Riverfest 2023

Join us in the second annual Western Riverfest, celebrating an integral part of Western's natural heritage, Deshkan Ziibi (Thames River). Riverfest23 features a series of events from September 9 - October 3 and is co-organized by the Indigenous Students' Association, Indigenous Student Centre, and Western Sustainability.

Riverfest celebrates one of Western's Big Moves in our Open Space Strategy, which is to reconnect students, staff and faculty to the river. Hosting this event in September (re)introduces both current and incoming members of Western to the trails, natural features on campus, and the river.

Introduce yourself to Deshkan Ziibi by listening to a wonderful episode in the mbwaach'idiwag podcast that was created for Indigenous Awareness Week 2021. In the episode Walking Along the Deshkan Ziibing with Summer Bressette, hosted by Sara Mai Chitty, Summer shares about her take on land acknowledgements, relationships to land, Deshkan Ziibing and Indigenous nationhood. Try to find some time to yourself to listen to this podcast while out in nature, along the river.

Riverfest23 Event Schedule

Confluency Water Justice Art Exhibit

September 9 - 28, 2023 - Cohen Commons, Visual Arts Centre

Confluency is an interactive art exhibit linking Canada, South Africa, and broader Africa, while inviting visitors to respond and build on the works as co-creators of knowledge towards water justice. The exhibit showcases creative translations of key themes from the 2023 Confluency conference held in Cape Town, South Africa. 

This fall the exhibit is coming to Riverfest 2023 with additional local community member submissions that  will supplement the Confluency Colloquium and speak to local water justice. The goal of this collaborative exhibition is to raise awareness, spark discussion, and inspire positive change within London and the broader community.

O-Serves Bioblitz and Scavenger Hunt

Saturday, September 9, 2023 at 1:00pm - 4:00pm

The O-Serves Bioblitz and Scavenger Hunt is an event during Western's Orientation Week designed to introduce new students to some special locations on campus and explore their new home. We will learn how to track biodiversity observations through the iNaturalist app, contributing to the Biodiversity Inventory at Western.

Students will also be invited to participate in a Riverfest Scavenger Hunt to familiarize themselves with campus and get involved in this month's activities. 

River Through Your Eye Instagram Contest

September 9 - October 3, 2023

This social media contest is designed to encourage students, faculty, and staff to connect with Deshkan Ziibi and enjoy the nature around it. This activity engages with the Western Sustainability and Indigenous Student Centre’s Instagram pages as submissions will be shared on these platforms, through the hashtag #RiverThroughYourEye2023.

At the end of Riverfest, three participants will be selected through random draw to win fun prizes.

Wellness Walk

Friday, September 15, 2023 at 12:00pm - 1:00pm

Take a break and get outside for some fresh air! Join Ben Souriol, graduate student in the Department of Biology, for an hour-long walk through tranquil trails and walking paths along the river on campus. Dress appropriately for the weather, as walks may continue in rainy or muddy conditions! Ben's Wellness Walks are a great way to explore campus, connect with nature, meet new friends and improve your overall well-being. 

This event is open to all members of the campus community (students, staff, faculty). 

Registration is required. To participate, please email Ben Souriol (bsouriol@uwo.ca) in advance of the walk to receive updates in the event of a cancellation or time change. The walk begins in front of the Biological & Geological Sciences Building (BGSB). 

Ode to the River Coffeehouse

Tuesday, September 19, 2023 at 5:00pm - 7:00pm

Join us for an evening of poetry, spoken word, music and other artistic expressions, as the campus community comes together to honor Deshkan Ziibi and the significance of water itself in a warm and inviting atmosphere. This event will take place in the Cohen Commons area of the John Labatt Visual Arts Centre. 

Open to all members of the campus community (students, staff, faculty) and the broader London community. Register for the event here. 

National Tree Day - White Pine Planting Dedication

Wednesday, September 20, 2023 at 10:00 - 11:00am

In honour of National Tree Day, Truth and Reconciliation, and Western's Second Annual there will be a Tree Planng Dedication ceremony on September 20th. This event is hosted by the Indigenous Student Centre and Office of Indigenous Initiatives, in collaboration with Facilities Management. Meet us near the University tennis Centre at 10am to join the White Pine Planting Dedication.

White Pine, the Great Tree of Peace, will be planted in the enduring spirit of Truth & Reconciliation. 

The planting of this sacred Being honours the traditional teachings of the Haudenosaunee Nations about the critical importance of peace needed for progress. Peace comes through respect and honour when care is afforded to the work of truth and reconciliation. 

This pine will serve as a daily reminder about the importance of living respectfully with each other and with all of Creation. It also marks the commitment of everyone at Western University to do their part in support of healing and rebuilding.

Registration is not required. More event details can be found here.

Connecting to the River through Data, Science & Maps

Thursday, September 21, 2023 at 10:00am - 2:30pm

Explore data and maps from campus rivers while bringing them together through StoryMaps, with hands on interactive displays provided by Western Libraries Map and Data Centre and the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority in the Weldon Library Community Room. 

Registration is not required. More event details can be found here.

Paint Night by the River

Tuesday, September 26, 2023 at 6:30pm - 9:00pm

Paint Night by the River is an interactive session led by artist Moses Lunham. Moses (Anishnaabe) is an accomplished First Nations artist from the community of Kettle and Stony Point First Nation. A graduate from Fanshawe College's Graphic Art and Design Program (1990) Moses has worked with many First Nation communities in Southwestern Ontario by providing a wide range of art workshops inspired by his culture.

"Creating art is a very therapeutic experience. It heals and provides us the opportunity to make connections to story and cultural teachings that are needed for Mino Bimadziwin (A Good Way of Living)."

In 2015 Moses was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award for his art from the Anishnaabek Nation. "My work is a reflection of my people (Anishnaabe), their spirituality and ideology."

The evening will include a step-by-step painting tutorial on beautiful hand-carved cedar paddles. Enjoy refreshments as you paint and connect with one another. 

No prior experience is necessary to get involved. All supplies will be provided at this event, just bring yourself! This event is only open to the Western campus community.

Space is limited and registration is required. Please register for the event here.

Water Walk

Thursday, September 28, 2023 at 10:00am - 12:00pm

Join the Indigenous Students' Association, Indigenous Student Centre, and Western Sustainability for an Anishinaabe Water Walk.

The event will begin with a water ceremony and talk by Dr. Carol Hopkins, Water Chief of the Three Fires Midewiwin Lodge, and her mother Irene Peters, Grandmother in the Three Fires Midewiwin Lodge, who will share about the origins of Water Walks and the healing nature of them. Water is life, and in this event participants will be encouraged to reconnect with their own personal connection to Deshkan Ziibi as we walk along the river in ceremony.

We will meet in the Wampum Learning Lodge Dome. After the opening, we will walk along the river as a group, led by the Indigenous Students' Association, and our route will bring us back to the Wampum Learning Lodge.

Registration is encouraged. Drop-ins are welcome, but please try to register in advance so we can prepare space/snacks. This event is open to all members of the campus community, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, faculty, staff, and students. We hope to see you there.

Register for this event here.

Thank you to all of our collaborators!

Riverfest could not happen without the collaboration of many members of our community. We gratefully acknowledge the support and engagement from our partners.

  • Confluency Colloquium
  • Department of Biology and Biodiversity Inventory Project
  • Department of Visual Arts
  • Indigenous Students' Association
  • Indigenous Student Centre
  • Upper Thames River Conservation Authority
  • Western Housing
  • Western Libraries