Tributaries, conceived by Creative Producer Denise Bolduc with NWIA’s Erika Iserhoff as Associate Producer and Quach George as Event Coordinator, paid homage and respect to Indigenous creativity, presence and voice in a celebratory, large-scale experience in Toronto as part of the 2017 Luminato festival .

In collaborating partnership with Luminato to co-present the 2017 opening night celebrations. Tributaries featured over 60 artists who paid tribute to the resilience and power of Indigenous women, land, and water. Featured artists include Lila Downs, Tomson Highway, Northern Cree, Laura Grizzlypaws, Norma Araiza, Duke Redbird, Cris Derksen, Iskwe, Jennifer Kreisberg, Cheri Maracle, Tanya Tagaq, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, Jeremy Dutcher, Melody McKiver, Bear Witness, Lido Pimienta and many more. David Pecaut Square came alive as Tributaries with a diversity of performances in a four-part program: Roots, Resurgence, Reclamation, and Emancipation.


“We are truly grateful to be working in partnership with Denise Bolduc, artistic lead of Tributaries, and the Luminato Festival. The program reflects a stellar line up of Indigenous artists and creativity.  NWIA is thrilled to work in a capacity supporting creative partnerships and strengthening our organization within the larger industry and within an international festival context. Tributaries reflect NWIA’s vision to advance the interests, culture, and art of Indigenous women working in the arts within Canada.”  Erika A. Iserhoff, Associate Producer

“June is the month of the Ode’min Giizis (Strawberry Moon), and for many Indigenous people the strawberry/Ode’min represents the heart, and Indigenous women represent the hearts of our diverse nations. Sustaining the Ode’min’s growth is a vast system of leaves, runners and roots and this we parallel to the earth’s waterways and it’s vast water systems that sustain all life. These Tributaries also reflect our artists as the connecting roots  resurging, evolving, reclaiming and liberating.  We invite you to experience a synergy of creative Indigenous expression and to join us in paying tribute to the resilience of Indigenous women and the importance of the land and its water.”  Denise Bolduc, Creative Producer

In conceiving Tributaries, Denise and Erika have gone beyond anything I had imagined for the opening of Luminato. It has been an inspiration to witness the coming together of this event, the gathering of so many amazing artists and the profound depth of thought and cultural connectivity motivating and shaping the program. I invite everyone who wants to feel the power and vitality of Indigenous culture today to join us on June 14.” — Josephine Ridge, Artistic Director, Luminato


OPENING: A Cree Cabaret

Tomson Highway is a world-renowned Cree playwright, composer, musician, novelist and language advocate.  His best-known works include the plays The Rez SistersDry Lips Oughta Move to KapuskasingThe (Post) Mistress, and his best-selling novel, Kiss of the Fur Queen. This program features highlights of Highway’s musical canon performed by Highway on piano with vocalist Patricia Cano and Marcus Ali on saxophone. A Cree Cabaret is a lively, world-class cabaret and the opening show in The Famous Spiegeltent.

PART 1: Roots

“Tributaries branch, fork and feed into larger waters, and these water systems are the keepers of land knowledge as they interact with the environment. Tributaries’mainstage program kicks off with its first tribute to the knowledge keepers in the ROOTS program.”  Denise Bolduc

Alberta-based seven-time Grammy-nominated Northern Cree and recent winners of The Lifetime Achievement Award (Indigenous Music Awards, Manito Ahbee Festival, Winnipeg) launch the evening’s outdoor program. Considered the world’s premier Pow-Wow singing group and the undisputed ambassadors of Round Dance music, Northern Cree open the evening, welcoming audiences to join them in the center of the square. Following their opening song, multidisciplinary artist, cultural intellectual, and celebrity, Dr. Duke Redbird, through spoken-word will present a newly commissioned poem paying tribute to the land, and the traditional and territorial Nations.

Continuing to inspire togetherness and goodwill, Northern Cree returns to the stage with their distinctive popular rhythms.  In this last half hour, Laura Grizzlypaws and Norma Araiza enter the square performing their rarely seen dance styles.  Grizzlypaws, of the St’át’imc Nation (BC) and Bear Clan, has a creative, metaphorical relationship of the spirit of the bear. Feeling his/her pleasure, pain, anger, hope, and freedom, she dances the Bear Dance. Norma Araiza, Yoeme (Yaqui) (Mex), the feeling of freedom by honouring the natural world and the whitetail deer through her presentation of the Yaqui Deer Dance, or La Danza del Venado.

PART 2: Resurgence

Part two of Tributaries programming, Red Tidal Resurgence reflects the emergence of voices representing the power and resilience of Indigenous women. Created specifically for Tributaries, this new production features solo vocal performances by Iskwe, Jennifer Kreisberg, Cheri Maracle, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson and Tanya Tagaq, supported by a seven-piece band and a nine-member choir led by operative tenor, Jeremy Dutcher. Musical Direction and arrangement is driven by the vision of cellist and composer, Cris Derksen. The song list directly links to the Tributaries themes and includes existing work by each solo artist, Jeremy Dutcher, and Cris Derksen.

PART 3: Reclamation

One of the world’s most singular voices, Lila Downs (Mixteca) brings poignant storytelling that transcends all language barriers. Raised in Minnesota and Oaxaca, this global superstar’s exquisite artistry bridges traditions from across the Americas, with influences ranging from the folk and ranchera music of Mesicao and South America to North American folk, jazz, blues, and hip-hop. As a passionate human-rights activist, Lila’s lyrics often highlight issues relating to social justice, sharing stories that too often go untold.

PART 4: Emancipation

Tributaries culminates with a DJ-VJ “Call & Response” interaction across David Pecaut Square with Bear Witness (Cayuga) and Lido Pimienta (Afro-Columbian, Wayuu). These two dynamic artists will call on each other to express messages through music, visual imagery and vocals (Pimienta). Each artist will demonstrate their distinct style in response to RootsResurgence, Reclamation and Emancipation. Joining the stage are dance performers, Krystal RiverzSiez Swift, BriskoolJohn Hupfield and JayRobi.

Lido Pimienta (aka Soundsister) is a Toronto-based interdisciplinary artist who exists in a roulette of musical journeys from traditional Columbian percussion to darker avant-garde electronica soundscapes united by her explosive yet heart-warming voice. Bear Witness is a multimedia artist, DJ, filmmaker, producer and member of electro-rap DJ collective, A Tribe Called Red (ATCR), based in Ottawa. He remixes appropriated images and sound to claim visual sovereignty over Indigenous representation and imagined Indigenous futures.


  • Artwork for Tributaries is created by Haudenosaunee artist Monique Bedard(Aura):
  • Bimmadiziwing Tattoo ParlourRed Pepper Spectacle Arts will offer the emblematic image of the Ode’min/Heartberry in the form of an airbrush tattoo. Free to attending public.
  • Note: Ode’min Giizis (pronounced ‘o-DAY-min Gee-zis): meaning the Heart-berry Moon or Strawberry Moon