Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside welcomes Indigenous cultural sharing event

A four-day cultural sharing event that’s been described as an Indigenous TED Talk will be taking place in the heart of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside this weekend.

In the Beginning gives people a chance to reflect on the history of Vancouver and look at where Indigenous people stand today.

“We have to be 11 feet or 12 feet from the audience and then we need the screen we need to put it up for projection so that will be right in behind them,” said event co-creator Donna Spencer speaking to other co-creator Rosemary Georgeson as the women finished some last-minute preparations for the event, which runs until Nov. 7.

The idea is centered around a program called TED Talks which stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design. It’s run by a nonpartisan non-profit that shares ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks. 

Speakers such as Woodrow Morrison originally from Haida Gwaii will talk about what it was like for Indigenous people before contact, and chief Leah George Wilson from the T’sleil Waututh nation will also speak about how her people thrived and prospered off the land by utilizing Indigenous knowledge and traditions.

Georgeson is a storyteller and filmmaker with works in film, radio and theatre and says creating this platform is a dream come true for herself.

“These people that are participating in this they are all musicians, performers, playwrights, lawyers, activists, really strong powerful people. I’m looking forward to the conversations that we are going to get to hear,” Georgeson told APTN News.

Donna Spencer, artistic director at the Firehall Theatre, says this neighbourhood does have its issues such as homelessness and drug addiction – but its a community with a lot of heart and soul along with a storied history.

“We started to look at Indigenous history because we wanted to do a piece about the history of this neighbourhood and how the people connected into the firehall and we couldn’t find very much written history,” Spencer said.

“It’s not documented so we went looking and we thought well we got to go deeper as Rose said its kind of like digging into the midden and bringing those stories up.”

The Firehall Theatre is the site of In the Beginning: a Cultural Sharing, an event featuring some of the brightest minds in the Indigenous community.

It’s part of the 2020 DTES Heart of the City Festival.

Georgeson said sharing Indigenous stories is one of the most important topics of the event.

“You know our stories are the first stories here of this land this water our stories are not on the surface they are embedded right into mother earth.”

Because of the pandemic, only 50 people will be allowed into the theatre each night. The discussions will also be streamed at a later date.

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