New sxʷiʔe’m Indigenous Writers & Storyteller Series launches

When the new sxʷiʔe ̕m “To Tell A Story” Indigenous Writers & Storytellers Series launches at UVic on November 10, it will be offered as a gift to the community by the Department of Writing and professor Gregory Scofield.

“My goal is to honor the nations on whose territory we live, and to celebrate and honour the writers and storytellers in our communities,” he says.

To launch this latest offering in Victoria’s literary landscape, the Writing department is honouring two acclaimed alumni: Syilx Okanagan multidisciplinary author Jeannette Armstrong — an Order of Canada recipient and founder of Penticton’s acclaimed En’owkin Centre — and award-winning WSÁNEC poet Philip Kevin Paul, a past Governor General’s Award poetry finalist and former instructor with the Writing department.

Gregory Scofield

“Jeannette Armstrong is a matriarch, an author, a storyteller and an incredible educator working in language revival,” says Scofield. “Philip Kevin Paul is an amazing poet and storyteller, as well as a local knowledge keeper and SENĆOŦEN language speaker. I’m very excited to be able to celebrate these writers and storytellers.”

Indeed, both our Writing department and the Faculty of Fine Arts have a long history with the En’owkin Centre, whose Foundations Indigenous Fine Arts Progam ladders towards a UVic BFA.

An exciting time for Indigenous writers & storytellers

Inspired by a similar series he ran while teaching at Ontario’s Laurentian University, Scofield began working on this new series shortly after joining UVic’s Writing department in 2019.

“It has been and continues to be a very exciting time for Indigenous writers and storytellers,” he says. “There are so many important stories to be shared, told and celebrated across Turtle Island through the mediums of literature, film, music, dance and oral storytelling.”

Armstrong and Paul are among a number of notable Indigenous alumni who have graduated from the Writing department over the years, including the award-winning likes of Haisla & Heiltsuk novelist Eden Robinson and multidisciplinary Tłı̨chǫ Dene author Richard Van Camp — both of whom originally came from the En’owkin Centre program — plus Métis & Trinidadian poet Cara-Lyn Morgan, and Xaxli’p & Métis freelance journalist Jenessa Joy Klukas, to name a few.

“We now have specific generations of Indigenous writers: there’s the writers of Jeannette’s era and the writers of my own generation, plus new writers like Billy-Ray Belcourt, Joshua Whitehead and Shari Narine,” says Scofield. “As more Canadians become aware of truth and reconciliation, more people are reading works by Indigenous writers and gaining knowledge of our history.”

All are welcome to join in the celebration of the new sxʷiʔe ̕m “To Tell A Story” Indigenous Writers & Storytellers Series, starting at 7:00pm Friday, November 10, in UVic’s First Peoples House.

Orion Series presents Duncan McCue

The Orion
Lecture Series in Fine Arts

Through the generous support of the Orion Fund in Fine Arts, the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Victoria, is pleased to present:

Duncan McCue

Visiting journalist

9:30am (PST) Tuesday, October 17, 2023 

Online class visit only

Presented by UVic’s Department of Writing

For more information on this lecture please email: writing@uvic.ca

 

 

Anishinaabe journalist and educator Duncan McCue is the author of Decolonizing Journalism: A Guide to Reporting in Indigenous Communities. His talk with Writing’s Environmental Journalism class will draw on his award-winning podcast Kuper Island for a thoughtful reflection on building respectful relationships with Indigenous communities and how Canadians can take meaningful steps toward reconciliation. 

McCue will also present the separate online talk “Beyond Kuper Island: A Journalist’s Reflection on Truth and Reconciliation”,  presented by the Department of Germanic & Slavic Studies and the Faculty of Humanities.

This talk happens at 7pm Thursday, October 19, online only via Zoom: register here to get the link

About Duncan McCue

Duncan McCue is an award-winning CBC broadcaster and leading advocate for fostering the connection between journalism and Indigenous communities. He was the host of Helluva Story on CBC Radio and was also the driving force behind Kuper Island, a remarkable eight-part podcast series on residential schools.

McCue was with CBC News for 25 years. In addition to hosting CBC Radio One’s Cross Country Checkup, he was a longstanding correspondent for CBC-TV’s flagship news show, The National, and continues to maintain an association with CBC.

