Watch the Commitment to Equity Virtual Town Hall

Watch the Commitment to Equity Virtual Town Hall

Calgary Arts Development is committed to bettering our systems regarding equity, diversity, inclusion, and accessibility (EDIA). As a public agency stewarding public dollars for the benefit of ALL Calgarians, we aspire to foster a resilient and sustainable arts sector that is safe and welcoming for all, regardless of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, language, citizenship, creed, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, marital status, physical, or mental abilities.

At Calgary Arts Development our commitment to equity starts by honouring the first peoples of this land through Indigenous reconciliation.

Our work is focused on building good relations with First Nations, Métis, and Inuit (FNMI) based on mutual respect, deep listening and learning, honoring protocols, and providing intentional funding for FNMI art and artists.

The commitment to equity virtual town hall on Tuesday, August 31, 2021, focused on our commitment to Indigenous reconciliation.

Hosted by Sable Sweetgrass, Specialist, Indigenous Programs, this session included an update on current initiatives such as our granting programs the Original Peoples Investment Program (OPIP) and the Honoring the Children Grant Program as well as hearing perspectives of some special guests on truth and reconciliation through Indigenous arts.

The town hall was hosted on Zoom and was interpreted in American Sign Language (ASL). A transcript of the town hall is available below as well as an unedited version of the chat and a list of links that were shared.

Patti Pon: Hi everyone. It’s Patti Pon here with Calgary Arts Development. We’re just bringing in the last few people, and we’ll get started in a second here. I’m just looking at the participants’ list. Oh, lots of names I recognize. Hello. Welcome. Thank you all so much for joining us.

I think we’re ready to get started so I’m gonna go ahead.

Welcome, everyone to our Commitment to Equity virtual town hall. These three and maybe more Commitment to Equity town halls are part of our continuing work to centre equity, diversity inclusion, and accessibility into what we do to increase our own learning and understanding, and in some cases to unlearn. Particularly important to us is our reconciliation journey, because without us reconciling with the original peoples of this place, and we come from a place Mohkinsstsis, we can’t ever authentically work in the realm of equity, diversity, inclusion, and accessibility. So, it is a real thrill for me that our first town hall is going to centre around a conversation about truth and reconciliation. We’re just so thrilled to have very special guests with us today. And these people bring a great deal of knowledge and experience and wisdom, and I am just so honoured and thrilled that they were all able to join us today and share that with all of this, with all of us in a good way.

So, before we get underway. I’d like to invite my colleague, Melissa, to go over the details of how we will work and be within this town hall today. So over to you, Melissa.

Melissa Tuplin: Thanks, Patti. So those of you who have been around for the last 18 months, probably heard a lot of these should be around Zoom etiquette, but we have a few things that we’d like to highlight today.

So we have Natjelly who is running this event for us today for the technical side. If you have any technical issues or questions around the Zoom, or accessibility, please privately chat with her. She has put in the chat here that if you require multi-pin access please privately chat with her. We also have two ASL interpreters with us, Stephanie and Debra. If you require the multi-pin ability to pin the interpreters, please message Natjelly. We do request that the audience turn their cameras off unless you’re asking a question to ensure that the speakers and interpreters remain visible, and you can hide non-video participants using that little three-dot menu in the upper corner of your video screen once you turn your camera off. If you are speaking, please remember to introduce yourself and pause a little bit before you begin for the interpreters to indicate who you are. We’re using a transcription app called Click the red box at the top of the screen if you would like to use that. If you would prefer to use the Zoom subtitles. You can also choose those. There’s a live transcript button on the bottom of the Zoom screen that you can click to access those. We are recording this meeting for future reference, and to share with folks who couldn’t make this time work. When we release the recording, there will be an accurate transcript published as well. But again, if you would prefer not to be visible in the recording, ensure that your camera stays off.

If you’ve joined us before you’ll know that Calgary Arts Development uses group agreements to set shared expectations and a commitment to safety and bravery in the spaces that we occupy together. Those agreements can be found in the instructions document that we will post in the chat. At a previous town hall, the CommunityWise Anti-racist Organizational Change working group shared with us their accountable spaces guidelines. And so today, we’d like to focus on those. You can also find those guidelines in the direct link to them, that we will post in the chat.

So we want to share the space today.

Be mindful of your speaking time, make space for others to speak and avoid interrupting others. Please keep your mics on mute when you’re not speaking. Share your reactions in the chat box. If the moderator of the session is open to questions, please raise your hand, either in the chat box or by using the button at the bottom of your screen. We want to recognize that each experience and viewpoint is valid even if they differ. We want to validate your answers rather than lecturing or giving advice.

Consider that you do not need to agree with the perspective in order to understand it. Speak for yourself, use “I” language, don’t speak for others and don’t share someone else’s stories or experiences. Notice your own biases and judgments and avoid making assumptions about other people. We want to examine our own privilege and be aware of potential power dynamics that we might contribute to within a space. Recognize that we’re all in a place of learning. If you say something problematic, apologize, listen to the voices of others, and then learn, and adjust your behaviour. Be open to calling in harmful attitudes as well as open to critical self reflection. If an individual tells you something you said was harmful to them, listen. Use these situations not to harass or call out but as a learning experience. And finally, take care of yourself. Think of someone you trust whom you can debrief with and plan to contact them.

Okay, if you need to leave the room at any time. In addition to these accountable spaces guidelines, I also want to state that we recognize that asking people to share in this space is a request that requires emotional labour and vulnerability. Calgary Arts Development commits to the promise that there will be no retribution against people for the stories and perspectives that they share, and we ask that all participants commit to the same. Any participants who use harmful or disrespectful language or who are actively disregarding the group agreements will be asked to leave the town hall. If they choose not to leave, we will remove you.

Please privately chat with Cherie McMaster who is supporting today’s town hall as an active bystander if you feel uncomfortable or unsafe or see that a participant is using harmful or offensive language. I’d like to invite Cherie to introduce yourself so that people can find your screen and see who you are.

Oh Cherie, sorry you’re muted.

Cherie McMaster: Thanks Melissa sorry about that. Good afternoon. This is Cherie speaking. And thank you very much for having me in your space today, in the space here. I’ve been asked as Melissa has indicated to act as the active bystander for today’s conversation. The term bystander effect refers to the fault phenomenon where the greater number of people that are present, the less likely people are to help someone who is in distress. And it is believed that this happens that the behaviour and others strengthen the bystander effect, so when people remain passive, others remain passive. However, if others exhibit active reactions then the bystander effect may be reduced; and therefore, an individual is more likely to help someone when someone else has initiated action. So the active bystander is a person who witnesses an emergency or power-based violence, recognizes it and takes upon themselves to do something about it. And as bystanders, we need to be especially vigilant and aware of what disrespect, harassment and racism and hate violence look like in order to stand up and intervene when people need it the most.

So as Melissa indicated, if you feel uncomfortable or unsafe or if you feel that the group agreements that have been outlined, or the accountable space guidelines are not being respected, please feel free to privately message, privately message me here today. And part of my role as the active bystander is to help make sure that we’re collectively adhering to those agreements. As Melissa indicated, participants who break the agreements will be contacted by me and if necessary removed from today’s discussion.

So I look forward to hearing the conversation today and again thank you for being here and for sharing your stories today. Thanks very much.

Melissa Tuplin: This is Melissa speaking again. Thank you Cherie so much. So we’ll be opening the floor for questions after guests share their thoughts. Again, if you’d like to speak, you can use the reactions button at the bottom of your screen to raise your hand or indicate that you’d like to share in the chat. You can also put questions directly in the chat as Lesley from our team will be collecting questions and watching for raised hands. Again, if you have any questions or challenges with the technology, please privately chat Natjelly. And I will pass it back to Patti.

Patti Pon: Many thanks Melissa and Cherie for giving us that information and helping us again hold this session in a good way. This is Patti speaking. And before I hand it over to our moderator and host for today’s conversation, as I said earlier, it’s a really important time. These commitments to equity town halls are actually the second in a series of town halls that we started last summer when we hosted five anti-racism town halls. And as we all know, things become heightened in a moment when something happens like the murder of George Floyd, and then, life goes on, and things just kind of go by the wayside. And it was really important to us that we continue to host a series of these kinds of conversations so that all of us in our communities could continue to learn.

