Cheryl L’Hirondelle, Joseph Naytowhow, b.h. Yael


Cheryl: (to Yael)—tânisi—awîna kîya?—tell us who you are.

Yael: It’s a big story but in a nutshell, my mother’s from Iraq and my father’s from Poland. I was born in Israel. Both of them were Jewish with very different histories.

Because I was brought up by my Mum, I felt much closer to that history, to the Iraqi Jewish narrative and the consideration of how Mizrahi or Arab Jews experienced racism in Israel. I have been thinking a lot about the politics of Israel, vis-à-vis Palestine, in the last number of years: about Indigenous issues in relation to Palestinians, about what happened to Jews in Europe, and the subsequent impact on Arab Jews in predominantly Muslim countries, and about the export of European racism by Ashkenazi (European) Jews as instituted in the state of Israel and in the Territories they occupy.

Joseph: I’m from Treaty 6 on a reserve called Sturgeon Lake. I live in Saskatoon now, but I travel about to other areas, respectfully and honorably.

Cheryl: I’m a non-status Treaty Indian and Métis, something a lot of people think is an anomaly. There’s all kinds of politics around identity and jurisdiction about who owns my hide. What happens is if you say you’re ‘Métis’ you have to sign away your status, but I don’t like to give the Canadian government that much authority over me. Not much has changed since the days of the scrip. I prefer to think of identity as an historical chronology and am interested in the layers as opposed to the way things are at any one time. I’m also from Treaty 6 and Joseph is my Indian-adopted brother.


Yael: Can you explain Treaty 6, that connection?

Cheryl: Treaty 6 is a land-based treaty on this land now known as Canada. There are provisions into infinity, one that was called the medicine chest, for health, and others were for education and mineral rights, etc. I’ve heard that settlers who came couldn’t own mineral rights, but they could have a plough share of the land—literally as deep as the plough could go is how much land they could claim to own. Yael, can you re-cap the focus of this discussion?

Yael: This project is partly an account of the histories of trauma coming out of the residential schools, and a consideration of the repercussions on subsequent generations. As I understand, this third volume emerges from a desire to expand the discussion beyond the Aboriginal context in Canada, to consider the politics of other people and places and the connections to the kind of logic or rationale in which governments have operated and how people have been determined by these policies.

Cheryl: So it’s around issues of land?

Yael: Land is a big issue as to how it plays out in Palestine and Israel. These issues and the residential school experiences reveal a Euro-colonial lens. The personal resonance for me is in the example of what Iraqi Jews, including my family, experienced in the newly formed Israel. They were seen as inferior. My Mum and her older brother were taken to the kibbutz, away from their family; they were not allowed to speak their first language which was Arabic; they were re-named. My mother’s name was Nadra; she became Noga, which was a Hebrew name. In the Yemenite community children were taken away from their families and adopted out; the families never knew what happened to those children. They were adopted into European families.

Cheryl: Wow, and what would be the rationale to do that?

Yael: The Arabs, including Arab Jews, were seen as uncivilized, not educated, not sufficiently advanced or developed, which was significantly untrue for many, especially those who came from the urban centres. This was part of the strategy to foster and accelerate assimilation, to Judaize the land.

Cheryl: Are you suggesting that when modern day Israel was starting that there was a European order that dominated the construct?

Yael: Absolutely. That’s exactly why there is a connection between what happened in Canada and many places around the world, determined by a Euro-colonial mindset. In Israel it had more of a Euro–Zionist rationale, an exclusively Jewish state, but again, with its politics dominated by a European elite.

Cheryl: I think we have to stay clear on the distinction, because we can’t say that the reserve systems are the same as the Palestinian islands we saw in your video, Palestine Trilogy. But what we could say is that the repercussions of the Indian Act on native peoples, and how native peoples on the same land base treat each other, is similar. One of the things I noted in your work is that it’s about a land base where people, whether they were Jewish or Arab or Palestinian, there is a history or lineage that they originated from there.

Yael: There are of course a lot of differences between the occupation of Palestine and the reserve system in North America. These are similarities emerging from colonialism, the attempt to dominate the land and resources, as well as people. Whether Jews have a claim to that land is contested. I think what’s clear is that Palestinians are the indigenous people to that land; that narrative has been erased by Israel, as has the claim. The creation of the state of Israel is a colonial project.

Cheryl: Neal McLeod briefly speaks about how we all have been colonizers at one time or another in his book Cree Narrative Memory.1 Even for Native people on this large continent, we’ve all entered “enemy territory”—or someplace not of our origin. Historically, when successful, or a skirmish was won, the right was gained to some resources. If you lost, you would either leave the land or live under somebody else’s terms.

Joseph: In some areas they’re allies like the Cree and the Métis in Treaty 6 where I come from. There are stories where people come to some agreement and the land becomes more or less home or shared by the two territorial groups. The Blackfoot and Cree from Treaty 4 created a peace treaty initiated by this one chief Maskipiton and there’s never really been fighting after that, so it remains Cree territory. The Crees pushed the Dene further north and the Blackfoot further west towards Alberta, so we were colonizers in that sense.

