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Wisdom: Showing up for every Indigenous student

After a year of staying at home, Wake the Giant is reawakened and ready to rock.
Wake the Giant DFC
Students from Dennis Franklin Cromarty joined July Talk on stage on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019 at the Sleeping Giant Music Festival at Marina Park in Thunder Bay. (Leith Dunick,

As the last year feels miles away, and the idea of virtual gatherings and concerts begin to be a distant past, Wake the Giant adapted to a new virtual world and are more excited than ever to reintroduce the music festival this fall.

As a cultural awareness project aimed at creating a more inclusive and welcoming city for Indigenous people, Wake the Giant began in 2019, asking businesses to commit to and have compassion for Indigenous students attending school in Thunder Bay, allowing the students and community to grow through this inclusivity.

New adjustments

Last year brought a lot of the in-person work Wake the Giant does to a halt. After having to postpone the music festival, Sean Spenrath did some reworking with his team.

“Without kids in Thunder Bay we had to postpone the orientation and festival from last year,” he says about the changes that needed to be made.

As an organization ensuring community inclusivity for Indigenous students attending school in Thunder Bay, figuring out how to incorporate this work via online resources took place.

“We centered our time in creating an online training – put in all the groundwork and found time to bring in some of the leadership in our organization, as well as people who joined on and helped WTG from the start, they contributed as well, and we spent the whole year making this comprehensive online training.”

Training includes and incorporates a lot of cultural awareness and history, made by Indigenous people.

“We sat with them and wrote it down with them and we designed it to be more interactive than other training, making it more entertaining and engaging.”

They’re still in the design phase, Spenrath says, “we have the meat and the bones and now we have to make it pretty.”

Music is back

Spenrath says they’re cautious and optimistic moving forward this fall with the music festival.

After announcing the line-up this past Thursday, tickets are now on sale for 2,000 people to attend the waterfront musical event.

This year’s line-up consists of headlining acts Jessie Reyez and Third Eye Blind, but more importantly will include the talents of Indigenous artists like William Prince, singer-songwriter from Pegus First Nation in Manitoba; iskwē (pronounced iss-kwa), a Cree Metis, urban Indigenous, two-spirited artist from Treaty One Territory, Red River Valley; DJ Shub, Mohawk DJ and producer from Six Nations of the Grand River First Nations; Northern Cree, a powwow and Round Dance drum and singing group from Maskwacis, Alberta; Nick Sherman, Oji-Cree singer-songwriter from Thunder Bay; and Jingle Dress Dancers.

With early bird tickets already sold out, Spenrath and the Wake the Giant team are optimistic and excited about the opportunity to keep Thunder Bay inclusive and welcoming for every Indigenous student.

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