And as I said, unlearn sometimes, and make sure that these conversations, and that the people who have been impacted and affected and harmed are never forgotten. And so, as I said, I’m thrilled to have CADA hosting these town halls again this year. We chose to rename the town halls, our commitment to equity, and it’s not that we won’t talk about anti-racism or racism, I’m sure you’ll hear a lot about it today as a matter of fact, however, we wanted to also have these town halls be an act of our commitment. And in doing so, one way I want to demonstrate our active commitment is by introducing you to our hostess for today’s conversation Sable Sweetgrass. Sable has been with us at Calgary Arts Development for a few years now, going on a few years now. However, Sable is an artist in her own right, got a body of work that goes back many years and her commitment to this community, not only as an artist but also as a champion for the arts and an advocate for the arts and particularly, Indigenous arts and artists, goes back a long time in our community. And today I want to. It’s my great pleasure actually to publicly introduce Sable in her role as Director of Indigenous Engagement and Reconciliation. Sable is joining our leadership team already in her first little bit of time with us as a member of the senior team. Her wisdom and expertise and patience have made a difference to me already. And so, I’m so thrilled that our organization has caught up to the life experience, to the knowledge, to the expertise that Sable has brought not only to Calgary Arts Development but to many organizations prior.

It was a thrill for me to be able to announce her appointment, not only today but previously to our staff and board. So welcome, Sable. And, over to you to host the rest of our time today. Thank you very much. That’s my final thought.

Sable Sweetgrass: Thank you so much, Patti. Wow, it was, it’s been quite a week, couple of weeks. And so excited to be in, to be in this new role with Calgary Arts Development. The past few years have been seeing so many exciting changes and developments for the Indigenous arts community here at Moh’kinstsis and throughout Southern Alberta. And we’re just getting started when it comes to Calgary Arts Development, but there’s so much more going on in our community. We have so many artists, so many Indigenous artists from Treaty 7 First Nations from Métis Region 3, Inuit artists, we have an Inuit gallery, Transformations Art Gallery, and First Nations people from all across Turtle Island who call Moh’kinstsis home. And so I just I’m so proud of the work that we are doing with Calgary Arts Development, and addressing the needs of the Indigenous arts community here, so thank you so much.

All right, so I’m going to do a land acknowledgement and then introduce our Elder today from Kainai nation for everyone. Thank you so much for joining us, welcome. Welcome to our town hall, and our talk around truth and reconciliation in the arts. Today we are here, I’m here in my ancestors’ traditional territory in Moh’kinstsis, Southern Alberta. Here we have the three signatories to Treaty number 7 in September of 1877, the Blackfoot, which is the Siksika, Kainai, which is where I’m from, and the Piikani, as well as the Tsuut’ina Nation, which is just on the southwest edge of the city here, and Stoney Nakoda people, which is Chiniki, Bearspaw  and Wesley. And we’re so glad to have you here with us. As I said, we have so many First Nations from across Turtle Island who call this home and, as well as the Métis Nation Region three that also is situated here in Calgary, Moh’kinstsis.

And I would like to now introduce our Elder for today’s gathering. Rose (Blackfoot name)—Rose Heavy Head, and (Blackfoot name) in English which I have difficulty pronouncing in Blackfoot, which is Dividing Thunder, so thank you so much for joining us.

Rose Heavy Head: Oki. <<Speaking in Blackfoot>>

Good day. I am here. I’m glad to be invited in to join your meeting today and help you with prayer, so, I will like to smudge right now. And I’m from Kainai. Kainai’s Southern Alberta, Blackfoot tribe. Kainai means many chiefs, that’s where I’m from, and I’m Two Spirit. I helped the Two Spirit community quite a bit. When they call me to come and do prayers, and within the past two summers I’ve been helping with sweat lodges, or to spirit in your family and our friends, so I’ll just do a prayer right now.

<<Praying in Blackfoot>>

Okay, now. So I prayed in Blackfoot. My mother in law, or Elder, she said that we pray in our own language that we were given by creator, because in that language, there’s a spirit in that language and it strengthens your prayers and your life, and the people that you’re praying for too. So that’s what, and I just prayed about all of the people that live in Moh’kinstsis city and all the different races of people that were create or put on Earth, that we all understand each other well, and that we get to volunteer and have compassion and caring for each other and put prayer first. Native people – we put prayer first. It helps the other areas in our life, of our, you know, in the medicine world, they have the physical, emotional, mental, and so in the medicine wheel house, there are four races of people. And so it’s kind of like a puzzle and then we come together, and we learn from each other because we all have sacred and powerful ways creator gave us to to use in our lives, but we share that with each other, and this way, you know, we live in harmony with our lives now and into the future for our future generations. Hey.

Sable Sweetgrass: Thank you so much. Thank you for that powerful prayer. Thank you.

Rose Heavy Head: You’re very welcome. You’re welcome.

Sable Sweetgrass: So today is a really special day for me because, for all of us I mean, coming together, especially with this particular group of artists that we have lined up to speak. These are three, four leaders in the Indigenous arts community here in Calgary, Southern Alberta. And just reflecting this past couple of weeks since I shifted roles, and I’m thinking how far that we have come in this community, and establishing Indigenous arts here Moh’kinstsis.

It has been a battle. It’s been a battle. It’s been a real challenge, since, since I can remember. And it’s been, you know, two steps forward, ten steps back and, and then sometimes, a huge leap forward. And I really got into the Indigenous art scene when I joined the Calgary Aboriginal Arts Awareness Society, and one of my mentors, the late Joane Cardinal-Schubert really was able to teach me about everything that came before here in this city. And, and also connecting with my Elders from the Blackfoot Confederacy when I worked with the Glenbow Museum as they were putting together the Blackfoot exhibit on the third floor of the Glenbow Museum. And it made me realize that Indigenous arts goes way back before the signing of Treaty 7, and, but we really sort of just focused on what has been, has been done recently. We never really think about how far it actually goes back.

And so now I see, the way I see things is that we’re sort of, we’re sort of starting again and we’re re establishing and, and we have so many Indigenous communities here in Moh’kinstsis, Southern Alberta—such a rich diversity of communities and artists of all of all practices. We’re so very lucky. And, and so we have three of these artists who are here today.

And the first is that will be talking is Cowboy Smithx. Cowboy Smithx is from Piikani Nation. And Cowboy is, well, Cowboy, he wears many hats. He is a filmmaker. He is a writer. He studied theatre. He’s worked with Making Treaty 7. He was in the documentary Elder in the Making. And then also the REDx talks, which was very similar to TEDx talks, but a focus on Indigenous leaders and knowledge keepers, presenting to the community.

Our other speaker is Kelli Morning Bull and Kelli Morning Bull has been a leader here as well for quite some time. She is currently a design lead at the Calgary Public Library. She is in charge of the Calgary placemaking, Indigenous placemaking, which is getting artists involved in putting sculptures and murals all over Calgary within the Calgary Public Library. Kelli was integral to the establishment, the development of the Central, New Central Library, when it was, when it was about to open. And Kelli herself is a filmmaker from Piikani Nation, and her film Treaty Money—short film. And she’s also done principal photography for a short film that I did. Both her and I took a course through Herland film a few years back. So I’m really excited to have Kelli join us today.

And then, Troy Emery Twigg, who is, I would say one of our knowledge keepers, and one of our Elders in the arts as well. He, Troy, has worked with the late Michael Green, and, and our late Elder Narcisse Blood to bring artists together for Making Treaty 7 back in 2012. And so, we all know the impact that making Treaty 7 had and continues to have in our community. Troy is a choreographer and a dancer. He works all across Canada and has worked for the Centre for Indigenous Theatre in Toronto, as well as many productions across Canada. So I’m really excited to have them here to share their thoughts, their ideas and their vision of the future of Indigenous arts to address truth and reconciliation in Indigenous arts here in Moh’kinstsis, Southern Alberta.

I’d also like to introduce Jarret Twoyoungmen, who I’m hoping will be able to join us here. Jaret is from the Stoney Nakoda Nation. And he is a filmmaker. He heads up the Stoney Nakoda youth animation project, and works with a lot of young Stoney Nakoda youths in helping to develop their careers as filmmakers and artists. He’s a leader in his community and also a leader within our community as well. So I’m hoping that he’ll be able to join us today. He’s a new dad, is a new father, and he’s currently filming, so he’s very busy, but hoping that he’ll be able to join us.

So I would really like to start with Cowboy first, and then with Kelli Morning Bull, and then Troy. Each speaker will have 10 to 15 minutes to share their thoughts. Like I said their thoughts, ideas of Indigenous arts here in the city and as well as truth and reconciliation. So, Cowboy. You there?

Cowboy Smithx: Oki, oki.

Sable Sweetgrass: Oki, good to see you.

Cowboy Smithx: Thank you for that introduction. Thank you. So we have, so we have 10 minutes now, or we do our little spiel right now and then we dissected later.

Sable Sweetgrass: Yes.

Cowboy Smithx: Okay. Beautiful. <<Speaking in Blackfoot>>. Good morning to those of you who are just waking up this afternoon, and good afternoon to all of my peers out there. Honored to be on the same panel as Troy and Kelli and Jaret—fellow artists who I have nothing but love for and respect for and also shout out to Rose for that beautiful prayer. It’s always good to hear those prayers in our language, in the Niitsitapi language. And shout out to my grandmother, who was a huge influence on me, the late Margaret Hyneman. She was, you know, one of my mentors in the cultural side of things with the Blackfoot culture. And I got to spend every, you know, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and special holiday with her.

