Concert at Tk’emlups te Secwepemc aims to ‘bridge a gap between cultures’

Welcoming hundreds of people into the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Powwow Arbour last week, Kúkwpi7 Rosanne Casimir spoke about the importance of building relationships.

“Here, this arbour and these grounds are a sacred space that continues to fill our spirit with energy that is always going to continue to build and preserve relationships,” she said.

“It’s about maintaining our Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc hospitable reputation, sharing the culture with people.”

With Casimir’s words — the second annual “Music for the People — A Cultural Experience” concert began on Sept. 17.

The event has a goal of bringing Indigenous and non-Indigenous people together through music and culture.

It included performances by the Margit Sky Project, Sage Hills Singers, Drummers and Dancers, and the Kamloops Symphony Orchestra.

To encourage as many people as possible to participate, this year’s event was free but donations were encouraged, with all proceeds going to the Indian Residential School Survivors Society (IRSSS).

Music for the People was founded by Rod Little Sky Bandura and Margit Gossage, the duo behind the folk-rock group The Margit Sky Project.

The couple launched the event last year to help the community heal from the traumas caused by these colonial institutions and “bridge a gap between cultures,” Gossage, who is non-Indigenous, said. “Their vision is for the voices of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to come together to share culture, music, and story and to also bring harmony and reconciliation to community,” emcee Ryan Deneault told the audience.

After having their first event at the Kamloops Sagebrush Theatre, Bandura and Gossage wanted the event to be more accessible, so with community support, they were able to put on this year’s event at the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Powwow Arbour for an estimated 800 people.

Regarding the location’s significance, Rod mentioned that his mother attended the former Kamloops Indian Residential School (KIRS) — being taken from her home at age seven and spending eight years at the “school.”

Margit said that they knew “right out of the gate” that the funds would go towards the IRSSS since it’s a cause “close to our hearts.”

During a performance of I Mourn, which was written by Rod Bandura and Terrance Armstrong, there was an impactful slideshow of images featuring KIRS. The Margit Sky Project currently has an official music video to the song with these images on their YouTube channel.

Then, as an uplifting moment during the musician’s 15-minute intermission, Secwe̓pemc storyteller Kenthen Thomas came onstage to tell the story of how suckerfish came to be, with laughter ringing out during his time onstage.

When speaking of the idea for these performances, Margit said, it allows people to see a performance they may not see anywhere else.

“We’re grateful for the community support,” she said.

As the evening was ending, the organizers announced Music for the People would continue to be an annual event that aims to “foster cultural understanding and reconciliation through music.”

Dionne Phillips, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Wren