Having worked in the media for about 20 years, some of the Harbourfront Centre’s Planet IndigenUS 2012′s roster names are old friends. Santee Smith, Derek Miller, and Jennifer Podemski were starting their careers when I covered them in Aboriginal Voices magazine about 15 years ago. I followed their careers as mine moved to Washington D.C. to work as managing editor of the Smithsonian’s American Indian magazine. In 2004, Santee landed the cover of the American Indian magazine to commemorate the opening of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, the same year that Planet IndigenUS was born. This year, Planet IndigenUs, a 10-day festival, boasts an unrivaled amount of artistry from the world’s Indigenous peoples to behold at Toronto’s downtown waterfront and at the Woodland Cultural Centre near Brantford, ON, during August 10 – 19, 2012.
Today, as president of Knapp Media, I’m poring over the Planet IndigenUS website to plan my schedule of acts to blog about. Quite a few stand out. The North American premiere of Susuriwka – Willow Bridge (August 17 – 19, Fleck Dance Theatre) and the Robbie Robertson Tribute Show featuring Derek Miller and Special Guests (August 17, WestJet Stage) are must-see events. I can’t wait for Celebrating the Crossroads – Opening Night Spectacle featuring Plex (award-wining hip hop artist), Digging Roots, Kinnie Star, and George Leach produced by Jennifer Podemski. The Breaking Wind, a young band from Six Nations and Caledonia, promise to rock the house (August 19, 2 p.m., WiijiiNiijii Lodge). I just invited a couple hundred of my Facebook friends to the Native Fashion Show (August 18, 3 p.m. WiijiiNiijii Lodge) featuring Bruno Henry, TAWNTO, and Tracy Toulouse.
From now until festival’s end, I will be blogging about my adventures with the Planet IndigenUS artists. I was on the advisory committee for Planet IndigenUs in 2004. Back then, we discussed how many names academia and the media use to identify us, names like Aboriginal, Indian, Native, Indigenous, and yes, even, Autochthonous. Indigenous means “from this place.” What if we stepped back from the earth and looked down? From that point of view, could we as human beings all be seen as indigenous from this planet? If so, could we name the festival, Planet IndigenUS, to show that we are all from this place? That’s a version of how the advisory committee came up with the festival name. The calibre of artistry that will grace Harbourfront Centre shortly makes me proud to be from here.