One of the really beautiful things that I learned from my grandmother was I was always perplexed as a kid, by her prayers. The length of her prayers would be something to the tune of 45 minutes to an hour, and I couldn’t, I couldn’t, I had no idea what you know she was saying most of the prayer. But what she was actually doing when she was praying, she had a specific sort of moment and focus for every single person in the room at all of our family gatherings. And I think we, we kind of forget that, that kind of love and care is often not a welcomed thing in spaces where we have to like, you know, rush and hurry up and stay on time and, and check off all these boxes. So I remember our family having to like, you know, call everybody to dinner, before dinner was even finished being cooked. And I can remember all of those prayers and you kind of, you kind of go into like an enchanted state when you’re listening to these prayers with some of these Elders and that took me back, so thank you for that prayer.

It’s, it’s been a tricky time that like for all of you who have been following the news and I guess it’s not really a news story anymore, where we as Indigenous people are confronted yet again by the colonial mechanism that predicated what happened with the residential school situation which was, of course as you know, a lot of you know the numbers keep increasing. I believe there are only 21 schools that have been searched, and we’re already like, the number out there is like north of 6000. And, you know a lot of these numbers are coming from the generation of our grandparents and a lot of their peers that, that they didn’t see come home, are part of that part of those statistics. And again you know it’s very, it’s disheartening to see that the news cycles have sort of abandoned this, the story.

Collective amnesia has kicked in, once again. But we can’t, we can’t forget it because these intergenerational traumas that have been inflicted on us by way of genocide in this country, they’re palpable. We feel them every day. We’re politicized in every situation we walk into. I still walk into a place like Canadian Tire and I’m like you know getting followed around. And I’m a big, like six foot four Iindigenous man, very Indigenous-looking emoji. And, and I still, you know, we still have, you know, these types of things can, we’re still confronted by these things. We still have to do things like code switching just to be taken seriously. And we have to overachieve to a, to a point where we’re doing ten times better than our non-Indigenous settler counterparts. And that, that, of course, is an emotional labour. That’s very taxing. And we’re constantly educating people. We’re constantly trying to navigate the fragilities and lack of capacity of non-Indigenous audiences and people that we come across, even in casual conversation. So it’s been, it’s been a mission and a half just to maintain our focus and do the things we love in the arts, and still, you know, navigate through this, you know, game of snakes and ladders where there are way more snakes than there are ladders for us to climb.

So I’m you know I want, I want to you know take this opportunity to acknowledge the great work CADA has done—Calgary Arts Development. Sable has been in the thick of it being a great leader for our community. She’s always been a great leader, a great collaborator. And I want to acknowledge all of the great work Sable has done in the spirit of equity and reconciliation processes that are going on. The Original Peoples Investment Program is something we all developed together. And I’m proud to say that, you know, hundreds of thousands of dollars have gone towards Indigenous projects where, you know, back in, back in my whippersnapper years we were lucky to get like a piece of fry bread and some stew, in one of these, one of these gatherings somewhere. Come a long way. And Calgary Arts Development’s done a great job in making sure we have a seat at the table, but also a voice and we’re actually influencing the decisions that are being made moving forward, and having autonomy and sovereignty in our work is huge. And CADA has been very hands-off. The program’s great. I still feel like some of the institutions in this, in the city have a long way to go. Part of it is not totally their fault, but part of it is their fault. Bureaucracy is something that we, it’s like a, it’s like a weird gluten allergy that we can’t quite pin down. It’s just kind of sticks around and slows everything down and throws a.

Oh who’s that? Someone’s mic is on. I think I got, I think I got someone in the audience laughing.

But, you know, to come back to like the state of state of affairs, there’s no grand unified theory on what reconciliation looks like right now. For some people who do work at an institution level, it’s been good. For more independent artists like myself, you know, we’ve had our ups and downs. I think the reconciliation era is as volatile as the cryptocurrency market. So you know, we’re still trying to, we’re still trying to find a way. It’s difficult when we’re being retraumatized, every week with another school, reporting its numbers on what happened in that time. And we’re you know we’re doing our best to try and continue to stay focused and tell stories and do things we love to do whether it’s, you know, in film and dance, theatre, writing. We just want to tell stories at the end of the day. You know, we’re all, we’re all storytellers. We’ve all witnessed our families stories growing up, or community stories, or Elder’s stories. And we’re, we’re trying to set a new bar, we’re trying to set a new precedent.

There’s some really exciting things coming up with new technologies and in places like the crypto space. CADA—I’m happy to say, I’m working with CADA on a really cool EFT project and a blockchain space for cryptocurrencies. You know, tapping into the possibilities of Indigenous futurisms and how we can take the very traditional ancestral reverberations and make them contemporary, make them relevant and make them, you know, palpable, make them accessible, make them digestible for people.

And one of the coolest thing, I’ll end with this, I don’t wanna take up too much time here but I’ll end with like a reminder that, where we are now in Treaty 7 territory in <Blackfoot word> country, our inception story is about working together, different ways, you know, different people from different walks of life, from different backgrounds working together, supporting each other, helping each other through things like a pandemic. At the time, in 1877 when we did sign Treaty we were dealing with smallpox and measles epidemics, the, the eco side of the buffalo, our staple food source at the time where, you know, we were dealing with so much and of course settlers who were not used to the harsh winters in this area. The original goal of an intense spirit in the centre of the treaty was for all of us to work together and if that’s your Inception story, if that is our genesis story, that’s a pretty cool story. And I think we need to remind ourselves that the Treaty 7 story is unique to Calgary, Southern Alberta. Edmonton doesn’t have this. Vancouver doesn’t have this. Toronto doesn’t have this story. That pipe ceremony that took place on September 22, 1877 at Blackfoot crossing is where it all began. And now we’re at a time where we really do need to step up and support each other in this very difficult time, and I really believe that organizations like CADA and many other great organizations in the Treaty 7 areas and you know you need to like, it’s time to take a back seat and let the Indigenous people lead because lived experience crushes any PhD, NFT or KFC you might have in your back pocket, because of the nuances and complexities that we face as indigenous people, and because of the frequencies of the land that we carry in, in our culture and how we view the world.

I’ve always said that our cultural protocols are the original like OG ancestral means of harm reduction. And right now, a lot of people are going through a difficult time, a lot of anxiety about what’s happening with the pandemic, a lot of a lot of depression, a lot of people losing jobs, a lot of people being forced to make decisions about their body with the vaccine. And I think a lot of that old, that old world that ancestral lexicon and way of knowing—it’s something that we need to tap back into, and share, you know, the power of that, of those ancestral frequencies with with everybody in this territory and stay true to what the treaty was all about. And with that, that’s, that’s my spiel. Hopefully we can have a good conversation the rest of the day. Thank you.

Sable Sweetgrass: Thank you so much Cowboy. Yes, I forgot to mention that cowboy was one of the original advisory for Calgary Arts Development, when they were putting together the Original Peoples Investment Program. And so, Cowboy and I—I was also part of that and trying to remember all the other names involved there were quite a few including the late Dene artist Chris Aquart, Melanie Parsons was there from Savage Rose. Oh my mind just went blank, but there were a lot of great artists involved in the development of the Original Peoples Investment Program and Cowboy was one of them. So thank you so much, Cowboy and yeah so thank you for that. Thank you for your wisdom.

And I’d like to now move on to Kelli Morning Bull and Kelli, are you there?

Kelli Morning Bull: Hello, I’m here.

Sable Sweetgrass: That’s what. Kelli is currently, as I mentioned, board of directors for MT7. And you’re also with the Calgary Public Library and, and the placemaking with, with Calgary Public Library. So thank you so much for joining us. I know you’re very busy. Thank you.

Kelli Morning Bull: Thank you Sable for inviting me today. Hello to my fellow peers Cowboy and Troy. I want to give thanks to Rose for the blessing this morning, to start our session off, and to Patti and the team for allowing to, for hosting these sessions that are so important for our community, so that we can learn how to work together in, you know the most positive but impactful way,

I guess, where my journey sort of started, I’ve been living in the city for just over 15 years. And I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I didn’t know if I wanted to be an artist. I struggled a lot with that about calling myself an artist, just because I wasn’t fully immersed in it. I was still, you know, dabbling in it. And I didn’t really see opportunities for me to exist in the Calgary art community, and, you know, which was a real sort of setback for me. And just, you know, dealing with a lot of insecurities and lack of confidence and things like that and, you know, so I guess where I sort of put my mark was to participate in different types of boards. And so, you know my first experience with a, with a board was through the Aboriginal Friendship Centre of Calgary. I actually learned that my grandfather and my grandmother were one of the sort of co-developers that brought the Indian Friendship Centre here back in the early 1950s, and that was something that was never shared with me.

