The Indigenous Resource Centre was filled with wonder, laughter, music and applause June 21 as storyteller and teacher Basil Johnson and musician Greg Ritchie were honoured with the 2013 Ontario Arts Council Aboriginal Arts Award. The event was part of National Aboriginal Day celebrations at the Barrie Campus and across the country.
Ontario Arts Council Director and CEO Peter Caldwell presented the awards. Johnston, a member of the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation, was honored for his decades-long dedication to the celebration and preservation of Anishinabe heritage. His writings include memoirs, short stories and collections of traditional Objibwe tales.
He enthralled the audience with a short story about the inspiration that nature has provided him for more than 80 years, and he encouraged everyone-especially young people-to get outdoors and “listen” to the stories that birds, insects and trees have to share with human beings. Johnston also donated materials to Georgian College that will be invaluable resources for the new Anishnaabemowin Language Programming program that begins this fall at the Barrie Campus.
Created in 2012, the Ontario Arts Council Aboriginal Arts Award celebrates the work of Aboriginal arts leaders who have made significant contributions to the arts in Ontario. Johnston requested that the award ceremony be held at Georgian’s Indigenous Resource Centre because of the close connections that have been built between the centre’s staff and faculty and Aboriginal communities throughout the region.
The award also honours the next generation-each recipient is invited to nominate an emerging Aboriginal artist. Johnston selected musician Greg Ritchie as this year’s emerging Aboriginal artist.
Ritchie, from Saugeen First Nation, is a self-taught musician who grew up playing music in church. He plays a variety of instruments, including drums, bass and piano, but his favourite instrument in the guitar. He and vocalist Nina Folino performed fiery renditions of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” and Creedence Clearwater’s “Born on the Bayou.” Ritchie is currently working on original material which he hopes to release later this year.
Traditional snacks and refreshments – corn soup and fruits – rounded out the day.