It’s only been around for a few years, but in that short time the Aboriginal Cultural Village has become a deeply-rooted feature of Penticton’s Peach Festival.
“It started on that main stage four years ago, when I was asked to co-ordinate an opening ceremony honouring the Okanagan Territory,” said Kym Gouchie, a First Nations performer and Peachfest director. “I said, ‘How about not just the opening ceremony, how about an opening evening of aboriginal entertainment?’”
From that start, grew the Aboriginal Cultural Village, which is now ensconced in Gyro Park and featured two days of entertainment this year, with two dozen aboriginal artists on the main stage as well as a powwow.
Gouchie said that because of the work she does in the community with youth, music and culture, many of the participants are drawn from her wide circle of contacts.
“Pretty much 90 per cent of the people that were on the stage or helping out are people that I know personally,” she said. “It really is a community collaboration.”
And being tied in with Peachfest, Gouchie said the event effects both the community and the nation, helping to undo negative stereotypes about aboriginal peoples.
“It’s fantastic to be able to hear and see firsthand non-aboriginal people saying, ‘Wow, you people have an amazing culture. The regalia was beautiful, the drumming,’” said Gouchie, adding that they work hard to keep the event an authentic experience.
That also means finding the right people to help out, like calling on Elaine Alec and Arnie Baptiste to organize the powwow.
“Elaine pulled together her own crew and really, the success of the powwow was her doing,” said Gouchie. “I don’t want to fall backwards in any way, I want to keep moving forward and growing and have the right people in those key roles.”
Her committee has met to start planning for next year, as well as to celebrate and share stories about last weekend.
“Everybody is excited, we know that this is going to grow into something probably bigger than Gyro Park, and we’re getting prepared for that,” said Gouchie.