He joined Carleton University’s School of Journalism and Communication on July 1, 2023 and is an associate professor, specializing in Indigenous journalism and storytelling. He has also taught journalism and created courses at the UBC Graduate School of Journalism and Toronto Metropolitan University and also as a visiting fellow at Carleton.

Over the years he developed a unique online resource, Reporting in Indigenous Communities, which inspired his latest work, a new textbook called Decolonizing Journalism: A Guide to Reporting in Indigenous Communities. McCue is also the author of The Shoe Boy: A Trapline Memoir, which recounts a season he spent in a hunting camp with a Cree family in northern Quebec as a teenager.

McCue studied English at the University of King’s College, then did his law degree at UBC. He was called to the bar in British Columbia in 1998.

McCue is Anishinaabe, a member of the Chippewas of Georgina Island First Nation in southern Ontario.

 

 

About the Orion Fund

Established through the generous gift of an anonymous donor, the Orion Fund in Fine Arts is designed to bring distinguished visitors from other parts of Canada—and the world—to the University of Victoria’s Faculty of Fine Arts, and to make their talents and achievements available to faculty, students, staff and the wider Greater Victoria community who might otherwise not be able to experience their work.

The Orion Fund also exists to encourage institutions outside Canada to invite regular faculty members from our Faculty of Fine Arts to be visiting  artists/scholars at their institutions; and to make it possible for Fine Arts faculty members to travel outside Canada to participate in the academic life of foreign institutions and establish connections and relationships with them in order to encourage and foster future exchanges.

Visit our online events calendar at www.events.uvic.ca

Phoenix season kicks off with shows for the young & the young-at-heart

The cast of The Woman Who Outshone The Sun (photo: Megan Farrell)

Proving that experience matters when it comes to creating impactful productions, Phoenix Theatre is offering an all-alumni directed season—ideally matched to UVic’s upcoming 60th anniversary celebrations.

It all kicks off with two productions that speak to Phoenix’s past and present: Applied Theatre professor Yasmine Kandil directs SETYA, the latest in the continuing Staging Equality series, while sessional instructor Alistair Newton offers The Importance of Being Earnest—Oscar Wilde’s 128-year-old classic comedy that (surprisingly) has never been presented before on campus.

Staging Equality: Theatre for Young Audiences

SETYA offers a double bill of The Woman Who Outshone the Sun and Shi-shi-etko, two children’s stories ideally suited to Staging Equality’s mandate of offering IBPoC-focused performances. “We wanted stories by and about Indigenous and people of color to be accessible to our young audiences and their families, and I think this show will deliver,” says Kandil. “These two stories both talk about important issues facing Indigenous communities in Canada and in Latin America.”

With four productions staged over the past two years (Journey to Mapu, Kamloopa: An Indigenous Matriarch Story, Im:print and It’s Just Black Hair), SETYA sees the return of previous Staging Equality partners as narrators here: Paulina Grainger of the Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria (The Woman who Outshone the Sun) and Kwakwaka’wakw performer and UVic En’owkin School alum Krystal Cook (Shi-shi-etko).

“Krystal has amazing stage presence and an ability to bring tenderness as well as strength to carry the enormity of the story she is telling. And Paulina has a magical way of drawing the audience into the narrative,” says Kandil. “I’ve enjoyed their approach to creating art and engaging with our students. I felt both stories required actors who were strong performers who could also embrace the community awareness element of the work we are carrying out.”

While theatre for young audiences is a style more often presented by alumni in the community, Kandil believes this is yet another way to welcome diverse audiences into the Phoenix. “We know the audiences who have attended our previous Staging Equality programming will return, and we also wanted children and their families to come to our theatre,” she concludes. “Audiences, young and old, will be able to engage with these topics in a manner that allows them to digest the material, and hopefully the stories might last with them a while.”

SETYA director Yasmine Kandil (photo: Megan Farrell)

“Krystal has amazing stage presence and an ability to bring tenderness as well as strength to carry the enormity of the story she is telling. And Paulina has a magical way of drawing the audience into the narrative,” says Kandil. “I’ve enjoyed their approach to creating art and engaging with our students. I felt both stories required actors who were strong performers who could also embrace the community awareness element of the work we are carrying out.”

