U of S launches Canada's first Aboriginal theatre program

SASKATOON - A new drama program focused on Aboriginal students at the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) is the first of its kind in Canada.

By James Shewaga
The wîchêhtowin Aboriginal Theatre Program is a two-year certificate program offered by the Department of Drama that trains students for careers in theatre, television, film and related industries. In Cree, wîchêhtowin means "we live together in harmony; we help each other; we are inclusive."

The first group of eight students began the 30-credit program this fall. U of S assistant professor Carol Greyeyes, an award-winning actor, writer and director, co-ordinates the new program. She wanted to design a learning environment that would help students build confidence and express themselves while also affirming their identities as Aboriginal people.

"We're trying to create a strong circle of support where our students feel they belong," said Greyeyes, a member of the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation.

Students proceed through the two-year program with a single cohort of their peers, learning skills such as acting, traditional dance, set design and stage management as a group. The program culminates in the world premiere of a new theatrical work written, designed and performed by the participants.

The certificate can be obtained alongside another degree or completed separately. First-year student Kayla Peters is one of the individuals pursuing the certificate in combination with an English degree.

"There's a lot of places in mainstream society where as Aboriginal people you don't feel comfortable going, because they don't understand," she said. "But I feel very at home here (in the program). It's like having another family."

The Aboriginal Theatre Program is another step for the U of S College of Arts and Science in its mission to become a welcoming place for Aboriginal students, said Gordon DesBrisay, the college's vice-dean academic.

"This is a flagship enterprise for us," he said. "This is who we are, what we stand for and what we aspire to be. We're extremely proud to host this program."

Other recent initiatives by the college have included the appointment of Canada's first vice-dean Aboriginal affairs, the establishment of Aboriginal student learning communities and the opening of the Trish Monture Centre for Student Success.


For more information, contact:
Chris Putnam
Communications Officer
College of Arts and Science
University of Saskatchewan

Kirk Sibbald
Communications Officer
College of Arts and Science
University of Saskatchewan