Growing up I didn’t really know a lot of about my family from Siksika, because my parents had raised us down in Piikani, and that’s where I sort of lived my entire life until I was about 21. So I started to explore that side of myself that identity, and, you know, learn the different things, the movements that my grandparents were a part of. My grandfather was Chief of Siksika back in the 1950s. And, you know, and I didn’t know a lot of these things and so I really started to explore my own identity as a Niitsitapi, and you know, and what that meant for me living in a big city. And, you know, I’m not in any way, you know, tall as Cowboy. He’s six four. I’m five two. We grew up together since we were like four. I will just point that out. You know and so I really struggled a lot when, when I was trying to enter into the art scene and trying to find my place, and you know and seeing all of these really great Indigenous artists, you know, Cowboy included was a part of that, you know, a group that, you know, I’d watched from afar and I and I would, you know, was just in such awe that they could, you know, step outside the box and super confident and were making art, and you know, but at the time too, I was a single parent. I was a young mother so a lot of my decision making was around being a parent, and making the right decisions for my son to support him in a different sort of way. And then I, you know, finished school and I started to explore a little bit more.

I’d eventually left the Friendship Centre Board. But then I wanted to, to look at how I can make change, where I can voice my opinion. I was starting to sort of come into my own self as an artist. And there was an opening with EMMEDIA production as a board member and so I took that opportunity and that was back in 2013. And surprisingly enough, I’m still a part of that board and have been since, you know, since then. And, you know, and just trying to encourage other indigenous filmmakers, especially youth, you know, to explore that side of them, to provide a platform, you know, provide space, because we didn’t have a lot of space to go and create and, you know. But but even then, there’s those challenges of being in, you know, because we’re as Indigenous people were so connected to the land and that’s where we get a lot of our inspiration that being in a, you know, in an institution wasn’t as creative. And I think a lot of artists in general can reciprocate, or can understand what that was like, or what that is like. And so, you know, for me it was just trying to create spaces for everybody else except for myself, because I, you know, just, I just wanted people to have an opportunity to be who they are to explore their indigeneity to connect with themselves, to not have to hide a piece of who they are because, because they’re Indigenous and I think that’s a lot of, you know, that struggle with identity.

You know, it resonates with a lot of indigenous people and communities because we were, you know, raised on shame and, you know, even if we had great parents, great families support all of that, there was still this, the shame that came with it because of you because of your peers that you often were around. I grew up in, you know, I grew up on my reserve, but I also went my entire grade school in a white community, and so that shifted a lot of the ways that I think a lot of how I deal with, or how I work with non-Indigenous people. And, you know, and I think in this time of reconciliation there, there needs to be that level of understanding, you know, of who we are as Indigenous people and to bring yourself down to opening yourself up to our level, and understand where we’re coming from, and some of, and some of the challenges that we face the nuances, you know as Cowboy alluded to, that we face on a daily basis and that you know we can’t just be Indigenous artists. We have to carry the trauma from our families. We have to carry, you know, the addictions that come with it.

Whether it’s not even ours, it’s, it’s still connected to us in some way, and that sometimes stops us from expressing and developing and really being true to who we are as Indigenous people because of that intergenerational trauma. You know, and so with making Treaty 7, it was, you know, it’s the same sort of space. What was different because making Treaty 7 was all Indigenous. And when I first joined the board, there was all of these, you know, really great people who were all working towards the same sort of idea, the same concept, and that was to share stories, and that was to preserve our stories, but to also tell our stories from our perspective, because for a long time we weren’t able to, to do that. And it always had to come from a non-Indigenous perspective, or there had to be some sort of collaboration, you know, which is why I think a lot of us would encourage people just to continue to train, continue to get educated, you know can continue to speak your voice when you see injustice is happening, you know, whether they’re in front of you, or you hear them from your peers.

You know I don’t step back and, and, and listen like say something because sometimes people don’t know some of the challenges that we face. And when you have to explain that all the time it’s, you know, not only is it a release for you but it’s also helping non-Indigenous people to understand where we’re coming from and sometimes that could be draining and taxing. You know and so there is that level of responsibility for both parties to come together, you know, and that’s what Cowboy was talking about. you know, going back to our Niitsitapi ways, how are we going to work together in order to make ethical spaces for everybody to come, share and learn. And you know I’m all about education, you know, providing spaces, representation, visible representation as well as systemic change, you know, because that’s, that’s where a lot of the challenges come from is within. And, you know, you can send outside and you can protest all you want, but sometimes you need to find people that are within the system to help you make those changes. And sometimes they come from non-Indigenous people and so that relational piece is so important to reconciliation, because without it, there’s no trust. There’s no change. And so I’m just gonna stop there, because I think I’m gonna go on a bit of a tangent, and I’m gonna avoid any of that, so thank you.

Sable Sweetgrass: Thank you so much, Kelli. All right, awesome, thank you. And Kelli and I both started at all, we worked on a film together, which is with Herland, and that was so much fun. I wish I could do that again. And, but then we both started at the Calgary Public Library at the Old Central Library, and then moved to the new Central Library, so that was really exciting, especially when they announced the placemaking, that was going to be Indigenous placemaking, that was going to take place. And, and so Kelli was a really integral part of that and it still continues to this day, so thank you so much, Kelli.

Our next speaker is Troy Emery Twigg. Troy, are you there?

Troy Emery Twigg: Yes, I am sorry. He’s just having trouble with these little buttons on my phone.

Sable Sweetgrass: Alright, yeah, so looking forward to hearing your thoughts and, and, yeah.

Troy Emery Twigg: Cool. <<Speaking in Blackfoot>>

Good afternoon everyone. Thank you, Patti and CADA for providing this platform and space, and to this round circle. I’m honoured to be on this panel with my fellow colleagues, Kelli and Cowboy, and Jaret. Sable, congratulations. You were always a leader in my eyes and I’m so happy for you, and happy for the community that you are in that position. Also thank you to the Elder Rose. Thank you for that beautiful prayer. And yeah I’m just, I’m honored to be here. I’m home on the homeland as, at last, the pandemic has been really constricting in terms of travel, and of course you know keeping safe and stuff, and, but the resiliency, the resiliency of the artwork, going out into communities has got this boy busy. Of course, a lot of it is on Zoom. I just recently got back from Toronto when I found a window of opportunity and came home to see my family and then flew back.

I was in Older and Reckless that was produced by MOonhORsE Dance Theatre, and I’m so honoured to, to still be working in my 50 years. Here I’ve had a career of 25 years, and I’m from the Kainai Blackfoot reserve and it’s just been amazing. I mean, Jupiter Theatre called and, and they wanted something for their third podcast series which I was very honoured to be part of. Marshall Vieille, who many of you might know, he’s a young upcoming Blackfoot artist, was the actor who played six characters in my play. And Reneltta Arluk, who’s the Indigenous Director of Indigenous Arts at the Banff Centre directed it. And we never saw each other, but when it all came together and with the sound design and everything and when I heard this, I was just blown away. It’s like, you know, those are my words and here they are, you know, listening to this then. So I’m really, I’m really, it’s just restored my faith, and again the resiliency of, of what people can do and how they can keep you busy. One of my friends from Toronto, her name is Terrell says, “Troy, we cannot forget the magic, we just cannot forget the magic of what it is we do in terms of theatre.”

And this made me really nervous and I thought okay, if I’m, if I’m gonna lift the land in this, in this new play that I’m working with with Quest Theatre, we’re working on a Blackfoot story, The Girl who Lost her Buffalo, how do we, we don’t know where the pandemic is gonna take us so we’re, we’re thinking fast, adapting fast, you know, how are we gonna lift the land if we’re gonna have to do this outside? And you know and I’m just like, “No I’m not, I’m not doing anything from Zoom” because I, first of all, I’m very, you know, technically not oriented. And so, you know, so I wanted to do it the way it was meant to be done. And so I’m thankful. I’m thankful for, for the, for continuing to work as an artist because that’s who I am. And I was listening to, I was looking actually, at Sable’s notes the other day and when she was talking about truth and reconciliation. I mean, there’s a lot of stories about truth and reconciliation.

There’s a lot of stories about appropriation. There’s a lot of experience in combining, combining both experiences to work in a really, really meaningful way. And, and that’s where a lot of work has begun, and in just that time alone, which can take weeks, which can take months. And, in the beginning of Making Treaty 7, when it came out of the Cultural Capital of Canada and Michael wanted to do a legacy project and when he called me I was living in Toronto at the time, and called me, we were sitting at a restaurant in Chinatown in Calgary downtown Calgary, and he was talking about re-enactments, you know. He needed to get going and many of you know who he is and if you don’t keep up to him, you’re left behind, but he needed to get going and I said you know what? I’m going to introduce you to someone who you’re absolutely going to fall in love with. So I brought him up to Narcisse Blood and immediately they hit it off. And I knew that they would. Narcisse would work with me, navigating this you know. I was in, I was at York University doing an MA degree in dance.

