MONTREAL - Appearances by Joni Mitchell - her first since last year's Mariposa Festival in Toronto - and Pauline Julien ended last night's special benefit concert at the Paul Sauve Arena for the Indians and Eskimos of the James Bay area.
The concert merely culminated a broader range of activities that started a week ago with concerts given at Place Bonaventure and Sir George Williams University. While crowds were slim at first they grew larger with each succeeding day ending up with 6,000 people showing up last night.
Unlike Mariposa, however, this was a festival with a political purpose. Since Dec. 5 of last year, the Superior Court in Montreal has been hearing a petition submitted by 2,000 Indian and Eskimo petitioners for an injunction to halt all the work on the James Bay project, a $10 billion hydroelectric plan.
"We had hoped for over $40,000 for legal fees for the native people," said Vivianne Lebosh, a festival coordinator. "Since we haven't had full crowds, we won't reach our goal. But the publicity has been as important. Even before we started, we had received some $20,000 in donations."
Performers came from every province with over 200 Indians and Eskimos performing.
"It's been gathering momentum," said Toronto's Ian Tyson who, with wife Sylvia, performed Saturday at Sir George Williams, "but who knows how it is going to end up, it is three cultures colliding together."
Dramatizing that fact were contrasting performances given by Pauline Julien and Joni Mitchell. Where Miss Julien showed strength in every gesture and in every word, Miss Mitchell seemed merely composed.
All the performers donated their services, as did the sound crew.
"You see," explained Pauline Julien, "we're here because the white people and particularly the Quebecois have never really done anything for the native people. We're trying to do that now."
Throughout the concert there was an air of urgency. "The same feeling you used to be able to find in the early '60s American civil rights movement," said Peter Yarrow, formerly of Peter, Paul and Mary.
Watching Gilles Vigneault and Robert Charlebois sing on Friday, another organizer said: "This is one of the few times when the English and French have totally cooperated. That's probably because it's all for someone else."
*Peter Goddard is a Toronto free-lance writer.
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