Adäka Cultural Festival

A decade on, the annual festival brings together artists from across the circumpolar North for celebration and cultural exchange. Now preparing for its 10th anniversary, the Adäka Cultural Festival is Yukon’s premiere Indigenous arts and culture festival. 

Creating Circumpolar Collaboration Land
Artist carving art into wood

The festival began in 2011 as an evolution of the Yukon First Nations 2010 project, where 50 Yukon First Nations artists traveled to the Vancouver Olympics to celebrate traditional and contemporary Indigenous art practices. Since then the festival has brought together Indigenous visual and performing artists from every Yukon community and around the world to their performance stages and world-class art gallery, the Hudę Njú Kú Gallery at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre in the heart of Whitehorse, YK, for a week of celebration, cultural exchange and artistic excellence.

Artist carving art into wood
The 2019 Adãka Cultural Festival June 28 - July 4, 2019 A Yukon Celebration of Indigenous Arts and Culture held at the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre in Whitehorse, Yukon. Photo by Alistair Maitland Photography #ADAKA2019

“Adäka explores, highlights and celebrates the diversity, cultural connections and richness of Indigenous arts and culture across the Arctic region, and generates new artistic connections across these vast lands,” said Director of Programs & Partnerships Katie Johnson. 

Meaning “coming into the light” in Southern Tutchone, Adäka serves as a cultural hub in connecting generations in their preservation and celebration of languages, stories, music and artistic practices. The festival hosts gatherings of both established and emerging artists working across a range of practices including beaders, sculptors and painters, along with dancers, drummers and singers who exchange knowledge on traditional techniques, contemporary methods and wide ranging ideas for cultural continuity.

Kaska Dene Drummers and Tlicho Drummers performing on stage at the 2019 Adäka Cultural Festival
Kaska Dene Drummers and Tlicho Drummers at the 2019 Adäka Cultural Festival PHOTO ALISTAIR MAITLAND PHOTOGRAPHY
Crowd in circle dancing with arms in their air to drummers in the middle leading the crowd at the 2019 Adäka Festival
Artists and festival goers gather together for a Community Drum Circle at the 2019 Adäka Cultural Festival PHOTO ALISTAIR MAITLAND PHOTOGRAPHY
“Adäka explores, highlights and celebrates the diversity, cultural connections and richness of Indigenous arts and culture across the Arctic region, and generates new artistic connections across these vast lands”
Director of Programs & Partnerships, Katie Johnson
Hands creating a Ravenstail weaving at the 2012 Adäka Cultural Festival
Ravenstail weaving at the 2012 Adäka Cultural Festival PHOTO FRITZ MUELLER VISUALS

The annual festival provides artists opportunities to learn from each other through a series of over 40 formal skill-building workshops as well as more informal collaborations. In past years, these workshops have included seminars on caribou and moose hair tufting, stained glass and glass blowing, blacksmithing, stone and wood carving, traditional beadworking designs like peyote triangles and ghost beads, as well as tips and tricks for working with sealskin,hide, fish scales and more.

The festival also features a strong performance art stream, showcasing traditional and contemporary music, dance and storytelling with live performances from acts like A Tribe Called Red, the Selkirk Spirit Dancers, Mathew Nuqingaq, the Inuvik Drummers and Dancers and Twin Flames, alongside screenings of Indigenous short films.

The experiential atmosphere offers a “truly immersive stage for artists to create,” says Johnson, as well as a place “for audiences to learn from and gain fresh perspectives on Indigenous peoples, their arts and cultures.”

Dakhká Khawáan Dancers performing at the 2019 Adäka Cultural Festival
The Dakhká Khwáan Dancers perform at the 2019 Adäka Cultural Festival Photo Alistair Maitland Photography

Although the 2021 iteration of the festival was postponed due to pandemic restrictions, the 2022 festival will bring together more than 200 Indigenous artists for eight days of programming between June 30 and July 7, 2022, including visual artists, performers, filmmakers, fashion designers and knowledge keepers from across the circumpolar North and beyond in conjunction with the Arctic Arts Summit. “We will celebrate Canadian northern region communities that both express uniqueness and share commonalities in their art, language, landscape, environment, history and culture,” says Johnson. 

The festival is currently accepting applications for artists interested in participating.