Murray Utas (left) and Adam Mitchell (right) are doing reconciliation work with the Fringe Theatre Festival alongside Hunter and Jacquelyn Cardinal from the Edmonton company Naheyawin. (Gareth Hampshire/CBC) Gareth Hampshire Edmonton: The New Capital is a special series taking the pulse of the city. From Terwillegar to Castle Downs, CBC journalists are talking to people about how Edmonton is changing and what it means for the future. When the curtain raises on Edmonton’s Fringe Festival this summer, there will be an unprecedented Indigenous feel to the event. For the first time, the oldest and largest fringe theatre festival in North America will honour the Indigenous community in ways it never has before.
"I think it’s happening now because we are awakening," says Murray Utas, the festival’s artistic director.
In this time of reconciliation, the Fringe Festival is not alone among Edmonton organizations committed to reshaping the way they do things. Get past the guilt, get on with the future
With elders and spiritual leaders providing advice, the Old Strathcona festival is planning to incorporate ceremonies of honour throughout its 10 days.
"We are at a social awareness where this can have resonance for us," says Utas, "where we can actually hear it and start to find a way of walking together." Murray Utas says the Fringe Theatre festival is building relationships with the Indigenous community in Edmonton as part of its reconciliation work. (John Shypitka/CBC) That idea — of walking together — is not a first for the Fringe, which has embraced Indigenous performances and artists in the past.
What is new is the level of that commitment.
The adjustments at the festival this summer are the latest in a number of initiatives the Fringe has been taking since the calls to action made by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2015.
This year, they have more confidence to do it right after connecting with an Edmonton company called Naheyawin, which has been guiding them to think a little differently about the place of Indigenous culture in the festival.
One of the new things the company is doing is talking to people about what it means to be living in Treaty 6 territory.
"After the TRC report, how do we bring Edmonton to that next level of saying ‘OK, how do we take that and really bring it to the next step?’," says Jacquelyn Cardinal, a co-founder of Naheyawin. Jacquelyn Cardinal wants people to move past feelings of guilt from past wrongs and focus on building a better future. (John Shypitka/CBC) Cardinal wants people to get past the guilt many feel for the past and look forward to making things better.
The company is holding roundtable discussions to teach people about the treaties — the kind of relationships they were supposed to create when they were signed, the way things could be today if everyone followed their spirit and intent.
The roundtables are based on the Cree word Tatawaw which means: "There is room for you. Welcome." ‘Voicing the whispers of those generations’
The focus of these roundtables is on the treaties, and they’re not to be considered Indigenous awareness courses. They are workshops that are geared to educating companies and their employees about the treaties and how they apply today.
"They have a place in the treaty relationship that was envisioned when Treaty 6 was signed," says Hunter Cardinal, who co-founded Naheyawin alongside his sister Jacquelyn.
"But in order to make a relationship that lasts, you have to have that peace, you have to have that understanding." Hunter Cardinal is hoping to be a part of building a new sense of peace and understanding between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in […]
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