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Folk Lok Live: Creating Meaningful Inroads Between First Nations and Punjabi Culture

October 3, 2022

As the drum reverberates across this land, the First Nations community celebrates its rich folk history with the Punjabi Dhol – coming together with a community that also shares a deep connection with land and nature to tell a history of their people through music and dance. Royal Academy partnered with Native Thunder, a group of First Nations dancers, musicians and performers, in Surrey, BC to celebrate that shared history and to honor the First Nations peoples, the original custodians of this vast land that many from around the world call ‘home’. 

Celebrating each other’s traditions through singing, dancing, and music is just one way of telling one another's story – bridging gaps between two communities to come together and grow as well. While the First Nations community of Canada has suffered centuries of cultural genocide, and often overlooked by newcomers from Punjab, music and cross-cultural collaborations strive to bring us together. 

No divide is greater than the magic music brings out in all people, and the Punjabi community is one of many that share the love for a better world with our First Nations communities across this country. What better way to come together is there than to celebrate one another’s stories through art and dance – colorful costumes and traditional clothing, while vastly different to the naked eye, make it painfully obvious the Punjabi community has much to learn from the First Nations peoples here as well. 

Initiatives like this give our youth the opportunity to broaden their horizons while also understanding long standing histories of indigenous communities in their locality. Giving space for a new generation to stand up for the First Nations peoples and share their pain, creating new bridges between communities that recognize the importance of justice, art, culture, and land. 

The Punjabi community’s connection to land and water is one that the First Nations peoples also hold dear as well – but for far too long our two communities have suffered alone, side by side on a land that has suffered immensely under colonization. 

The colorful phulkaris of Punjab and vibrant Regalia of the indigenous communities are both a testament to the beauty these two peoples share – despite being divided by oceans, continents, language and culture. 

“Our dances that we do are storytelling dances, they all have an origin in many different nations that come from this land.” Said Alex Wells of Native Thundera participant at a Folk Lok event curated by the Royal Academy – an event that brought together the First Nations people of British Columbia to share their traditions with the Punjabi community through dance and music. 

Native Thunder performed War Dances that told stories of their ancestors who defended their lands from colonizers, and Grass Dances initiated to heal the community and participants as well. A first look for many in the Punjabi diaspora who also got to participate by sharing Bhangra and the vibrations of the dhol with those in attendance. 

A new future for the generations to come is one that urges us to break down misconceptions we hold of one another, and come together to celebrate and honor our communities – the power of love through art is one that heals, while creating space for our people to share their pain and aspirations. 

Written by: Jasminder Singh Sandhu

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