First Nations family a big part of this year’s Festival du Voyageur celebrations

A Cree sculptor is representing a Manitoba First Nation during this year’s Festival du Voyageur’s international snow sculpture symposium – a first in the Winnipeg festival’s 51-year history, according to organizers.

Wayne Stranger is carving on behalf of his home community Peguis First Nation during the symposium – a decision that was only made last week.

“It took about two seconds to say, ‘yeah I’ll do it,’ even though I haven’t done it before,” said Stranger.

The artist has been an accomplished bronze sculptor for the past 30 years.

This new endeavour hasn’t been without it’s challenges.

Stranger is used to working with extreme heat but extreme cold has been a “big switch.”

This week temperatures in Winnipeg dropped to -30C. Carvers began working on Wednesday but were limited on what they could do because of the weather.

Stranger’s piece is called “Return from the Mountain” and it’s based off of a Sundance story an Elder told him decades prior.

“The Elder spoke of a time when the buffalo went away into the mountain when Europeans first came and colonialism kind of took hold. [The buffalo] went into the mountain to protect our teachings…the Elder said we’re of that time where the buffalo are coming back from the mountain now and bringing those teachings back to the people,” said Stranger.

These histories and teachings are something festival organizers have committed to promoting this year by hiring more First Nations, Metis and Inuit artists and musicians.

The festival has had a number of Indigenous people participate in the snow sculpture symposium over the years in various teams but their teams have always been under the province they were from, organizers said.

The organization also created the position of Indigenous initiatives coordinator to help create and promote programming.

Being part of the festival has become a family affair for Stranger.

His son, Jordan Stranger, designed this year’s logo.

“Just to have my father be a part of the festival as well and take part as an artist it really shows a lot of value on family that they focus on here,” said the younger Stranger. “That to me is very good.”

The Oji-Cree graphic designer was hired last summer to begin work on the logo. Within a month he had a finalized piece, which intertwines francophone and Indigenous culture with the use of the historic former trading post Fort Gibraltar and Indigenous symbols like the teepee, a four directions cross and fire.

“Fire, it’s just such a spiritual thing,” said Jordan.

“For me to be a part of this process and to have my work be the face of their festival is tremendous. It’s an honour and I’m very humbled.”

A live art installation from Jaime Black, a Métis artist and creator of The REDress Project, and a pop up culinary experience are some of the events taking place along with Festival favourites like the jigging competition.

Festival du Voyageur runs from Feb. 14-23.

Correction: A previous version of this article stated Wayne Stranger was the first First Nations man to participate in the snow sculpture symposium. APTN later learned he is the first sculptor to enter on behalf of his First Nation. In past years the Indigenous sculptors entered on behalf on the province they were from.

Reporter / Winnipeg

Brittany joined the APTN news team in October 2016. She is Ojibway and a member of the Long Plain First Nation in Manitoba. Before coming to APTN, she graduated with a joint degree in communications from the University of Winnipeg and Red River College.


4 thoughts on “First Nations family a big part of this year’s Festival du Voyageur celebrations

  1. l Herbert Daniels was first indigenous snow sculptor at festival.in 1991. i also am member of Peguis first nation and it was also my first time entering a snow sculpture contest. i won second. My team consisted of my wife Elizabeth Daniels, and two step-daughters Tanya White and Dallas Sparklingeyes. we entered as and worked as a family unit. i give credit where credit is due for i could not have accomplished it without their support. Winnipeg Free Press ran full page of me and my presentations on Saturday edition of me and my wifes presentations that year. dallas was on cover of WHERE MAGAZINE THAT YEAR FOR THAT MONTH .

    In 1998 i entered a team consisting of Herbert Daniels, Dallas Sparklingeyes, and Colleen Prince. We won first and the right to represent Canada the next year and were supposed to get full sponsorship food and accommadations as we travelled from Alberta to Winnipeg on our own dime in 1998 to compete. We were told if we won we would receive benefits the next year by festival organizers, at that time. festival reneged on that promise. but i brought a team from Alberta, to defend our championship. consisting of me and my wife, again on our own dime. and i went to the press and they ran the story at that time, Weetamah i believe. SYLVIA kUZICK ALSO INTERVIEWED US IN FRONT OF OUR COMPLETED SCULPTURE. LIVE FOR EVENING NEWS WHEN JUDGING COMPLETED.

