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Celebrating Indigenous Culture at the Confederation Centre

The Canada150 Dream Catchers project was a chance for the Confederation Centre of the Arts to celebrate Indigenous culture from across Canada. We are continuing this conversation by having a diverse cast and crew with The Charlottetown Festival and featuring the stories of Indigenous people, on and off the stage.

A Year after Dream Catchers

The Dream Catchers was a Canada150 Signature Project produced by the Confederation Centre. It included drama and art workshops held across the country for young Canadians to come together and share their stories in creative and artistic outlets. During the workshops, the participants created dream catchers, which were collected and developed into the national dreamcatcher now found in Memorial Hall. A theatrical production full of the music, dance, and stories inspired by these workshops was then performed in Charlottetown and toured across Canada by the 2017 Confederation Centre Young Company.

“The Dream Catchers project had a profound effect on everyone who encountered it. The very core of the Confederation Centre was challenged, and we are now forever changed by what the project taught us,” stated Mary Francis Moore, Associate Artistic Director.

“It challenged our institution, our privilege, and forced us to acknowledge what we do and do not know about our history and ourselves. This institution knows how important it is to face all sides of our country’s history and move toward a positive and lasting change that recognizes the importance of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit voices.”

The Young Company’s Aqsarniit

This year’s Young Company performance is a continuation of this shared dream. Called Aqsarniit, the Inuktitut word for northern lights, it explores the stories of Canada’s past and hopes for the future. Barbara Diabo has been the choreographer with the Young Company for two years. She originally comes from the Mohawk Nation of Kahnawake.

“I’m happy they seem genuine in continuing the conversation. Last year wasn’t a one shot deal. I think they’re hungry to know more and to promote our voices more,” said Diabo.

Samantha McCue is Anishnaabe from the Chippewas of Georgina Island and Ned’u’ten from Lake Babine First Nation. She grew up on the Musqueam Reserve in Vancouver, BC, and currently lives in Toronto. This year she’s the costumer and set designer of the Young Company production, after graduating from York University’s theatre program in 2017.

Indigenous cast, crew, and productions

There are also a number of performers throughout The Charlottetown Festival with Indigenous roots, including Jacob McInnis, who performs in both Anne of Green Gables – The Musical™ and Jesus Christ Superstar.

“This is kind of how it starts is with the arts and I think visibility is the most important in showing under-represented people,” added McInnis.

Starting on August 7, the Confederation Centre is also pleased to feature Métis Mutt by creator and performer Sheldon Elter. It’s an autobiographical coming-of-age story that focuses around Elter’s journey as a young man as a stand-up comedian and the death of his father.

“What excites me is we’re not just trying to tell a lot of traditional stories,” said Elter. “How do we live today? What kind of stories we want to tell? Those are the questions I want to answer.”

Elter hopes his story, as well as the other works presented this year with The Charlottetown Festival, can inspire others with hope.