Karl Hele (University of Western Ontario)
Monday, March 8, 2010
Oak Room – Indiana Memorial Union
Performing History and Myth: The Garden River Ojibwa’s (re)Interpretations of Hiawatha and Local History
Since 1901, members of Garden River First Nation have staged various plays to non-Native and Native audiences in Canada and the United States. Current formulations of the Hiawatha Play (2006 & 2007) represent only the most recent attempts by the community to highlight moments from their past. From 1901 to 1969 the community annually staged a version of the Hiawatha play which it based on Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s "The Song of Hiawatha." During that period community members also performed in a variety of plays that celebrated the region’s history. Each of these dramas concentrates on the historical and ‘mythical’ Ojibwa past and ends when civilization arrived. While the dramatic narrative appears to represent the rise and fall of Indigenous traditions, the undertones carry different messages. Specifically this talk will examine how the Anishinaabe, while performing largely in Ojibwe, adopted some European assumptions concerning Aboriginals. Moreover each performance delivered an Ojibwa message to the audience while promoting, protecting, and maintaining tradition and culture in the face of aggressive Euro-Canadian colonialism. As such, these performances represent a multifaceted dialogue with the colonizer and a unique window on how history performed can carry several meanings.
Karl S. Hele, a member of Garden River First Nation (Anishinaabe), earned his doctorate at McGill University in History, and teaches in the First Nations Studies Program at the University of Western Ontario, where he is an assistant professor. He has presented and published several papers on the history of the Anishinaabe and Metis communities in the Sault Ste. Marie region and their relationship to colonialism.
Reception to Immediately Follow Talk – SoFA Gallery (Fine Arts)