Welcoming Back pêhonân: Fringe’s Indigenous-Led & Indigenous-Centred Venue

Pêhonân returns this year to Fringe for its second year as Fringe’s Indigenous-run, centred, and produced venue during the Edmonton International Fringe Festival.

Pêhonân is a Nêhiyawêwin word for “meeting place” or “a waiting place,” pêhonân has become waiting place for change and a meeting place for community members; pledging to be a safe space that welcomes all community with open arms. pêhonân is an incubator, encouraging bravery and artistic risk-taking by giving Indigenous artists, of a variety of disciplines, one performance slot to try something new.  

This year, pêhonân is featuring original pieces, including the Sampler Café Drop-In Jam, Sampler Café Outdoor Performance, Omisimawiw, The Language of Silence, Indigi-Hauz of Beaver Hills, and performances by Dallas Arcand Jr., Chubby Cree, and Kaeley Jade.   

To make these projects more widely accessible, each performance is “Offer What You Will”, allowing spectators to pay any dollar amount they are able to contribute while allowing non-monetary ways of showing respect and mutual investment (such as tobacco, your own art, or a gift you feel the artist(s) will benefit from). pêhonân accepts all, no one will be turned away.   

Curated and led by Josh Languedoc, our Director of Indigenous Strategic Planning, this meeting space aims to uplifts Indigenous narratives, honour diversity, and welcome all who want to enter. We sat down with Josh to explore what’s new and what fringers can expect in this welcoming space. 

pêhonân Schedule & Events

pêhonân Q&A with Josh Languedoc

Josh Languedoc speaks into a microphone on opening ceremonies.
Photo by Marc Chalifoux Photography

pêhonân was a wonderful success and experience for all involved last year. If fringers are heading to this space in 2022, what kind of experience can they expect? 

Josh (J): One of healing, growth, and possibility. I am hoping it will be a truly real experience in exploring what it means to walk side by side with Indigenous artists and nations as we work toward greater community healing. 

As you said, healing, growth, and possibility have been at the core of the creation of this project. With this in mind, how has pêhonân evolved or changed since 2021? 

J: Instead of being localized in one specific venue, this year it’s spread out all around the festival. The performances are woven into the fabric of the festival.  

However, the pêhonân TeePee stands on Gateway Boulevard right next to the Old Strathcona Performing Arts Venue. This place is a community smudge gathering space before the pêhonân performances begin.  

This idea of bringing community together in a healing smudge circle is something brand new and will be an exciting endeavor to explore with fringers! Audience members stand around the TeePee

You’ve created something so open to community, while also creating something so beautifully unique and needed in theatre. Would you be able to share what you’ve learned in the process of producing this year’s pêhonân activities? 

J: A ton. Most of which I will probably have better language for after the festival is over.  

So far I would say the biggest lesson has been embracing possibility with absolutely no preconception about what will happen. I can plan and task-master all I want so I can have some sort of structured predictable response, but there is something very ancestral in surrendering to the idea of infinite possibility. What I have tried to do this year is set basic parameters that will allow an endless amount of possibility to happen within them. 

It’s scary and exciting having absolutely no clear path as to what kind of magic these parameters could lead to. 

A cree human sings while hitting a drum.
Photo by Marc Chalifoux Photography

Our theme this year is Destination Fringe, inviting fringers to go on an adventure with us through theatre, storytelling, and experiences like no other. Why is pêhonân THE fringe destination?

J: For me, Fringe IS a pêhonân. It’s always been a space of possibility. What I feel I am doing with this specific programming is rooting Fringe’s intentions deeper into Indigenous ways of being. So while Fringe itself is a pêhonân, the pêhonân Series is the centering of the Indigenous knowledge connected to that narrative. It is artistic growth and risk taking. It is the potential for possibility. It is rooting artistic practices directly to those who are supposed to be the caretakers of these lands. And most of all, it is healing for the entire community. The only way forward is with ALL of us creating spaces of possibility together. 

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about pêhonân? 

J: I want to stress the Community Smudges are for EVERYONE. It is not exclusive. It can allow for deeper connections between anyone from any nation.  

This idea of everyone having space is how I see pêhonân supporting the entire community. Indigenous ways of knowing are deeply relational, and pêhonân allows deep relationality to happen through this ceremony as well as the possibility that all performances and digital livestream conversations bring. 

See you at pêhonân!

You can catch this year’s pêhonân season at the ATB Outdoor Stage at the ATB Park, in the beautiful (ÎNÎW) River Lot 11∞ Indigenous Art Park, and around the teepee in the heart of the Festival grounds. We would love if you joined us at 6PM at the teepee every Friday and Saturday through the Festival! We will have fresh bannock and a group smudge to welcome all into a sharing circle before back-to-back performances featuring some stellar local Indigenous artists! 

In addition to our performances, the series will feature pop-up conversations live-streamed on FringeTV. It has been a long few years for theatre and live performance, let us get to know each other as fellow fringers. 

Thank you to the EPCOR Heart + Soul Fund for supporting pêhonân activities at the 41st Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival.

pêhonân Schedule & Events

“As the largest, longest running Fringe theatre festival in North America, the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival has been inspiring and uplifting our city with stories and performances for four decades. Through pêhonân, the Fringe is putting Indigenous artists, stories and knowledge at the heart of the festival grounds. At EPCOR, we’re inspired by initiatives like this that keep our city strong, vibrant and inclusive.”


Want to read more about where pehonan started? 

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