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Play explores historical significance of Treaty 7

By Emilie Medland-Marchen, September 17 2015 —

A play exploring the effect of Treaty 7 is returning to Alberta. Making Treaty 7 focuses on the historic roots of Alberta’s complex relationship with local indigenous peoples.

Treaty 7 was an agreement between Queen Victoria and several First Nations bands that dictated land ownership in Southern Alberta. Making Treaty 7 recounts the history of these events from the perspective of those indigenous peoples. The producers of Making Treaty 7 hope to reclaim this history by recounting aboriginal narratives.

Michelle Thrush is an indigenous woman who co-directs and acts in Making Treaty 7. She has won multiple awards for acting, including the Gemini Award for her leading role in the TV series Blackstone. Thrush says the play is an important educational tool for all Canadians.

“The key part of the show is that we are all treaty people in Alberta,” she says. “We are all treaty people all over Canada, as those documents that were signed involved everybody who lives on this land.”

Courtesy Arnell Tailfeathers

Courtesy Arnell Tailfeathers

All provinces west of Ontario contain land Canada gained through the Numbered Treaties signed between 1871 and 1921. In those treaties, traditional indigenous territories were signed over to the British crown in exchange for hunting rights, reserves and annual payments. First Nations groups argue that treaty rights are continuously eroded by various Canadian governments.

The recent Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission has called to attention the Canadian government’s tenuous relationship with indigenous peoples. Thrush says Making Treaty 7 explores the reclamation of historical narrative and encourages educational reform.

“[Education] is something that needs to happen throughout Canada — not only in universities, but in the school system as well,” Thrush says. “We’ve grown up in a society that has not always been told the true history of what’s happened in this country, and it’s all just sort of coming out in the last few years. So I think it’s imperative for all Canadians to know what exactly those treaties were about.”

The subject matter of the play includes the residential school system and the smallpox epidemic that killed many aboriginal people when Europeans first arrived in North America. Stories presented in the play are developed from the firsthand experiences of Alberta’s aboriginal communities.

“The show is about creating conversation,” Thrush explains. “A national conversation about the things that are going to bring people together and allow people to see the similarities that we have, as well as the things that have created opposition between the cultures. Education is our buffalo, is what we say. So we need to be able to have those conversations and be able to share that information freely with support from all peoples.”

Making Treaty 7 runs from Sept. 23—25 at 7:00 p.m. at Mount Royal University’s Bella Concert Hall. Tickets are $40 and can be purchased online at making-treaty7.com.

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