Inuvik dedicates Fiddle and Flow Festival to N.W.T. wildfire evacuees

While Inuvik lifted its wildfire evacuation alert last Friday, the town went forward with its second weekend festival Fiddle and Flow.

“Music, I don’t know how to explain it, it brings me so much peace and joy just watching and playing,” said 19-year old guitar and accordion player Devon Notaina from the fly-in Beaufort Sea Inuvialuit coastal community of Ulukhaqtuuq (Ulukhaktok).

“Whoever is playing music, I encourage you to keep going,” he said.

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Devon Notaina of Ulukhaktok is beloved in the region for playing accordion. Photo: Karli Zschogner/APTN.

The Friday to Sunday festival brought in talent from across the Inuvialuit and Gwich’in settlement regions, for craft markets, a talent show, and jigging and fiddling contests.

“The whole goal behind it was during Covid, having a festival to bring people together, celebrating music, celebrating all of the entertainment in the Delta,” said co-organizer Jodi Day MacLeod, who said the festival was spearheaded by the Town of Inuvik’s former director of economic development and tourism Jackie Challis.

While the Beaufort Delta has been able to management nearby fires along with added rain days, much of south N.W.T. has had evacuation orders including the Yellowknife by last Friday.

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Organizers Jodi Day-MacLeod and Jackie Challis of Inuvik. Challis volunteered the weekend as her last days in Inuvik before moving away after being long-time Town of Inuvik Director of Economic Development and Tourism. Photo: Karli Zschogner/APTN.

“When things were getting to be an all-time high around the N.W.T, a few people brought up some very valid points and said that might be more of a reason to get together because we actually have a lot of people who are from Yellowknife who are here and waiting to go back when they can,” said MacLeod. “They were thrilled that this was happening and that they couldn’t believe how much at ease it made them feel.”

Inuvik youth fiddler Tyren Kisoun, who won third in the youth-to-adult fiddling contest, said he has an uncle that has evacuated from Hay River.

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Tyren Kisoun of Inuvik who played fiddle over the weekend said he first learned guitar from his former teacher and musician Abe Drennan. Photo: Karli Zschogner/APTN.

“It’s pretty scary,” he said. “We were pretty worried about him but everybody got out safe. That’s all that matters, as long as everybody’s okay. Everything’s replaceable. Material items are replaceable. Lives aren’t replaceable.”

Ethan Koe was a fiddle winner in Sunday’s fiddling contest for ages 15 and under. At the beginning of the year he was featured in the national youth music production initiative N’we Jinan in ‘Everlasting’ from youth from Teetl’it Zheh (Fort McPherson) and Tsiigehchic. He says these opportunities have helped him develop as a musician and gain confidence.

“I used to be shy, now that I’ve performed on stages at least like five times, now am I’m pro at it,” he jokes, and encourages other to also continue putting themselves out there.

“Just get up there on stage and you’ll be good. You’ll be set. You won’t be shy no more.”

Bernice Furlong of Inuvik said she’s been a long-time event organizer and from a family of Inuvialuit and Gwich’in musical talent. She said continuing investing in events as these are integral opportunities to people to develop leadership skills.

“All these young people that come forward, I’ve seen them from small and growing into adults performing and I just have a big heart for them because they’ve grown and they become confident, and then some of them become true leaders in the community,” she said.

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Ethan Koe of Fort McPherson and Tsiigehchic who was featured this year in the national music production N’we Jinan song ‘Everlasting’ one in youth 15 and under for fiddling. Photo: Karli Zschogner/APTN.

“And that’s what it’s all about being strong for your community to be able to participate in your community and try to make your community healthy because that’s what we’re trying to do here we have so many people that struggle in life, and we try to have to try to help them along the way.”

She said she thinks of friends and family going through wildfire evacuations.

“I send all my prayers and I hope everyone is well that has been evacuated. I hope you’re getting assistance. You know, go to your go to your [Inuvialuit Community Corporation] office or your [Gwich’in Tribal Council] office or the government.”

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Bernice Furlong outside Inuvik Chief Koe Park at the show. Photo: Karli Zschogner/APTN.

“There’s help out there and I just wish you all get home safely to your homes.”

Fiddle and Flow organizers set up a 50/50 program and raised over $350 for the United Way NWT Fire Emergency Response Fund.

Read More:

N.W.T. government working to provide some reimbursements for evacuees 

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