    MARLOWE COCHRANE, OF FISHER RIVER ALSO STOPPED BY AND TOOK PICTURES. MARLOWE WAS POLICE OFFICER FOR FISHER RIVER.AT THAT TIME AND I HADN’T SEEN HIM FOR YEARS. WE BOTH HAD A LOT OF LIFE CHANGING EVENTS.

    I SPENT AN HOUR AND A HALF REVIEWING DOCUMENTS OVER LEGALITIES AND COURSE ;OF ACTION LEFT TO US TO RECTIFY THIS SITUATION . I PLACED A CALL TO APTN AND ONLY GOT VOICEMAIL BUT MADE SURE I DIRECTED IT TOWARDS BHOBSON YESTERDAY AND AS OF THIS HOUR ON FRIDAY AND HOW THIS IS IMPACTING OUR REPUTATION. I AM NOT TRYING TO TARNISH WAYNE STRANGERS ENDEAVOR INTO THIS FIELD BUT THE FACT REMAINS HE WAS NOT FIRST INDIGENOUS SNOW SCULPTOR TO PARTICIPATE AT FESTIVAL.WHEN I TALKED WITH B HOBSON EARLIER IN THE WEEK SHE SAID SHE DID STORY ON INFORMATION FESTIVAL HAD PROVIDED.

    I STILL WANT CLARIFICATION FROM APTN CORRECTING THIS NEWSCAST, AS IT IS IMPACTING MY FAMILY AND FRIENDS IN A NEGATIVE FASHION AND EMBARRASSMENT AND CONFUSION ON A WIDE SCALE AS PEOPLE QUESTION WHETHER WE WERE FIRST AND IF WE DID WIN, AND EVEN IF WE DID COM;PETE.

  2. i won second the first time i entered at festival du voyageur in 1991 and my team won first in 1998. i also am a Peguis member but wayne stranger is NOT FIRST INDIGENOUS SCULPTOR to compete there. i also performed red river jig at 88 olympics in calgary nightly, and was square dancer at First and Second Metis pavillion during Folklarama

  3. i have news items i saved from wpg free press to verify participation at festival de voyageur, and western wheel paper from Okotoks our win in 1998 verifying

  4. wayne stranger was not the first indigenous first nation member from Peguis to compete in the snow sculpture competition at the festival du voyageur. I, Herbert Daniels won second the first time i entered in 1991, My team consisted of my wife Elizabeth Daniels, daughters Dallas Sparklingeyes and Tanya White. THIS WAS MY FIRST TIME SNOW SCULPTING ALSO.

    WE ALSO DID DEMONSTRATIONS ON TRADITIONAL BRAIN TANNING AND VARIOUS ARTS AND CRAFTS LIKE BIRCH BARK BASKETRY RED WILLOW BASKETRY, SOAPSTONE AND ALABASTER CARVING, BEADWORK,FISH SCALE WORK, MUKLUK AND MOCCASIN MAKINGAND TAUGHT OLD TYME DANCE WORKSHOPS.

    The team i entered from Alberta, consisting of myself, Colleen Prince, and Dallas Sparklingeyes, won first place in 1998. we were interviewed by Sylvia Kuzick in front of of sculpture entitled`Wayseekeejak and the northern lights“.Wayseekeejak came across dancers and he admired their dancing, so he asked them to teach him to dance. he was not a good student, and when they made fun of his dancing he became angry. He took them and threw them into the Nothern sky and proclaimed YOU WILL DANCE HERE FOR ETERNITY.

    i also competed in Breckenridge Colorado …Ely Minnisota …AND fFankenmuth Michigan in snow sculpting

    ALL of this can be verified by by winnipeg free press and cfcn tv.

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