A "Rising of the Nations." Singer/songwriter Lyla June headlines new Fantastic Wantastiquet Festival at the Latchis Theatre, 50 Main St., Brattleboro, 2 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 16
Nationally-renowned singer/songwriter and Indigenous Rights Activist Lyla June, of Taos, New Mexico, will headline Brattleboro’s new Fantastic Wantastiquet Festival in a gala keynote gathering at the Latchis Theatre at 2 p.m.on Saturday, Sept. 16.
“Lyla June’s presence here heralds a call to people of all Nations, particularly First Nation / Indigenous peoples, to converge on the Wantastiquet region,” said John Wilmerding, Festival organizer.
Wilmerding first conceived of Fantastic Wantastiquet in the Spring of 2015 as a plan to bring the area’s arts and cultural offerings under one marketing banner. “I knew it would elevate and transform us and enhance our relationship with these lands,” he said. The name of the Festival in effect recovers and reclaims the original name of the West River — Wantastiquet — which translates as "River leading to the West."
Wilmerding was forced by family issues to postpone the first festival for two years — he had originally hoped would it take place in the fall of 2015. In the meantime, and unbeknownst to him, a successful effort was under way to have the Town of Brattleboro and the State of Vermont observe Indigenous People's Day this year instead of Columbus Day.
“This has deepened the festival’s emphasis on these peoples and lands,” he said. “It’s enabled us to choose new themes and content for the festival. However, we are not organizing the Indigenous People's Day events. Those are being created by indigenous folks who live locally.”
The official themes announced for this first year of Fantastic Wantastiquet are "Celebrating People and Place," the local rivers (especially Wantastiquet and Connecticut), the fall foliage and the other natural beauty found in our area, and "The Better Angels of Our Nature," which is a quote from Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural address.
“Lyla June, however, carries her own themes with her, especially the central theme of her most popular song, 'All Nations Rise,'" said Wilmerding. The performing artist was responsible for helping indigenous and other peoples to rally last year near Standing Rock, N.D, to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline, and also at a subsequent Unity Rally near the Black Hills of South Dakota. Other special guests will be present, many of them traveling from afar, as excitement in Brattleboro grows for our first Indigenous Peoples Day activities in early October.
The Latchis program will be "admission-by-donation" with a suggested amount of $10 but there is a no one turned away policy as well. Proceeds will go to benefit charities benefiting indigenous peoples, especially youth suicide prevention and women’s issues.
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