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Changing historical perspective

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The concept of truth in history is never as black and white as official accounts would have us believe.

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In Canada and other colonial countries around the world, the history we learned long ago in schools is often stories about the colonized and not the colonised. We give the perspective of the conqueror – the oppressor – not the oppressed.

As the atrocities against indigenous peoples continue to be exposed through Canada’s residential school system and the scope of this cultural genocide is better understood, the goal of finding more objective historical facts cannot be achieved. ‘Find as many views as possible.’ .

So what happens when the historical insights of the marginalized – the so-called losers of history – are deliberately erased and neglected from official historical texts by a Eurocentric society that believes itself to be superior?

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“Louis Riel has an interesting quote: ‘My people will sleep for 100 years, but when they awake it will be the artists who give them back their soul,’” said Francis Concan, a playwright and playwright for Couchiching First Nation Women of the Fur Trade., which is part of a season 2023 Stratford Festival.

“I think a lot. I think it’s through art—theatre, poetry, music, dance—the innovations of the future that all ideas are told, shared, explored, and communicated…in a way that I really think I don’t think we talk much about the inherent politics of theater…and how art can exchange Ideas.They are very powerful, and they are a nice, fun, creative and interesting way forward.

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In her play, which won Best New Play competition at the 2018 Toronto Fringe Festival, Konkan tells the story of three women from three different cultural backgrounds who live in a fort somewhere on the banks of a reddish river. In one treaty area against a historical background. Riel’s resistance to the Red River in Eight Hundred and Something.

Marie Angélique (Kathleen McClain) is a Métis woman determined to win the affection of Riel (Keith Parker), who will soon arrive at the fort, by sending her a flirtatious and daring letter. Eugenia (Joel Peters) is an Ojibwe hunter who brings news of the rebellion to the fort but is unimpressed by Riel’s true nature. Finally, Cecilia (Gina Lee Hyde) is a pregnant British woman who can’t help but mourn Irish idol Thomas Scott (Nathan Howe), who is actually the one who secretly answers Marie-Angelique’s letters.

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“The historical context of the story is definitely the Red River Resistance and kind of Louis Riel’s journey home, but the story the piece tells is about the women in that context and the story of what they’ll meet and how they’ll be,” Concan says.

“While the fur trade in Winnipeg, and now, there’s a mixture of different kinds of cultures and different kinds of people congregating around this area. You had white settlers from England, Scotland and Ireland, as well as the French, and it was all mixed with the local cultures—the Cree and the Anishinabe. This story follows three women, one is Anishinaabe-Ojibwe, one is settler from England and one is Métis with a French father and Anishinaabe-Ojibwe mother.

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“History is seen through their eyes and shaped by their cultural heritage and their lived experiences. … It takes place in a small room in a fort, so everything they learn and everything they see comes from this room.”

While the three women themselves are entirely fictional, the events of the story are historically accurate. Concan, who is also a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press, said her influence in writing Fur Trade Women came from her own research into the fur trade, her family history, and her family’s ancestry.

“The books, the (historical) stories were about women, but there were no women talking about themselves,” Konkan said. Men have written all historical novels, but never of women in their own words, and I thought it would be really interesting to explore this moment in history through this perspective. … The two men (in the play) are based on … Louis Riel and Thomas Scott, And they’re two real people, and the three women are completely fictional. I made them and part of the fun for me is…playing fantasy and reality against each other in the story.”

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Konkan also took creative license with the language of its characters and the way they interact. While Konkan intentionally uses the more formal and historically accurate language of the day when the characters talk about true events, they lean towards a more modern 21st century slang in a personal conversation between themselves and their inner monologues.

Concan says the transition between these two styles of language is deliberate, helping to connect the audience more with the characters themselves than with the events of the story as told by the official narratives.

The story told by Concan in The Fur Trade Women is meant to help audiences understand and understand the perspectives, traits, and backgrounds of each of the three main characters. To open the door to a story that is less, in essence, about history and more about people for audiences of all backgrounds, cultures, and lived experiences, Konkan is careful not to classify his play as ‘Aboriginal theatre’.

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“I feel like Aboriginal theater is often kind of disconnected from Canadian theater as a whole, where people think it’s a separate entity that’s really rooted in a particular tradition that they probably don’t understand,” Concan said. “But I think with this piece, because there’s such a wide variety of personalities, what I’m really proud of is being able to incorporate these different aspects of the culture that make up this country.

“I wouldn’t call it an Aboriginal play. I wouldn’t call it a Canadian play. I think it’s something else really.”

The fur women trade begins on July 15th and continues until July 30th.

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