Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Stage drama by indigenous artist tries to raise awareness of Canada's dark history

Indigenous women holding photos of victims participate in the Women's Memorial March in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, on Feb. 14, 2023. (Photo by Liang Sen/Xinhua)


Ottawa, 16 March (2023) - A drama depicting the spiritual journey of an indigenous woman to reconnect with her cultural origin is on stage in Vancouver to spread awareness of Canada's dark history.

Canadian playwright and actress Jani Lauzon told Xinhua that she wrote and performed Prophecy Fog in hopes that her art could raise the public's awareness of the systematic persecutions of indigenous people in Canada.

Born as a Metis girl, Lauzon knew all about discrimination as a child. Metis are the descendants of native residents and early white settlers in North America.

"I can't say that the Metis experience is much different than the First Nations' experience, because we have mixed ancestors. I didn't grow up on reserve. I actually didn't grow up knowing very much about my indigenous ancestry at all," said Lauzon.

For centuries, Metis were targets of systematic discrimination and oppression together with First Nations and Inuit people in Canada.

"It was later on in doing a lot of work around genealogy and sitting in the Archives in Ottawa trying to find answers to these things that I felt so strongly connected to," she said.

Lauzon said what she found about how indigenous people were treated was very traumatizing.

Her father was a survivor of Indian Residential School, a mechanism to erase aboriginal culture and language from indigenous children for more than a century.

"Canada was created on the backs of free labor which is another reason for the residential schools. Those kids were free domestic service and free agricultural service. The agricultural industry in Canada was created and possible on the backs of students who went to those schools," said Lauzon. "That's just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the stories and the atrocities that happened."

Lauzon said she wants to make candid dialogue with the audience of how indigenous people were severed from their ancestral culture.

For more than a century since the 1830s, school-age children of the indigenous community were snatched from their mothers' arms and corralled in distant residential schools funded by the Canadian government, where they were surveilled by the clergy of the Christian church, barred from family visits, and institutionalized away from their cultural traditions.

"It still breaks my heart that there are so many people in this country who have no idea what happened, who have not educated themselves, who have not taken the time to better understand the circumstances," she said.

She wants her audience to ponder on the dark pages of Canada's history.

Over 150,000 First Nations, Metis and Inuit children were separated from their families and forced to attend government-funded schools between the 1870s and 1997.

In 2015, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission appointed by the Canadian government concluded that children were physically and sexually abused and died in the schools.

While it has documented at least 4,100 deaths, the commission said the real numbers may never be fully known.