And through it all, like my advisors, you know like, the whole thing was bunheads and Martha Graham, and, you know, through, through Michael and through other people like Terrell and Joane Cardinal-Schubert, and so many people in the beginning, all these people that came before me, taught me, taught me in a way that I can break the rules. But first of all, discipline is so important that you can tell your own story in your own way, and I just came out of theatre school in Fort McMurray at KeyFano College School of Visual and Performing Arts, and landed in Calgary. And my first gig was at Alberta Theatre Projects… Mark Bellamy was directing and I was like nervous as hell. But work through it, and, and to navigate through these systems, and to look at yourself and even with theatre history, you know, I was like okay, you know, I get it, you know, the whole development you know and how artists, you know, reflect, of the political climate and what’s happening around them and Shakespeare, you know, Michelangelo the, the Italians, you know, you know, the French Revolution, Industrial Revolution and you know and I’m like, when do my people come in, when do my people come in. 18 year old—just starting to tell my own story, and realizing, you know, the birth of that was in the beginning of contemporary art.

I just got to have a meeting with a dance collection, Dawn, and a young dancer from the Winnipeg contemporary dancers, Royal Winnipeg Dancers. He’s a ballet dancer and he’s coming into his own discovering his identity as an indigenous person, and, and hearing, you know, some of the Elders, speak, and really listening when they say the rivers in the land will come and get you if you belong. And you know he was, he was, you know, really connecting, and he asked me the question what is Indigenous contemporary dance. And I had to think about it, and I thought, this is where we come together, you know. In terms of reconciliation, contemporary Indigenous dance, so I said to him, it’s, it’s, it’s contemporary dance, but you’re applying the experience.

You’re applying the experience and bringing your own knowledge as a trained body and the trained voice, you use that, you use that in creating work and collaborating so you have that language together when you come together in order to work together. And getting back to Narcisse he worked with me. And he says, “You have something to teach, you come from somewhere, you know, always remember that.” And he became part of my advisor in terms of the work that I was doing. And, and when I came home, way before Making Treaty 7, we were working on a project. I was working with Anne Flynn, from the University of Calgary, and Lisa Doolittle, University of Lethbridge, in the theatre department. And this is when the work that I really realized began, you know, in terms of reconciliation work, in terms of how we build meaningful relationships together. And when our system was a huge part of that, and, and, I call him a knowledge keeper, and he became an Elder in our ceremonial <<speaking in Blackfoot>>—it’s what we call it. And for the English term of it, it is Sundance. He would often talk about how, how, if we’re going to meet in the middle, how it can never be just one sided. And so he began to connect me with Elders and many of those Elders that we were working with, are no longer here. They passed on into the happy hunting grounds.

But we worked on the project and, and it took time and I realized the time that it took because they were building meaningful relationships and I always remember Lisa Doolittle saying this, you know, she says, you know like, and I appreciate you know the whole, you know, traditional way of traditional research, but she had her, you know her clipboard and set of questions and the camera was set up and I think it was Adam Delaney that we were interviewing. And he was sitting there and, and her first question was, you know, introduce yourself, tell me who you are. He introduced himself in Blackfoot, but then he began the story, and it was three hours long. And, and he kept going and one of the things that she said to me was she realized that stories are alive. When you hear these Elders speak, you hear the land in which they come from. And she said every time I go back to that interview, because it was recorded, there’s always something new. It gave me everything that we needed for the project, but there’s always something new. And so we had to learn about protocols, what do we do and this is what I was told by the Elders. When you go and seek out knowledge, knowledge, I’m not gonna use the word traditional, I try not to do that, but knowledge, you have to give it back to the community and the way you do that is make it accessible to the youth, to the children. And so we began to work and, you know, building this community relationship, building meaningful relationships – that process took about three months before we went on to, to continue on. But it also shifted it because it was, it was, you know, all of us, you know, and with the help of Lisa Doolittle and Anne Flynn and their, their connections to the project and it was a SSHRC grant that happened, and then my connection to my community, building that meaningful relationship we ended up you know, creating a word called “colonial theatrical” in Canada, managing Blackfoot dance during western expansion, which is published in the Oxford Handbook of Dance and Theatre. And when I got my copy I was looking at it and I was going, wow, all these Elders are no longer with us, but their words are here, and this can be accessible to the whole world.

And we also did a project where we’ve been presented in Seattle at the Society of Dentistry Scholars and the core is Congress of Research and Dance performing negotiations Blackfoot dance spectacle the colony and multicultural Canada exhibit 1972 to 2010. And Red Crow College was still standing, which is the old residential school. It burned down a couple of years ago. But we gathered there with all the Elders, and we brought food, and we feasted, and then we did a ceremony where we handed the knowledge back to the Elders, which was really emotional. But it was mutually respected. And that’s where I started sort of okay there’s something in this, you know, indigenizing the process isn’t just giving tobacco, and then running away with your agenda, or whatever it is that you’re going to do. There is a process of connecting. We don’t, we didn’t use the word reconciliation at the time, even when working with Michael and the Cultural Capital of Canada, and the Elders. And for the first time in many, many years probably like the century, had we had that many Elders, I mean he, he worked really hard to bring Elders from the Treaty 7 community together and put them all at the Carriage House Hotel, and we all went down to Heritage Park, and we all pieced it together, and we had a round table, much, much like what is happening now. And it was Frank Weasel Head the second day, he stood up and he said, “Where are all the white people?”

This is the first day, where are all of them? You know all these Elders see each other you know, but you come one day you take what you need and you leave. And all of us are here and you brought us here for two days, and Michael put his head down, and he said to me, “This is going to change. This is going to change.” And he brought a team of 15 producers from all over the world. They came here to my house. They were sitting in the back, till we were ready to go out and they came and they camped at the Sundance for 15 days. And he built the trust that’s built into meaningful relationships, built the trust of the Elders, you know.

And Pete Standing Alone would tell me in Blackfoot, “You know, your friend, you know what the one with the nose and the black hat you know you go get him, you know, tell him to sit here, we’re gonna have a visit to, you know.” That’s how much they, how much they respected him and bringing our international colleagues, you know, to the Sundance, and Beverly Hungary, ‘d give them a teepee. And they were guests of Narcisse and Alvine. And I’d go with her to check up on them every day because I was teaching at the partnership with University of Lethbridge and the Centre for indigenous Theatre. But it was so nice to see them engaged, helping put up a teepee, because they were part of the community. And then I think about what Frank said, you know, and that’s building meaningful relationships, you know. And he told me when we were working with Marlene Millar and Philip Szporer with Mouvement Perpétuel from Montreal, and we were filming the bible achievement documentary and he said to me, he says, “You bring your artists friend here to <<speaking in Blackfoot>>, because then they’ll know, they’ll know that this, this ceremony this dance lasted for 11,000 years.”

They’re seeing something that has been part of this land for that long. And, and I’ve recently you know my collaboration with the Canadian Academy Of Mask and Puppetry, I continue to honour that you know, in terms of my collaboration, so that we can, we can honour that space before we go off into our project. Because sometimes in that space we discover something that is, and I’ll use the word “reconciliation” but that we find it there and move forward and then Iniskim, I mean, you know who was Peter Bothwell and Ian MacFarlane and Jean Bieve-Pierre they came in and they slept in the teepee. Raymond Many Bears provided them with a teepee. And I remember the wind, they remember the wind that night they were helping hunker down you know, people, some of the Elders’ teepees and stuff and and really engaged in the community.

So, you know, coming together to to work in that you know, especially on the land, then we can continue to move forward and continue to produce, you know, whether it’s the text whether, you know like, if those of you who’ve seen Making Treaty 7, I mean, we, it was three hours long, you know, and then we created a children’s version that lasted three years and that it wasn’t built to travel but it did because that’s how demanded it was and then we even got a Dora Award nomination from Toronto for best production and for theatre for young audience division, which was, which was great and then continuing to grow. So get into your question about moving forward. Through that experience, you know, my experience through this is yes, building those meaningful relationships is very, very key, and it’s starting with CADA, with this with this platform that we continue to engage.

We continue to learn, we continue to grow and working right now with the Blackfoot language. We’re working with Tank Standing Buffalo and Adrian Stimson and and Lance Tailfeathers and Xtine Cook from Calgary Animated Objects Society and the Blackfoot Language Animated Film that we got funded for from the Canada Council for the Arts, and CADA, which is going lovely and a new production with Quest. And again we’re indigenizing the process by bringing the artists to the land, working with the Elders, working with the knowledge and then we get the technical aspects of their expertise pushing in, and we move, we meet on a mutual ground. And I’ll end it there, thank you for your time. I hope that some of this information was useful to you and, you know, and I appreciate hearing, you know, your comments and stuff and yeah they come with sense, let’s have a great discussion. Thank you for your time, everyone. It’s an honour to be here.