While theatre for young audiences is a style more often presented by alumni in the community, Kandil believes this is yet another way to welcome diverse audiences into the Phoenix. “We know the audiences who have attended our previous Staging Equality programming will return, and we also wanted children and their families to come to our theatre,” she concludes. “Audiences, young and old, will be able to engage with these topics in a manner that allows them to digest the material, and hopefully the stories might last with them a while.”

Earnest director Alistair Newton (photo: Catherine Lemmon)

Feeling Earnest

While SETYA focuses on young audiences, The Importance of Being Earnest is a perennially popular production that has never gone out of style since its 1895 debut. What’s the appeal for a very contemporary director like Alistair Newton?

“Aside from the obvious answer that it has got to be one of the greatest works of comic writing in the English language, it’s also a work coded with all sorts of transgressive satire—much of which would only have been legible to those members of the audience with the right ear to hear it,” he says. “Populism with a wicked satirical edge has always been irresistible to me.”

Newton, who is also teaching Theatre’s fall elective on drag culture and was just announced as a director for the prestigious Shaw Festival’s 2024 season, says he enjoys “excavating the hidden histories and secret codes” of what’s often described as classical theatre.

Earnest is so constantly revived that it almost feels like a meme at this point, rather than a play,” he explains. “True, the 19th century gave us hysterical sexual repression and the codification of rigid gender roles, but it also gave us radicals who rebelliously pushed back—like the pioneering sexologist Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld, the Danish artist and trans woman Lili Elbe, and William Dorsey Swann, an enslaved black activist and drag performer who was likely the first person to refer to himself as a ‘queen’.”

Much like SETYA, Newton feels Earnest will also resonate with Phoenix audiences.

“Oscar Wilde loved a paradox, and both his legacy and the history of Earnest has sort of become one: at the time of his arrest for ‘gross indecency’, Wilde had two hit shows running in the West End and had completely conquered mainstream boulevard entertainment in London—but, at the same time, his queerness was considered so scandalous by his society that they had to forcibly remove him from their midst.”

Finally, as a returning alumni, how does it feel for Newton to be back at the Phoenix—both directing and teaching? “A lot of things change in a couple of decades, but some things are exactly how I left them: the graffiti on the scene shop wall and the very particular smell as you first enter the Roger Bishop Theatre,” he quips.

“But I think my favourite change is something I perceive in the students: they seem much more willing to advocate for themselves and to challenge orthodoxies, ideas of canon and the educational status quo. At the risk of sounding like an old queen, the kids definitely seem alright to me.”

SETYA runs October 12-14 + 19-21 while The Importance of Being Earnest runs November 9-25, both at UVic’s Phoenix Theatre

Orange Shirt Day events

Did you know this popular Orange Shirt Day design “Hearts & Hands” was created by multi-disciplinary Kwakwaka’wakw/Coast Salish artist Carey Newman? UVic’s Impact Chair in Indigenous Art Practices and a professor with both our departments of Visual Arts and Art History & Visual Studies, Newman is also the creator of the powerful Witness Blanket sculpture, now permanently housed in the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg.

“This design was made to honour the children who died in residential school,” says Newman, whose traditional name is Hayalthkin’geme. “The hearts express love for all those in unmarked graves and compassion for the families and communities who waited for them to be found. The small and colourful hands remind us of the uniqueness and beauty of every child. Taken together, they represent our commitment to listen to our hearts and use our hands, to do the work that needs to be done.”

“The visceral confirmation of Survivor accounts that has come from locating these graves has affected many of us on an emotional level,” he continues. “It has changed the way that many people think and feel about our histories and current realities in Canada.”

Examining the impacts of colonialism

A master carver, filmmaker, author and popular public speaker, Carey Newman’s artistic practice strives to highlight Indigenous, social and environmental issues as he examines the impacts of colonialism and capitalism, harnessing the power of material truth to unearth memory and trigger the necessary emotion to drive positive change. He is also interested in engaging with community and incorporating innovative methods derived from traditional teachings and Indigenous worldviews into his process.

