Celebration of Nations Sacred Fire
Friday 10 September at dawn until – Sunday 12 September at sunset // The Backyard at FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre
A sacred fire will burn from Friday at dawn until the close of Celebration of Nations in the backyard of the PAC. Each morning, a Sunrise Ceremony will take place each day as an opportunity to greet the sun as it rises to begin a new day and to give thanks for another day of life. We gratefully acknowledge the care and commitment of Fire Keepers Fred Bowering and Brian Kon for watching over the Sacred Fire and holding space for the community during Celebration of Nations.
Learn more about the Sacred Fire from Firekeepers Fred Bowering and Brian Kon from this archived clip from Celebration of Nations 2020.
Son of a Métis mother and Mohawk father, Fred Bowering is a Fire Keeper in the local Indigenous community, just like his father before him. Fred’s grandmother was a residential school survivor and he has struggled with the scars of intergenerational trauma. Fred is a passionate advocate for mental health and addiction supports and volunteers most of his time cleaning up needles and drug paraphernalia in downtown St. Catharines core and providing hands on support to those most vulnerable in our community.
You often hear stories of Fred’s heroic efforts: saving a swan tangling in fishing line, recovering a stolen, sacred object of a local church from Dick’s Creek, helping this person, recovering that thing, the stories go on. Fred’s life is in his service to life.
Fred keeps fire to support healing. A few recent examples: In 2020, he was asked by Indigenous elder Grandmother Renée (Renée Thomas-Hill) to conduct a sacred fire below the Burgoyne Bridge in St. Catharines. The fire is meant to help the spirits of people who have died by suicide to move on, help the families and friends who remain on earth come to terms with the deaths, and get the community talking about mental health and addiction.
In June 2021, Fred held a 7 day fire with the Niagara Regional Native Centre to hold space for hundreds of community members coming to terms with the horrific realities of the residential school system and to honour the children who never made it home.
If you are lucky to run into Fred, you will find him equipped with a deep insight and always a Naloxene kit. Because Fred will stop at nothing to help.
Brian Kon is a leader within the Metis Nation and within the local Indigenous Community. He is the Chair of Niagara Region Métis Council and sits on numerous Indigenous Community Advisory Boards ranging from homelessness through education to the 2022 Canada Summer Games. Brian is currently the Indigenous Lead for Niagara Catholic District School Board and is a Knowledge Carrier who is helping to re-write the history of the War of 1812 from an Indigenous perspective.
As a visual artist, Brian’s art pays homage to his Cree/Métis ancestors through his paintings, which have been on display across Canada, including a current piece on extended display in Ontario’s legislature. Brian uses his art as a platform for telling the story of Métis people, but also to draw attention to important issues that face Indigenous people – Indian Residential Schools, Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women, and Two Spirited people.
Most of Brian’s career has been focused on advancing the lives of people with disabilities.
Fred Bowering, Brian Kon