Sable Sweetgrass: Thank you so much, Troy, for sharing. There’s so much history and Indigenous arts here in Mohkinsstsis to share that I think a lot of people are, well most people are not aware of them. For me, MT7 was one of the first times I can think of that such a collaboration happened between non-Indigenous and Indigenous coming together. And through Michael and Narcisse leadership came together and just made something so beautiful. But I think what people were not really aware of, that, even behind, you know, behind the scenes of that, that, you know, there were difficulties, as there is in anything. And somehow you know we overcome those difficulties as a team, as a group and following the guidance of our Elders, following the guidance of Narcisse, and that really, and you know just such a beautiful production that came together that ended up influencing a whole generation of people in, here, in Calgary, and then you know after I don’t think anything has been the same ever since MT7. But there’s still even more history behind that. And now we talk about, you know, the youth, and that this knowledge has to be shared. And these resources need to be shared with the youth. And we have so many young people in this city today, many of whom are artists, and are looking for those opportunities. And, and there are probably a lot more opportunities than we had when we were around their age here in the city.

And, you know, I grew up here in Calgary and my experience of the arts in the city was usually things starting, and then being taken down so, whether it was the Plains Indian Cultural Survival School which was a school that had huge murals on the outside of the school, on the inside of the school, where they taught puzzle making, music, dance, you know, it was it was it was really an art school. And then that was taken down, literally. And the Calgary Aboriginal Arts Awareness Society, which was an organization, not too long ago that advocated on behalf of Indigenous artists here in the city, and taken down during the Bronconnier years. And so looking forward, what we ,what do we need to do, and what, what do we need to accomplish and in order for our young people to be able to thrive in this, in this city and in this arts scene? So I think what we’ll do now is because I wish we had more time, but maybe we can open it up to questions. If there are any questions at the moment.

Sorry I can’t see. Is there. If you have any questions, either post it in the chat or raise your hand. Deb, Did you raise your hand?

Oh, Patti.

Patti Pon: Thanks Sable. This is Patti speaking. And many thanks to everybody who has to all of our guests for sharing your words and really giving us a context that I think is really important. You know, as you’ve heard me say earlier, I think, as allies, and maybe as co-conspirators, more importantly, that I’m always mindful that reconciliation journeys can be a whole lot of talk and not a whole bunch of action. And I remember listening to Elder Casey Eaglespeaker who said you know now is the time it is, it’s the time for reconciliACTION. And so I wonder if you might have any thoughts or suggestions for those of us from the settler communities on how we might further the work of Indigenous artists and art forms that are being developed. Maybe there are conditions that are barriers like in the audition process or the application process, or the programming process that you’ve observed that we can change based on your experiences. Thanks. That’s my final thought.

Sable Sweetgrass: Thank you, Patti. I will turn that over to Cowboy, and then Kelly and then Troy. So Cowboy.

Cowboy Smithx: Yeah, great question. I mean I, there’re a million ways to support Indigenous artists. And I think one of the main ones is to make connections. You know a lot of us, I’m very fortunate, including everyone else on this panel, we have a broad network where we can be connected to anyone. You know it’s a phone call or a couple emails away. But there are a lot of young Indigenous artists who don’t have that kind of access to that kind of support, or that kind of network. So, you know, something as simple as connecting, you know, young up and coming artists to your network, you know, making them aware of something like this. I wish, I wish there were more, you know, young Indigenous eyeballs in this Zoom room with us today.

And then just you know in terms of the process of applying for funding, I think the OPIP has done a great job making it very user-friendly, all of the input sessions that have been set up by Sable and the crew, it’s, it’s been a very good process of, you know to build capacity within the community. I say keep that work up. Patience is definitely a virtue, especially with a lot of Indigenous artists who are transitioning from the reserves to the city. They don’t have as much capacity as urban indigenous boujee natives do. So just as much support system as you possibly can and connecting people. When we do get back to some kind of like normalcy, just showing up, you know buying tickets, even, even if it’s Zoom performance, you know, check it out, spread the word. Visibility, it really does help. It goes a long way and we, we appreciate everything that CADA has done, so just you know, <<speaking in Blackfoot>>, help us out. We need it.

Sable Sweetgrass: Thanks, Cowboy. Kelli.

Kelli Morning Bull: Yeah, that’s a really great question, Patti. I think some of the things that I sort of reflect on immediately is, you know, where are your artists coming from first off. Is it the project, is it connected to Treaty 7? And, you know, if it is then maybe commissioning Treaty 7 artists or specifically recruiting Treaty 7 artists to work on the project so that you know you’re gathering the right and proper information. I think another thing too is recognizing education barriers. Sometimes the language is not accessible to Indigenous. You know, our Indigenous patrons demographic that we’re working with and sometimes you have really really amazing artists but they lacked that post-secondary Western education, but they might come with a wealth of, you know, Indigenous knowledge that they carry. And you know they’re, they’re looked up as a knowledge keeper, or a holder or an Elder in their communities.

And so recognizing, you know, those sorts of layers, and that, you know, sometimes our Elders and our knowledge keepers are like 20 years old, and they have all this knowledge because they’ve, you know it is a lived experience. And it’s something that you know that we’re trying to get back is, you know, that idea of learning from our Elders and our knowledge keepers, so I think just recognizing those sorts of things that Elder doesn’t always necessarily mean that they’re like senior age. And then understanding protocols of the different communities that you’re working with, you know, Troy alluded to that a lot. You know, it’s not just about giving tobacco. It’s building that relationship and it’s making those connections within the communities. Because once you do that, there’s this beautiful story that comes out of it.

And, you know, and you get to experience that I know Sable has talked, you know, has mentioned a lot of times where CADA team goes out to Writing-on-Stone and that is like a, probably a perfect place to go and experience because you get to see it, you get to feel it, you get to work directly with the land and that connection is so important. And so those are the things that you know for me when I, when I think of processes that we need to look at is, is those three is where your artists coming from, understanding the protocols, and then understanding, you know, the Indigenous, or the education barriers and what can you do to make it more accessible to the community. Thank you.

Sable Sweetgrass: Thank you so much, Kelli. Troy.

Troy Emery Twigg: Hi, I’m thinking about the question. Yeah, great question. I’m just thinking. You know, I think it’s, I think it’s both ways to you know, so it’s like, how can I help you. And I go back to the experience of sitting across, I’ll go back to Michael and our lunch, and he was, he was so excited he told me about this really wonderful experience that he had in Australia where he really wanted to see a reenactment of the Waitangi treaty which is a treaty between the Queen and the Indigenous people, but he unfortunately couldn’t make it because he had a performance on the other side of the city. So he was telling you the story and, and he was sitting there and he was talking about a reenactment. And he was talking about, you know what he wanted to do. He really needed some guidance in this. He needed guidance and I looked at him across the table and I said, I know what you need, you need to meet Narcisse Blood.

Come on, jump in the car. We drove so, so it was, it was mutually beneficial in terms of how we need each other, helping out artists. I mean, we had a wonderful partnership. Jeff Skinner was the dean at the time who was very instrumental, Dr. Sally Scott, we used to do a little course in the Native American Studies department. We have the support of the department to bring this, the Centre for Indigenous Theatre school I taught at in Toronto, together to join forces, so that we can get all recruits, or give people a space where they can feel safe, where they feel like they can, you know, and again like Kelli mentioned, there is such a language barrier, there’s such a barrier in terms of how things run in the Western world. I mean like I was 18, I left the reserve, you know my language and my nuances and everything was so different but that it wasn’t a culture shock, you know.

And here I am a brown boy like this, you know, playing… as you like, it’s you know, really wondering like, is this it? You know, my audition process was very, very safe in that I have Thomas Usher. Understand, you know, so the more we understand about your environment, its Indigenous people or even, you know, the diversity of the people that we’re servicing and the good thing you know, especially Sable now in her position and with her years of experience, she’s also an artist and has a body of work. And something really great coming up for the Calgary community, that that work is really important, and congratulations to CADA for, you know, establishing that, and in many institutions across Canada are starting to bring that resource in who understands this community that can turn around and teach, you know, our community about the Indigenous community and, and so, with that, with Thomas spending time in the Indigenous community out of his own interest, I believe. But he has, so he understood, he understood my insecurities, coming into that world, but they wanted me. And, I was freaked out, and I was scared coming from the reserve, you know, going up there and not understanding the language, you know, not understanding what it is that I was getting, getting into, you know, and it was all Western training like in terms of Ibsen and Shakespeare, and, you know, theatre history, even Canadian theatre history as well, you know on Turtle Island, American theatre history was taking the care and knowing, you know, knowing that we want to develop this you know and and I was with Michelle Thrush and a few others out in Morley and I said to Michelle I said, you know when all these youth came storming into the Youth Centre, I think Cowboy was with us at the time too, but I said, Michelle, I said, look at that group, somewhere in there there’s a saxophone player, someone in there that, that there’s, there’s a poet, you know. And we just need to give them a space, you know. And we created, you know, a space, you know, which was the combination of the Centre for Indigenous Theatre and the University of Lethbridge, so we had the resources, we had the theatre, state of the art.

