Reclaiming Indigenous: The culture and the people  

Thursday 10th, January 2019 / 11:46
By Tim Ford  

Café Daughter explores identity and racism in rural Saskatchewan.


CALGARY – First Nations and Indigenous peoples are behind several works at this year’s High Performance Rodeo, according to the international arts festival’s Indigenous Community Liaison, Chantal Chagnon. Chagnon, a Cree-Ojibwe Métis Artist who creates work through her independent company, Cree8, sees the volume of works being produced by First Nations and Indigenous artists as “inspiring.” 

First among those works is bug by manidoons collective, running January 18-19 @ 7:30 p.m. and January 20 @ 2 p.m., at the West Village Theatre. “[bug] is a very unique project,” Chagnon says. “We’re doing outreach with indigenous youth in the community, to bring them in for a storytelling workshop.” This ties into the play’s themes and narrative,which tell the story of women in an Indigenous family navigating addiction and inter-generational trauma. 

Cafe Daughter, by Workshop West Playwrights Theatre Production in Association with Alberta Aboriginal Arts, running Jan. 15-27 at Alberta Theatre Projects, is inspired by the story of Chinese-Canadian and Cree senator Lillian Dyck. In this play, a nine-year old fictionalized version of Dyck named Yvette Wong struggles to find her identity in small town Saskatchewan. “Like many of us, if we’re passing for white or other races, we tend to deny the fact that we’re First Nations,” Chagnon says. “[Cafe Daughter] is really about reclaiming our culture, reclaiming who we are as Indigenous people.” 

God’s Lake, by Castlereigh Theatre, running Jan. 17-18 @ 8 p.m. and Jan. 19 @ 2 p.m. at the Pumphouse Theatres, is a Documentary Theatre piece that tells the story of the reserve of God’s Lake Narrows, Manitoba. “[God’s Lake] is very enlightening for people who might not understand what has led into the reserve system,” Chagnon says. She sees the work as a way to educate people on the issues of the reserve systems, and the challenges for people who live there. 

Chagnon hopes that audiences will take the time to broaden their minds at these and other Indigenous performances. “It’s really important work,” she says. “When we experience a show or an art piece it reaches into our heart and soul and draws out of us.”