Midway Lake Music Festival
History: The Gwich’in Nation extends across three territories NWT, Yukon and Alaska since time immemorial; the Gwich’in lived as nomads following their main source of food the Porcupine Caribou. During the long cold winter months in search of food, the Gwich’in encountered some very difficult times when caribou was scarce. When warmer and longer days of spring weather arrived; it was a welcoming time for these nomadic people of the north. Birds were coming north to nest; flora beginning blossom; twenty-four hour day light was here; berries are blooming; fishing was good; it was a few months where everything was plentiful. This was a time to gather and socialize in song music and dance. After the gathering; these hunter/gathers were back on the land preparing for another long winter.
Jigging is Elizabeth Hansen and Abraham Stewart Sr
Revive/Retaining: At a special assembly of the Tetlit Gwich’in Council in 1985; the Gwich’in of Fort McPherson discussed the history of the Gwich’in and what a wonderful time was had by all through song music and dance. Why not make this an annual event we have very good musicians Gwich’in love to dance and pass on these traditional song music and dance to the next generation. In 1986 was the beginning of Midway Lake Music Festival, Gwich’in arrive from across the NWT, Yukon and Alaska a very popular event known across Canada.
Location: Tent town 25 miles southwest of Fort McPherson via the Dempster Highway along Midway Lake in full view of the majestic Richardson Mountains. Every year people look forward to Midway Lake Music Festival to pitch their tents spend a weekend with family and friends and enjoy live entertainment. Midway Lake Festival is unique. It is held on the land away from the disruption of town activities; and it is a great opportunity of tourist traveling the Dempster Highway to witness Gwich’in culture and enjoy the festival.
Entertainment: Over the years, we had some excellent old time fiddlers who entertained dancers to the early morning hours with jigging reels and square dances. Outer communities bring in their youth dancers. Solo performers and groups are backed by bands. Over the first long week end of August, there will between 50/60 entertainers with non stop music. Other entertainment will include traditional dress, canoe races, story telling, and jigging contest for all ages. For a community of 1000; public attendance can be approximately 2000.
Infrastructure: Performers are accommodated in tent along with kitchen and dining area to some excellent home cook traditional meals daily. There is a canteen facility along with arts and craft display. The stage area is 40 x 50 for performers, a large dance floor and we bring in professional sound system. There is a lot of room for visitors to pitch their tents.
Atmosphere: Pretty well all the tents people are having cook outs and love when visitors come by introduce themselves enjoy a meal and just make friends. In the early morning hour’s one smell morning coffee brewing; birds singing; people getting ready for another great day of entertainment. People children are always up on the foot hills picking berries. If you want to make a trip from town to Midway Lake, there is a scheduled bus service.
l to r: Mary Firth, Mary M. Firth, Annie Snowshoe, Caroline Snowshoe, Caroline Kay & Alice Blake