We had people working with us from the institution and the Indigenous instructors, so that they can have a place to talk about and really have the opportunity to decide if that’s what they want to do. And we’ve created, we didn’t create the creative themselves, but they have a space where they can flourish, you know, and those kinds of resources as they come, are just incredible, you know. And we’re always trying to tie, just met another young, young artist, Tyson in Calgary, who’s reaching out and looking for places to develop. I mean the Indigenous the Banff Centre is open, the Indigenous writing program is open again so these resources are becoming available. And with your resource person like Sable for CADA understanding the community, we got to engage more and build those meaningful relationships so we have an understanding of where people are coming from, and give them the opportunities and assist them, you know. Take the time to, to understand them and know where their strengths and weaknesses are so that we can develop them, you know, for the professional world of arts.

Sable Sweetgrass: Thank you so much for that, Troy. I think we have maybe time for one more question and actually Patti had another question.

Patti Pon: I do but I don’t want to take away from anybody and and for those of you who might have to leave the call. Thank you very much. We are recording this conversation as Melissa shared with us so that you can come back and watch the recording if you can’t stay on, past our time here.

You know, maybe as a little teaser, this question is a good one. It’s a good question. And it’s about the distinction between appropriation versus appreciation. And I know that in my conversations with many arts leaders. There’s an uncertainty about that, and I thought that, particularly, all of you who have joined us to speak today may provide some insight for that. And I think you’ve touched on it even in your earlier responses about being aware, doing your own learning. But if there was anything else anyone wanted to add on that, that would be great. That’s my final thought.

Sable Sweetgrass: That is a really big question and we’ve seen it so much in our community over the years, you know, from as big as you know, a situation that happened recently with the filmmaker, the CDC filmmaker and Latimer and Boyden in literature. But, yes, it’s definitely something that we are always aware of. Cowboy, would you like to share your thoughts on that?

Cowboy Smithx: Yeah, I’ll try. It’s very complicated, as you all know. I would say, we need to point to the fact that we are dealing with a pan-Indigenous lexicon that will influence an individual’s perception of Indigenous people. When from our own perspective we understand and activate the nuances and specificity of our own cultures even within the Blackfoot confederacy, the difference, the differences and cultural idiosyncrasies, accent, sense of humor, relationship to the land with the Piikani, Kainai, Siksika, is very, it’s very different. It’s very nuanced.

So I would say the best way to answer this question is it’s a case by case basis where that nexus lives between appropriation and appreciation. Because we as Indigenous people we’ve been kind of homogenized into this monolithic pan-Indian image. We have to try and find a way to discern our way through all of those idiosyncrasies and, and really identify. I mean it’s up to the person who wants to appreciate or appropriate whatever the case may be to do their own homework and really understand the magnitude of, you know, the complexity of those cultural idiosyncrasies that exist within any type of feedback loop that might be being appropriated in some way. I can name a dozen, if not millions of different examples of where it was blatant appropriation.

And there’s, there are some examples that do exist that have appreciation. But with appreciation there should be no agency over the Indigenous, whatever, whether it’s a piece of art, whether it’s a type of dance or a certain style. But I think most importantly right now we do need to have these uncomfortable conversations about identity, appropriation of identity, because it’s right now you know for that little, little window there reconciliation, it was very cool, very hip to be Indigenous, but if you want to go down that road, you have to know that there’s a lot of responsibility in it. If you’re going to claim a community you know that community has to claim you. You have to do the frontline work you have to, you know, put in hours for that community if you’re going to be saying you’re from that community. And it’s not easy work we’re dealing with so much crisis. We’ve been dealing with crises since the Treaty was signed, before the Treaty was signed. I always say we’re post-apocalyptic people, and we’re just finally welcoming people to the apocalypse with this recent pandemic.

So, very good question. I appreciate that question, and I have to say it’s a case by case basis. It’s very, very complicated.

Sable Sweetgrass: Thank you, Cowboy. Kelli?

Kelli Morning Bull: Sure, I’ll give me my stab at it. Just to add on, like, to what Cowboy was saying is, you know, non-Indigenous people have to understand where our stories come from. They’re still personal to us, our songs, our language, you know, our designs—the things that we carry that identify who we are, whether we’re Niitsitapi, Ojibwe, Anishinaabe. We all come from somewhere. And that those designs or those stories are a direct part of our identity, so what you’re taking is our own self, and you’re monetizing something from it, which is completely unfair, and very, very wrong on so many levels.

And so you know when I had this question asked me a few months ago and I was kind of stumped on it, trying to figure out the best way to answer, you know what that was and it took me a while to come to the answer because I had to go through sort of consultation or just conversation with Elders about identity and about our designs and our stories. And, you know when the Elders had talked about that and where these specific things come from, it really rang true to me because that’s what it is. That’s what you’re appropriating. You’re appropriating a family, a clan, a community, a person, and you’re in turn monetizing and taking everything from them, and calling it something of your own when it’s not and you don’t have any right to do that. And so for me, I always ask this one question is, if you’re going to work with an Indigenous person you know Cowboy said, do your research, do your homework, make sure that they’re connected to those communities, make sure that they have done ethical research themselves to gather, you know, the stories or the information or whatever it is—the knowledge that they’re trying to pass on. Making sure that they’ve done that in the most ethical ways.

So it’s whether or not you want something authentic, and you know people will obviously just go to whatever is easiest, because being an Indigenous artist is not an easy thing to do because there are so many conversations and consultation, you know before we even get to consent, even for us we have to go through the whole process. And so it’s really unfair when you see others sort of skipping the line and going directly to the source without doing all of that work. But in our communities we know who we are and we know who are the ones that are doing the proper work, because it’s also about preservation and protecting you know those identities and those stories. And so I think it’s, it goes back to, to whoever’s commissioning, to the institutions, you know, whether you want an authentic story or not, because you can easily go and appropriate something and that’s, you know, that’s easy to do. But if you want something that has sustenance, and something that’s real, then you’re going to do the proper way. And you’re going to build those lines and alliances with those communities or with that person that you’re working with. Thank you.

Sable Sweetgrass: So true. Thank you for that. Thank you for that Kelli. Troy?

Troy Emery Twigg: Hi. Yeah, yeah. Loaded question. Just given with the appropriation and appreciation, the dangers of appropriation is, I mean you don’t want it to complicit in your own, in your own. Here’s a quote. “Troy, you come from somewhere, someplace protected.” And those were words given to me by the late Joane Cardinal, Dr. Joane Cardinal-Schubert. And, you know, at first, you know, I was very young at the time and, and then I started to realize what it was, she was saying, you know, even in my engagement with some of the projects that we’re in, and hearing some of my colleagues who are non-Native and Native from other territories.

You know when they, when they hear the transcripts or they go online and they see you know some of the work that we did you know, they say, like even Cowboy, hearing Cowboy speak, you know, I know, I know that I’m home, you know. I can hear the land speak, Leroy Little Bear, Narcisse. But when you hear those Elders speak, you know, you know you can you can hear the land, you can hear where you come from, like, even with our own territory, you know, dialects change, you know, you know if you’re from Amskapi Piikani you know which is Blackfoot stateside, or Siksika, or Piikani you know. There are those identities. And appropriation is robbery, you know. And we need to, we need to as artists, protect it. You know like Kelli said that process, that process—it’s our responsibility. You know, it really is, because our Elders trust us, our Elders are proud of us, you know, and they want to support the work that we’re doing. But, you know, I had this conversation with with another artist a couple of days ago and I said, you know, if we’ve got to take that care, we’ve got to really, when we go into the community and especially we’re collaborating with, so that our Elders who are engaging know exactly and clearly, what they’re getting themselves involved in, you know, that they are there. And every time I’m engaging in work because I, I don’t know how to, I don’t know how to do that I don’t know how to go to another community and I don’t know how to tell their story because it’s not my story.

I tell my stories and I always put a line item in my, in my work, especially when I’m applying for grants, is that I need the Elder advisor in the room with us during the time that we were there, and that was my recommendation for Narcisse. Narcisse even went out to get training at my school at the Centre for indigenous Theatre, too. Because, you know, we threw him on stage and all of a sudden, he was, he’s so funny, he was at the Banff Centre and he kept flashing his artist card, “Look Troy, look Cowboy, look Sable, I’m an artist.” Oh my god, he was so hilarious.

