Great entertainment, perfect weather, and sharing the many cultures that make Canada great were all part of the first ever Festival Multiculturel de Hawkesbury from June 30 to July 3. 

On the evening of June 30, opening ceremonies with a strong Indigenous influence were held on the main stage downtown at Place des Pionniers. Indigenous dancing and singing with representation of Mohawk, Ojibwe, Métis, Inuit, Dene, and Aztec people set the three-day festival in motion.  

Nina Segalowitz, who is Dene and Inuit originally from Fort Smith, Northwest Territories but now lives in Chateauguay performed Inuit throat-singing at the opening ceremony. She remarked how many of the songs and dances being performed that evening would have landed Indigenous people in jail more than 50 or 60 years ago because they were forbidden. 

Gabriel Garcia of Calumet, who is Mexica (Aztec), an Indigenous nation of Mexico, gave spectators an insight into his culture through words and sounds which included a drum and blowing on a conch shell.  

Nicole Gagnier, whose Mohawk name is Karonhienhawa (she who holds the sky), and her daughter Sage Harrington/Ie’satstenhaserenhawi (she carries the strength) are both from Kanesetake. They also sang and performed with drums at the opening ceremony.  

Al Harrington, whose Ojibwe name is Wabskimiikwaan and is originally from Northern Ontario, also lives in Kanesetake, danced and spoke at the opening of the festival. As the performers gathered on stage with members of Hawkesbury Town Council and municipal staff, tobacco was exchanged between the Indigenous people and the municipal officials. Wabskimiikwaan explained how tobacco has a deep significance for Indigenous people. 

“That was the first tool used in trading, it was tobacco.” 

“That was money,” remarked Wabskimiikwaan. 

Mayor Paula Assaly spoke joyfully as the festival was opened. 

“Hawkesbury is truly proud to have this new multicultural festival,” she said.  

Assaly said the festival would be a demonstration of community spirit that brought residents and non-residents together and establish links between newcomers and their host community. She also gave one instruction to the community for the festival. 

“Hawkesbury, enjoy yourself!” 

Glengarry-Prescott-Russell Member of Parliament Francis Drouin commented he appreciated how the opening ceremony was an effort to show reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. 

Once the opening ceremony was over, Hawkesbury indeed showed it can enjoy itself when The Box, that night’s headline act, performed. 

Dances, music, and regalia of five Indigenous nations were displayed during the opening ceremonies of the Festival multiculturel de Hawkesbury. Shown here are Gabriel Garcia (Mexica/Aztec) of Mexico, Al Harrington/Wabskimiikwaan (Ojibwe) of Northern Ontario, Ruth Séguin of Fournier (Oueskarini Métis) of the Outaouais (in white regalia). On stage, singing and drumming from left to right are Nicole Gagnier/Karonhienhawa (Mohawk), Sage Harrington/Ie’satstenhserenhawi (Mohawk), and Nina Segalowitz (Dene/Inuit). Photo: James Morgan

Al Harrington/ Wabskimiikwaan performed and spoke in full Ojibwe regalia at the opening of the Festival Multiculturel de Hawkesbury. Photo: James Morgan

Sage Harrington/Ie’satstenhserenhawi, Nicole Gagnier/Karonhienhawa, and Nina Segalowitz performing at the Festival Multiculturel de Hawkesbury opening ceremony. Photo: James Morgan

Indigenous performers, members of Hawkesbury Town Council, MP Francis Drouin, and municipal staff cutting the ribbon to open the Festival Multiculturel de Hawkesbury at Place des Pionnier on June 30. Photo: James Morgan