Support meaningful engagement with Elders

Just in time for Orange Shirt Day, Newman’s design is currently available to order on a t-shirt at UVic’s Bookstore. But be warned: fake designs are unfortunately available online, the proceeds from which are not going to Indigenous groups. It’s best to pick one up from a trusted supplier, like the Bookstore.

If you already have a shirt from a previous year, we encourage you to support Orange Shirt Day initiatives by considering making a $25 donation directly to the Elders Engagement Fund, Witness Blanket Project or Orange Shirt Society.

The university has established the ITOTELNEW̱TEL ȽTE: LEARNING FROM ONE ANOTHER Fund (Elders Engagement Fund). It provides meaningful engagement with Elders and opportunities for learning Indigenous ways of knowing for students, faculty and staff.

Orange Shirt Day events

Events are taking place across campus this week in recognition of National Truth and Reconciliation Week. You can see a full list of campus activities here. Be sure to wear your orange shirt and join in the campus gathering in the Quad from 11:45am-1:30pm Friday, Sept. 29.

There’s also the big South Island Pow-wow starting at 10am Saturday, Sept 30, in downtown’s Royal Athletic Park.

What is Orange Shirt Day?

Orange Shirt Day is a national movement in Canada. In this annual event, Indigenous and non-Indigenous people come together in the spirit of hope and reconciliation to honour former residential school students, their families and communities. We consider the impacts of the policies and actions of the Government of Canada and the churches that operated the schools.

Orange Shirt Day began in Williams Lake, BC in 2013 at the St. Joseph Mission (SJM) residential school commemoration event at which survivor Phyllis Webstad told the story of her shiny new orange shirt taken away from her on her first day of school at the Mission.

Orange Shirt Day occurs in early fall because this is the time of year when children were removed from their families and forced to attend residential schools. The day inspires Canadians to take part in anti-racism and anti-bullying initiatives at school and work.

The residential school era began in the early 1870s, with the last school closing in 1996. More than 150,000 Indigenous, Métis and Inuit children attended these schools. There are an estimated 80,000 survivors living today.

Awi’nakola as a way of being

Paul Walde, Rande Cook & Kelly Richardson on stage at the Rifflandia Festival in Sept ’22

It would be difficult to imagine two more different audiences than those at Montreal’s COP 15 UN Biodiversity Conference and Victoria’s Rifflandia Music Festival, but both were on the schedule for the Awi’nakola: Tree of Life Foundation in 2022.

Founded by a group of Indigenous knowledge keepers, scientists and artists with a common commitment to create tangible solutions for the current climate crisis—and educate others through the process—Awi’nakola seeks to share cross-disciplinary research practices and develop ways to heal the planet, heal the people and change culture.

Led by Makwala Rande Cook—former UVic Audain Professor, Visual Arts MFA and hereditary chief of the Ma’amtagila First Nation—and Ernest Alfred, hereditary chief of the Tlowit’sis Nation, Awi’nakola (pronounced “A-weet-nah-kyoh-lah”) takes its name from a Kwak’wala word which loosely translates to being one with the land, ocean, air and all living forms. “When elders say this, it’s the embodiment of respect and relationship to all living things,” Cook explains.

But what began with five people in 2019 has now grown into an international group of more than 40, including Visual Arts professors Kelly Richardson, Paul Walde and Lindsay Delaronde.

In July 2022, Awi’nakola members spent a week in Kwakwaka’wakw territories documenting the loss of old-growth ecosystems—some of the last primary forests on the planet—and coming up with ways to communicate the severity of the loss to BC’s coastal rainforests. While there, the scientists conducted research that could one day help regenerate damaged forests, while the artists gathered imagery for future projects.

And in December 22, Cook and David Mungo Knox | Walas Namugwis (shown here) presented to the UN biodiversity summit COP 15. “We need radical change and that needs to come now,” Cook said in this Narwhal article following the summit. “We’re in a place right now where it literally is about the planet and we’re putting a timeline on the existence of humanity. For the health of all of us we need to make some real radical changes.”

The Awi’nakola Project is also working to secure exhibitions in locations where the BC government is known to purchase by-products of old-growth trees. Together, they are working collectively to build a better future for generations to come.

You can read more about their efforts in this story from The Ecologyst.