrence River to the Mohawk reserves of Quebec, on to the heights of the Manhattan skyline. He is the author of the bestselling book Beautiful Scars: Steeltown Secrets, Mohawk Skywalkers and the Road Home. 

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Tomson Highway

Tomson Highway, award-winning playwright and the author of The Rez Sisters, Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing, Rose, and Kiss of the Fur Queen, was born in a tent near Maria Lake, Manitoba in 1951. A full-blood Cree, he is a registered member of the Barren Lands First Nation, the village for which is called Brochet. He earned his music degree and a Bachelor’s of Arts from the University of Western Ontario. He achieved national and international recognition in 1986 with his sixth play, the multi-award-winning The Rez Sisters.

For many years, he ran Canada’s premiere Native Theatre Company, Native Earth Performing Arts, in Toronto, out of which has emerged a generation of professional Native Theatre artists. He now splits his time between homes near Sudbury, Ontario and Gatineau, Quebec. 

His latest book, a memoir titled, Permanent Astonishment won the  Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Non-Fiction and was named a Globe & Mail Best Book. 

He was made a member of the Order of Canada in 1994 and is also the winner of the 2022 Governor General's Performing Arts Award.


Jeff Monague

Jeff  (Nikamowin) is a former Chief of the Beausoleil First Nation on Christian Island, former Director of Treaty Research with the Anishnabek (Union of Ontario Indians) and a Canadian Forces Veteran. Jeff Monague is an avid musician, singer and has taught Ojibwe language at the Simcoe County District School Board and Georgian College. He is an Elder and a knowledge keeper in his community.


Marcus Ali

Marcus Ali was born in Toronto to Trinidadian parents with a love of great music. A versatile musician who is equally at home in a wide range of genres, he has played on more than seventy albums on a variety of woodwinds.

He has performed, toured and recorded with dozens of artists including Nick Ali and Cruzao, Matt Dusk, Jason Wilson, Mr Something Something, and Tomson Highway. He has toured extensively across Canada as well as throughout the US, the UK, the Caribbean and Japan. 


Patricia Cano

Patricia Cano is a Peruvian Canadian singer and actress from SudburyOntario, most noted for her musical theatre performances in the stage musicals of Tomson Highway

Recording and performing a jazz-based style in EnglishFrench and Spanish she has released two albums as a solo artist, and won a Toronto Theatre Critics Award in 2017 as Best Actress in a Musical for her performance in a production of Highway's The (Post) Mistress.

In 2022 she performed the lead vocals on Cree Country, an album of original  country  songs written by Highway. 

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