A prominent Métis cultural leader, Ms. Campbell will contribute to innovative research at the new Chair in Métis Studies at the University of Ottawa, aiming to help Canadians better understand Métis society, history, and culture.
How would you define yourself?
I am a mother, a grandmother, and a great grandmother; a cultural teacher, author, and playwright; and I am a Cree Métis from Nakiwin, Saskatchewan. My professional life is closely tied to my personal life; I cannot separate the two.
What is the public purpose of your work? How does it impact the lives of Canadians?
I work on transformative education (social justice) through literature, theatre, and cultural teachings. In terms of impact, I hope to help Canadians see us Métis people, as I feel that we are invisible to them. Canadians will be richer for it – it is their history and they need to know about it – and we will benefit from more respectful relations.
Briefly explain one of the most interesting discoveries you have made so far.
I have discovered that I am an intelligent woman with power and much to offer. But from the Métis standpoint, I find that not much has changed since I published my first book, Halfbreed, in 1973. Canadians and Métis do not know much about each other. Experience tells me that once a people is no longer invisible, when you know their history and find out about them, then peoples can begin to work together, a dialogue can take place, and there is no longer the same us-versus-them opposition. Much more needs to be done to open lines of communications.
How will the Trudeau Fellowship help you pursue your work?
In offering me the Visiting Trudeau Fellowship, the Foundation is making a strong public statement that they value the work of Indigenous elders, scholars, and artists and what we have to offer the world. The financial support of the Foundation gives me the opportunity to do research that I have not been able to do, to network, and most importantly to finish a significant body of work.
With the support of the Visiting Trudeau Fellowship, I will move to the University of Ottawa for a year to join a research group on the Métis people. I have worked with children and women in crisis centres and hallway houses for 40 years. There, I have witnessed the consequences of violence in Aboriginal communities. At the University of Ottawa, I will undertake research work to find the roots of this violence and I will try to explain why there are so many disappearances and murders of women. If I can find out why this is happening, why hatred of women is so rampant in our communities, I may be able to stop it.
Maria Campbell is a writer, playwright, and teacher. She started her career in 1973 when she published her first book, Halfbreed. That book has become a literary classic and continues to be one of the most widely taught texts in Canadian literature. Professor Campbell has also written four children's books. Her most recent book, Stories of The Road Allowance People, translates oral stories into print and is being re-published.
Maria Campbell's first professional play, Flight, was the first all-Aboriginal theatre production in Canada. Flight brought modern dance, storytelling, and drama together with traditional Aboriginal practices. Professor Campbell went on to write and direct other plays, some of which toured Canada and abroad. In 1984, she co-founded a film and video production company with her brother and daughter. With this company, Campbell produced and directed seven documentaries and produced with CTV Canada’s first weekly Aboriginal television series entitled "My Partners, My People."
Professor Campbell has received numerous awards, including the National Aboriginal Achievement Award, the Gabriel Dumont Order of Merit, the Chalmers Award for best new play, and a national Dora Mavore Award for playwriting. She has been inducted into the Saskatchewan Theatre Hall of Fame and was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2008.
Maria Campbell has recently retired from the University of Saskatchewan where she taught native studies, creative writing and drama. She is currently the Elder in Residence at the Centre for World Indigenous Knowledge and Research, Athabasca University. She holds four honorary doctorate degrees and has served as writer and playwright in residence at numerous universities, public libraries, and theatres.
She has worked as a volunteer with women and children in crisis for over forty years and is co-founder of a halfway house for women in Edmonton as well as an emergency crisis centre for women and children Until recently, Maria Campbell's home was a safe house for youth.
She is a mom, grandma and great-grandma.