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Vancouver’s First Nation Talking Stick Festival

Talking Stick Festival

Taking place in February each year, the Talking Stick Festival is an annual event in Vancouver that showcases Indigenous art and First Nation’s culture.



Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 Talking Stick Festival is taking place online from February 18th until February 27th. For more details about the online event, visit the Talking Stick Festival website and have a look at the 2021 Shows Schedule.


Talking Stick Festival

The Talking Stick Festival is an inclusive multi-day festival that’s open to the public and features storytelling, dance, music, theatre and other performing arts and cultural works by a wide range of Indigenous artists. In 2020 it took place from February 18th to 29th.

The festival is scheduled to run from February 18th until the 27th in 2021. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, no in-person events are taking place during this time. All shows and performances are set to be available online. Let’s hope in-person events will return for next year’s festival!


Information about the following events in 2020 is featured in this article:

Wax hoks en Shqalawin Gala | Visual Arts Exhibition | Celebration of Indigenous Dance | Métis Fair | Reel Reservations Films | Other Festival Events


Festival in Roundhouse Great Hall
The Great Hall at the Roundhouse


Talking Stick Festival in 2020

Last year the Talking Stick Festival ran from February 18th to February 29th in Vancouver (on the traditional un-ceded territories of the Coast Salish People). In its 19th year, the 2020 festival featured artists from across the country and events at various venues.


Festival Schedule

To give you an idea of what to expect in future festivals, below is a list of events that was on the 2020 schedule.

Each year many of the events take place at the Roundhouse in Yaletown, although others take place at various other venues around town.


Wax hoks en Shqalawin Gala

(February 20, 2020)

Wax hoks en Shqalawin means “Open Your Hearts” and it’s both the name and theme for the gala celebration that kicked off the Talking Stick Festival for 2020. The event took place at the Roundhouse at 181 Roundhouse Mews and included entertainment and a buffet dinner.

The cost was $45 for adults and $35 for students and seniors (plus service charges).

Click Wax hoks en Shqalawin for details.


Talking Stick Festival Art Display
Button Blankets by Kwagiulth artist Lou-Ann Ika’Wega Neel


Chén̓chenstway: Rising – Visual Arts Exhibition

(February 18 to 29, 2020)

Each year there is a Visual Arts Exhibition at the Roundhouse Exhibition Hall at 181 Roundhouse Mews. It usually features a small collection of art from about a dozen or so local and other BC First Nations artists.

A Curator Talk took place on Tuesday, February 22nd, at 1 pm. The exhibition itself ran from February 18th to 29th all day every day. Admission was free (as it is every year).

The Visual Arts Exhibition is usually fairly small, but interesting. It’s worth checking out in combination with other festival events also taking place at the Roundhouse.


Talking Stick Festival Roundhouse Art Displays
Art Displays at the Roundhouse


Celebration of Indigenous Dance

(February 23, 2020)

Called the Celebration of Powwow Culture a couple of years ago, the Talking Stick Festival’s 2020 Celebration of Indigenous Dance event presented a display of both contemporary and traditional First Nations dances as well as a market featuring art, crafts and food.

Featured in 2019 were performances by the Kwakwakwa’wakw Urban Dance Group, Eastern Sky Ambassadors, Oceanside Dakota, Immigrant Lessons and other local Turtle Island groups. Future events will likely be similar.

The event took place on Saturday, February 23rd, from noon until 5 pm at the Roundhouse Gymnasium at 181 Roundhouse Mews. Admission was “Pay-What-You-Can.”

For details about the event click 2020 Celebration of Indigenous Dance.


Talking Stick Powwow and Market Video

To give you an idea of what to expect to the Powwow and its accompanying market check out the following video. As you’ll see, the dancing and drumming take place in the gymnasium. The market activities, meanwhile, take place in the main gallery. Both the market and the Powwow are interesting cultural events and worth checking out.



Métis Fair

(February 29, 2020)

The Métis Fair featured live music, entertainment by the Louis Riel Métis Dancers, traditional Métis crafts and a small vendor market. It took place on Saturday, February 29, from 12 to 4 pm at the Roundhouse Performance Centre at 181 Roundhouse Mews. Admission was “Pay-What-You-Can” (i.e., by donation.)

See the 2020 Metis Fair for more information.


Reel Reservations Films

Reel Reservations is a series of Indigenous films that show over the course of the festival. Movies that showed in 2020 are listed below.

(Note: attendees of the films must be members of the Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF). If not already a member, the cost for an annual membership is about $2).

Dates and times of the films are subject to change. See the official website for details.


Tuesday, February 25 (2020)

On this day there was a double-feature being presented at Vancity Theatre. The Coyote Way: (Going) Back Home showed first at 7 pm then FUKRY showed at around 7:30 pm. Tickets for the double-feature presentation were $13 for adults and $11 for students and seniors (plus service charges).

  • The Coyote Way: (Going) Back Home – a 30-minute long film about a boy, Charlie, who has to make a choice between joining a gang or going on a pilgrimage.
  • FUKRY – directed by Blackhorse Lowe, this film is about Ching Yazzie and her group of friends navigating life and romance.


Thursday, February 27 (2020)

  • The Incredible 25th Year of Mitzi Bearclaw – directed by Shelley Niro, it’s a film about a 25 year old, Mitzi, who returns to her reserve to take care of her sick mother. Tickets cost $8-$15 (plus service fees). The screening takes place at the Djavad Mowafaghian Cinema at 149 West Hastings Street.

In addition to the above, there was also a fourth film, One Day in the Life of Noah Piugattuk, which is about the Canadian government pressuring an Inuit band to assimilate their children and give up their way of life. It was for school groups, however, and not open to the general public.


Other Festival Events

Above are just some of the events that took place during the Talking Stick Festival in 2020. Other events included everything from educational talks to night life activities. Truly it’s a diverse festival with something for everyone!


First Nations Storytelling at Vancouver Library


Other Information

For more details on the above and other festival events, see the Talking Stick Festival website or click Festival Shows.

For other opportunities to experience First Nation’s culture, including the Coastal First Nations Dance Festival in February or March, see First Nations in the Lower Mainland.

Other articles that might be of interest include the following: