Civil Blood: A Treaty Story

The Cause

"Civil Blood: A Treaty Story" is an immersive theatre production and community conversation set at Fort Edmonton Park about what it means to be a 'treaty' person.

This idea began in 2014 as a conversation between Anishinaabe playwright Josh Languedoc of the Saugeen First Nation and Neil Kuefler, a white settler artist and co-founder of Thou Art Here Theatre. The original vision was to adapt William Shakespeare’s "Romeo and Juliet" to a site-specific roving production set in the fur-trade era. The feuding families of the Capulets and the Montagues conflict are transformed to the conflict between settlers and Indigenous Peoples on Treaty 6. Furthermore the audience would be split into two groups each following its unique split narrative of the story.

Over the years of development this adaptation has transformed into an event focused on Indigenous resurgence. Josh & Neil both attended the Truth and Reconciliation through Theatre Workshop at the Banff Centre for the Arts in 2016, which spurred on the co-creation model and staging as a split narrative immersive theatre play set at the 1846 Fort at Fort Edmonton Park. The story has been re-focused to be about a Nehiyawak (Cree) woman and a French Catholic settler man. Their love is set against the backdrop of the signing of Treaty 6, and their love serves as a reflection of the tensions before, during, and resulting in the signing of Treaty 6. The play highlights the journey towards creating a treaty and the hope that care and understanding between two cultures can create a better future.

"Civil Blood" speaks directly to the indigenization of Shakespeare (colonial text), the decolonization of the Treaty 6 conversations, and the reimagining of cross-cultural understandings. The audience will be given a very specific perspective on the signing of the Treaties and the performance of Act One will lead to an "Act Two" in which the audience engage in a community conversation about the decision to sign the treaty or not. What does it mean to be a “Treaty Person” and how might your experience change your understanding? The conversation will include special guests each performance including elders, knowledge keepers, and local Indigenous leaders including teachers, professors, and elected officials.

Who Will it Benefit?

This project is targeted to all people who live on colonized land with a focus on those who live on Treaty 6 territory. The production aims to promote community conversation and promote more intersections between our indigenous and settler populations. This project is central to our theatre’s goals to do our part to answer the Truth & Reconciliation Commission's Calls to Action. In particular Call 83 which calls upon "Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists to undertake collaborative projects and produce works that contribute to the reconciliation process". We intend to focus the production towards all Edmontonians but we have hopes to bring in both urban and rural/reservation living indigenous people. In order for this play to truly be about treaty the audience must reflect the artists that are on stage and behind the scenes. The production is also responding to the TRC's Calls to Action 62-65 that regard the education of the public about the history of residential schools, Treaties, and the contributions, both contemporary and historical, of Indigenous peoples. The production aims to both educate and illuminate more pathways for learning to all who attend.

The production will be providing Pay-What-You-Can tickets throughout the run to increase access as well as free tickets to Indigenous youth. No one will be turned away for lack of funds. The community conversations will be held through the performance run but we also intend to augment this event with other cultural and community activities.

These activities are focused on further education and celebration. This includes hosting cultural performances including dance, drumming, music and collaboration with indigenous artists markets. Additionally all individuals who attend the show are invited to visit Fort Edmonton Park’s brand new Indigenous Peoples Experience exhibit which provides in depth further learning about the many histories and experiences of First Nations, Metis, and Inuit people on Turtle Island.