It was like going down the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland. The night started out as dinner with a couple of girlfriends from up North. Loud stories and belly laughs were abundant to the point of disturbing the well-mannered ladies at the table next to us. Fortunately for us the nice people at East is East not only serve great food, but they aren’t in the habit of kicking out the disruptive clientele. Several mugs of chai tea later and we were on the bus headed downtown to the Fortune Sound Club for some kind of kickoff for the film, Fractured Land. “What’s this thing again?” I asked, imagining film makers with large vocabularies, wine and cheese in hand, standing around a conference room in a hotel congratulating each other.
When we showed up at the door I could tell this wasn’t going to be the kind of night I had imagined at all. Bouncers at the door kindly asked us all for ID, we checked in at the front desk with our names and headed up the dark, carpeted stairwell. It could have been a shady bar in Terrace; I felt right at home. When we arrived upstairs we soon realized what fashionably late means. We had arrived exactly on time and there was not a soul in the room, except for the staff manning the party. We snuck ourselves into an alcove seat and tracked down a drink to pass the time.
It wasn’t long before the room started to fill up and, upon discovering that our seats were reserved for merchandise we crept awkwardly onto the dance floor looking for a dark corner or someone we knew. I wrote a little bit about culture shock being in the city in my post about the Bill Reid Gallery art opening. Tonight I was expecting to feel completely out of place and isolated from my roots up North, but I was soon pleasantly surprised as I saw more and more First Nations faces around me. Although I have yet to see the film, Fractured Land, I am familiar with the work Damian Gillis does and it always comes back to the power of indigenous people in caring for our land. Here was, once again, a place where First Nations people of BC felt they had a home and a role to play in the city. I met a young man who shook my hand in a kind and generous manner and introduced himself as a Gitxsan First Nations from the North where I live. I smiled and said, “my son is Gitxsan too” and I suddenly I felt right at home again.
The headliner was Mob Bounce, a couple of First Nations boys, breaking their way into the music world as rappers. But the night wore on and we waited for the main show to start. Fortunately for us we were provided with plenty of Northern style distractions as well as lots of quirky city moments that made us laugh. Connecting with Damian Gillis, who got my friend the tickets in the first place, subsequently scored us VIP passes to the private party. I was a bit surprised. Wasn’t this the private party? It turns out there was a private private party. It was just like in the movies: past the guards who opened the ropes for us to descend the smoke-filled stairs, down the stairs to a white room filled with couches and chairs, liquor bottles on the coffee table and people asking me if I made films. I wanted to laugh but kept a straight face and told them I didn’t. I was just a simple Northern girl in the right place at the right time to get in on a VIP pass.
Back up top it was witching hour for the main show, Mob Bounce. Much to my surprise, onto the stage stepped the unassuming Gitxsan kid I had met earlier in the evening. The show was out of this world. A couple of Northern kids taking the city by storm with everything inspirational and meaningful in their hearts. Standing there listening and watching the inspired First Nations city folk on the dance floor reminded me of why I was here in the city. None of these indigenous people had lost their roots, none of them had left who they were behind on their reserves or in their more traditional communities. They had come to this city to bring the beauty of their culture and their gifts into a more modern world. These young people had come here to be a part of the next exciting phase of what indigenous cultures have to offer our world. Realizing this was one of the most inspiring moments of the evening and it reminded me that this is what I had come for as well. To bring the best of myself and my sense of place up North to a modern world down here in the city. To bring heart into madness and inspiration into mediocrity. A night that began as dinner and belly laughs had led me down the rabbit hole to my heart, alive and well, right here in the middle of the city.