But anyway, but those are the dangers, I mean, you know it can happen between, even between Indigenous people, you know. Coming to. It’s not your story to tell, you know and there are protocols as Kelli was talking about, and sometimes that can take, and in my example earlier, it takes, it can take weeks and even months, you know, to get through that process. That is really really important. I was working with a young dancer out in Grassy Narrows reserve. And it’s, you know, it was a wonderful city. Sitting there and meeting their Elders and I was brought in as, as a theatre artist, because he wanted to work with a theatre, an Indigenous director and through the dramaturgy work, and so I was brought into that aspect, you know, taking the backseat and meeting his community. And, and it was, it was so lovely, you know, like, and working across the country, even with the Mi’kmaw people in Halifax, you know you can really appreciate it. This is the appreciate. You can really appreciate their land, their hospitality, how they operate and their community and their relationship to the land, you know.

Being a guest in that community has to come with ultimate respect, but the appreciation, and their hard work and what they do is, is absolutely amazing and I’m blown away by some really gifted, that I have, you know friends from across Turtle Island who invite me as a theatre artist into their communities to work with them. But coming into a community and taking their stories, I mean, you know, without, without, I mean, come with the nuances and language and stuff without, you know, if that’s not in the work, and you’re not telling that story in the work, then, we become complicit. And it’s such a responsibility. When you’re putting the work out there, you know, when you’re putting it out there for the world to see. You know sometimes I, you know, I just don’t get it, you know, but, but we have to, we have to engage more. That’s the whole responsibility of building meaningful relationships. So, yeah, that was a, you know, sort of just off the top of my head stab at the question. But, but yeah, I feel it, it’s a very important question. It’s something really important to investigate and navigate, you know, so.

Sable Sweetgrass: Thank you for that, Troy.

Yeah, it’s appropriation. It’s like, well, it’s like the foundation of Canada. I mean that Canada has appropriated land, appropriated so much. And I think that trying to go from appropriation to appreciation is a real struggle. And, and so we’re all too familiar with appropriation and, and so now I think we’re only really beginning to see the appreciation. And, and so, we still have a long way to go.

But I think we’re way over time now, and I would like to thank everyone for joining us. We do have our Elder Rose, who is going to close us off where, sorry, close this with a song. And so, Rose.

Rose Heavy Head: Okay. Yeah, I just wanted to, I really enjoyed listening. And one thing I see is, you know, when we feel connection with other people wanting to know us as Native people, I find, they, they put it out to learn our language. And so that’s one sign we know, like they were trying to connect with us, is when you start trying to learn our language. And so, and with, you know connections with each other like our brothers, and our cousins, our brothers and our sisters, you know that connection was lost back then with the colonization, but in our mothers, our aunties our mothers too. And so, with Narcisse, I learned a lot from him with the Kainai studies. He’s my close relative, so he could be, well he’s my brother too, because we grew up together. And so, you know, we have to bring that connection within our own Native communities, and then we’re able to share more with you know the other people that created, put us here on Earth.

So this song here I thought I would sing is creator, the sun – Sun is our Creator. This is a Sundance song too, so it’s like a prayer song too. I did my piercing Sundance back in 1991, 1991. And anyways, it says, the song goes the son has pity on me, or you know, bless me. There are different words <<speaking in Blackfoot>>, it’s hard to translate that word but it’s like, you know, you know, like bless me or help me, you know. I’m going to have a new life. This is meant to be. And it’s about right now we want to make new changes. You know how we have relationships with one another in a better way. So this is what I thought about this song to sing today for you to help us you know what, what we’re doing, what’s what’s Sable and all of you are doing.

<<Singing in Blackfoot>>

Sable Sweetgrass: Thank you. Thank you so much for that, Rose. It’s a beautiful song. Thank you.

Rose Heavy Head: You’re welcome.

Sable Sweetgrass: Thank you all for joining us. I’m going to turn it over to Patti, to, to end today’s town hall.

Patti Pon: Once again, many thanks to you, Sable for hosting us and for putting this just remarkable group of people together. Elder Heavy Head ,thank you so much for joining us today. Kelli, Troy Cowboy—as always you inspire me. And I love having these moments to hear from you. I know they are becoming fewer and fewer and far between in light of the demand on all of your time, so we appreciate you being with us here in community today. So many things that I learned, coming from the conversation and then the comments that we heard today. I think maybe the biggest reminder to me and lesson is to be humble, to be open to learning more, to be curious, to be brave in admitting that maybe you don’t know what you need to know in order to interact in a true and good way with Indigenous artists and artisans and others from, particularly the Treaty 7 nations. I hope that Calgary Arts Development and Sable can be part of helping to build stronger connections and relations among settler arts communities and Indigenous arts communities. And I look forward to the adventures that Sable will lead not only Calgary Arts Development, but our arts community on, in her new role with us.

There are two more town halls that we have scheduled. The next one is September 28 from 2:00 till 3:30pm Mountain Daylight Time, and it will be around the theme of racial equity. And then there will be a third Town Hall on November 2, same time 2:00 to 3:30pm Mountain Daylight Time (Note: Since the meeting, the time of these town halls have been changed to 2:00 to 4:00pm), focused on disability justice. Our great friend and, and teacher, JD Derbyshire will be leading us through some of those conversations and inviting guests and knowledge keepers to join us on those conversations. And stay tuned, we may have more conversations ahead. More information and registration links can be found on our website Calgary Arts Development dot com. So please be sure to check or subscribe to our newsletter where we share all of this information. Thank you all again.

And my final thing that I’d like to wish is to our friends and neighbours and families from the 2SLGBTQ+ communities Happy Pride. It is Pride Week here in Calgary. I hope that you take this time to celebrate in who you are and are surrounded by those who celebrate you, every day, not just during Pride. So everyone, be well, and be safe. And take care and we’ll see you soon.

Sable Sweetgrass: Bye.

Patti Pon: Thank you.

16:01:22 From Patti Pon to Everyone: Welcome everyone! We are welcoming everyone in and will begin shortly.

16:04:06 From Natjelly Lozada to Everyone: If someone needs permission to multipin please let me know in the chat.

16:04:40 From Landon Krentz to Everyone: I need the multipin please

16:05:34 From Natjelly Lozada to Landon Krentz(Direct Message): Done

16:06:55 From Helen Moore-Parkhouse to Everyone:

16:07:14 From Helen Moore-Parkhouse to Everyone:

16:08:22 From ASL Interpreter Deb to Natjelly Lozada(Direct Message): If you can allow Stephanie and I to multiply pin that would be useful

16:09:15 From Natjelly Lozada to ASL Interpreter Deb(Direct Message): Done

16:11:59 From ASL Interpreter Deb to Natjelly Lozada(Direct Message): Thanks

16:31:07 From Kelli Morning Bull to Everyone: Yay Herland!

16:40:40 From Pam Tzeng to Everyone: Oops! Yes, you did, Cowboy! so good to see and hear you.

16:41:50 From Kaley Beisiegel to Everyone: Yay! Going to be fun Cowboy!

17:18:42 From Trevor Rueger (he/him) to Everyone: Thank you everyone for sharing your words and experience.

17:19:26 From CADA Stephanie Solomon (she/ her) to Everyone: This has been so helpful to hear how to move forward.

17:26:22 From Rachel Anand (she/her) to Everyone: Apologies, I have to jump off for another meeting. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts.

17:30:56 From Joleyne Mayers-Jaekel to Everyone: I need to go for another meeting. Thank you!

17:31:10 From Isabel Porto Isabel Porto to Everyone: Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experience!

17:31:59 From Scott Carey to Everyone: Thank you, everyone, for organizing and sharing.

17:32:42 From Kaley Beisiegel to Everyone: Thank you all!

17:32:43 From Patti Pon to Everyone: Many thanks to all who can’t stay on…keep an eye out for the recording in a couple of weeks time. We will also have a transcript

17:46:22 From Pam Tzeng to Everyone: Deep appreciation Cowboy, Kelli and Troy for so generously sharing your stories and powerful perspectives. And Sable for creating/holding space for this circle panel and Rose for your prayers.

17:52:12 From Lesley Hinger (CADA she her) to Everyone: Thank you all!

17:52:21 From CADA Stephanie Solomon (she/ her) to Everyone: Thank you very much

17:52:36 From Gregory Burbidge to Everyone: Thanks all!

17:52:41 From Sayonara Cunha to Everyone: Thank you!!!

17:53:01 From JD Derbyhsire to Everyone: Thankyou everyone. Grateful.

17:53:07 From Van Chu -CADA (she/her) to Everyone: Thank you so much for sharing your stories/experiences.

17:53:13 From Sable Sweetgrass She/Her to Everyone: Thank you Telany Rose, Troy, Kelli and Cowboy for being here and sharing your experience and wisdom.

17:53:18 From CADA Cherie (she/her) to Everyone: A wonderful panel. thanks so much to everyone! and thanks to all the people here for joining us….

17:53:28 From Sable Sweetgrass She/Her to Everyone: Thank you to everyone for joining us today!

17:55:04 From Sable Sweetgrass She/Her to Everyone: Kitamatsin (See you again)

17:55:27 From Helen Moore-Parkhouse to Everyone: Thank you Sable, Elder Rose, Cowboy, Kelli and Troy!

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