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Artists jump at chance to celebrate Indigenous culture at music festival near Salmon Arm

Pellsquepts Spring Winds Music Festival takes place at Pierre’s Point on March 18
Juno award-winner George Leach will be performing at the Pellsquepts Spring Winds Music Festival at Pierre’s Point on Saturday, March 18, 2023. (File photo)

Celebrations of Indigenous culture need not be limited to one day.

This was part of the thought process behind the recently announced Pellsquepts Spring Winds Music Festival, which is taking place west of Salmon Arm at Pierre’s Point on Saturday, March 18.

Organized by the Salmon Arm Folk Music Society (SAFMS), the new, all-ages free festival features a host of Indigenous talent.

Secwepémc storyteller and SAFMS Indigenous and youth coordinator Kenthen Thomas said it was initially thought the festival could take place on Indigenous Day, June 21. However, all the big acts were already booked, and “we realized we’d be fighting for pretty much scraps.”

“So we said well, every day is pretty much Indigenous day, you know, especially for the Secwepémc people… so we thought let’s just do it as quickly as we can and see what we can put together.”

The idea for the event comes from one of the 94 Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, said Thomas, to ensure local Indigenous people are acknowledged.

“As part of that, the music society is to try and put on an event that would highlight some local talent and really showcase the Indigeneity of the peoples of this land,” said Thomas, explaining how over the course of about six months, he and the SAFMS were able to land an impressive lineup of entertainment.

“We managed to score some big acts like George Leach, The Melawmen Collective, who are out of the Ashcroft area – they’re also booked for this summer’s ROOTSandBLUES,” said Thomas. “We also managed to land DerRic Starlight –He works with the Fraggles and he’s worked with the Muppets. He’s a fantastic puppeteer and a great comedian.

“We also landed a local up-and-coming kid, his name is Rain August, and his family is out of Squilax but he’s out of Chilliwack, he has Secwepémc roots. And then we have a powwow dancing group (Bernice Jensen & Pow Wow Crew) who are going to do an exhibition for us, and then we have the St’at’imc Bear Dancers. We were able to land all that and have a full afternoon of events and just great entertainment… and it’s all free.”

Vendors and food trucks are also going to be on site.

“We’ll also have a caterer there who will be providing some stew and some bread for us,” said Thomas. “As Indigenous people, we always like to feed people when they come into our homes, and that doesn’t change with an event like this.”

Thomas said he and the SAFMS are grateful for everyone who has agreed to take part in the event, adding the fact the folk music society is behind it was a draw for artists.

“It wasn’t too hard to reel them in once they heard I had the support of the folk music society because they know it’s a world class organization that puts on a fantastic festival every year,” said Thomas.

Read more: Indigenous culture to be celebrated in new music festival taking place near Salmon Arm

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Asked who he’s looking forward to seeing, Thomas mentioned Starlight, who will be doing two performances, “and of course George Leach and Melawmen Collective. I have never seen the bear dancers, but I’ve seen Bernice Jensen’s act in Tsúswecw Park in Lee Creek during the salmon festival – she brought her crew there…. they were fantastic.”

Despite being busy behind the scenes and also with some MC work the day of the event, Thomas said he would also be ready and able to take the stage if and when needed.

“I will definitely get up and share a quick little story with everyone to keep everyone engaged and interested and hopefully get everyone hyped up for the next act,” said Thomas. “If the opportunity arises, I’ll never shirk away from telling a good story.”

Asked if this is an inaugural event, Thomas said the SAFM would like to see something happen on a yearly basis.

“Once we’re done this one we’ll evaluate and re-evaluate and we’ll never throw anything out the window,” said Thomas. “For sure, to bring together a lot of people to really see the beauty of Indigenous culture, traditions and song and dance and all of that, all combined in one, will be an amazing day.”

Made possible thanks to the support of PacifiCan and the Government of Canada, the one-day-only event runs from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, March 18, at 2471 Pierre’s Point Rd. near Salmon Arm.

For more information about the Pellsqepts Spring Winds Music Festival and the 31st annual ROOTSandBLUES Festival this summer, visit the SAFMS online at or call 250-833-4096.
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Lachlan Labere

About the Author: Lachlan Labere

Editor, Salmon Arm Observer
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