Cheryl: I was always told the Crees stole Blackfoot women and the Blackfoot stole Cree horses (laughs) though the Cree where I’m from—amiskwaciya or “the beaver hills”—taught their horses to return home. There’s another story I acquired from Sherry Farrell Racette about the Métis and the Dakota called The Battle of Bear Butte or The Bare Naked Lady Battle. It’s a long story, so I won’t tell it here, but in short, it had to do with the Metis from around what was Fort Garry and the buffalo hunt. They would always have to go into someone else’s territory and have to win the right to be there to hunt buffalo for that season. We don’t live that way anymore, now we have the Canadian government and things like the Indian Act that homogenizes identity and instead pits people against each other. Now we see polarities and agreements/treaties forgotten so it becomes about being status, or non-status or Métis. In the old way, as Joseph is suggesting, there would be skirmishes and then they would come to an agreement.

Yael: I think from the stories you’re talking about, there’s a difference between tribal conflicts, the ways that those were worked through in very specific and located agreements, and colonialism. Tribal skirmishes have gone on in many places around the world; people inter-marry, the idea of purity is suspect, whether by action or blood or whatever. I think it’s worth contesting these notions. However, what’s been going on in Canada over the past few centuries is domination, both by settlers and the complicity of immigrant cultures, and this has made a huge impact on First Nations people. It’s brought in a whole different system.


Joseph: One of the experiences from the residential schools was that it brought people together where at one time they would have been enemies. That’s what I’ve noticed throughout my life. There’s still territoriality, but you may not know that unless you’ve gone to university. You’re educating yourself and if you’re lucky to have also kept your language you can access the knowledge through the elders who are still alive, the ones who have the stories. All the tribal people in this area, the Cree, Blackfoot and Dene, have been suppressed and oppressed so much that we get along somewhat but also still fight among ourselves. So if the white people aren’t keeping us down through policies and laws, we’re keeping each other down.

Cheryl: It’s what they say as the gift that keeps on giving—what colonization has done for Native people in this land. It set in motion notions of a new order, hierarchies where status equals wealth and fostered a chasm between the haves and have-nots. There’s a word in Cree for people who are to be pitied—

Joseph: kitimâkisiw

Cheryl: Yes, kitimâkisiw. Within a Cree worldview we know that when somebody doesn’t have something you have to share your resources. Native people all across this land showed wealth by sharing wealth. We’ve changed, and that was a part of the colonial gift. Now we’re saying that treaty with the government is more important than the way we treat each other. Compassion seems to be replaced with a new territorialism. Identity is now based on things like blood quantum and government pedigree without a sense of the natural law of balance.

Joseph: Cheryl is right about sometimes when people become settled in a certain area they will protect it, because it’s all connected with their ceremonies, medicine and sacred places—and people will fight for that. Back at the time of the signing of the treaties, things went immediately wrong. Now I think we are dealing with these wrongs on a spiritual level.

Yael: In Israel/Palestine land conflicts are still very basic. Though people make the claim that the conflict in Israel and Palestine is between Jews and Muslims, that it is a religious struggle, this does not represent the complexity; it is much more so a political conflict. One of the quotes in that first volume of this Aboriginal Healing Foundation series, about the history of Aboriginal occupancy and traditional lands and territories, mentioned the “doctrine of terra nullius, the claim that North America on discovery by Europeans was empty land, open to occupation and cultivation by civilized peoples.”?2 Christianity was used to dominate; however, Europeans saw North America as this place they could take. There were some troublesome Aboriginal people here, but they weren’t seen as being rightful owners or rightful heirs to the land. Likewise the Zionist narrative was that Palestine was empty and waiting for its Jewish identity or destiny. “Land for a people, for a people without Land.” Potential settlers were told that, and the narrative was perpetuated in Israeli culture. These are colonial and political parallels.

From One Nation to Another

Cheryl: I get what you’re saying: the similarity is that Arabic people, whether they be Palestinian or Arab Jews, are seen as sub-human. This is part of the imperialist mentality—if you’re not living our worldview, you are not equal.

Yael: It was very much an idea around racial supremacy, which also had a hierarchy. Of course Arab Jews, as they were needed in terms of demographics, were still better than Palestinians.

Cheryl: Yes, that’s very much what happened here. I don’t think that among Native people from one nation to another we ever saw ourselves as superior unless we earned it. I don’t think there was a supposition of racial superiority. We just knew via our stories and accounts, we were superior in knowledge, number, in certain skills, and in battle.

Yael: Some of the contemporary indicators of such discriminations in Israel/Palestine, much as it is here, are the high levels of incarceration, or poverty, or impediments to education, or access to senior postings, academic or whatever. In Israel the higher percentage of Arab Jews who are incarcerated, less educated or generally have a much harder time, is an indication of systemic racism. For Palestinians, it is even more marked, because they have experienced expropriations of land, unlawful incarcerations without due process, occupation, and exclusion from any access to the terms of power.

Cheryl: What I discerned from your documentaries was the idea that the Palestinians who were being displaced were very much of the land they lived on. They weren’t looking at a hill as a vantage point or a place of domination but as a place for sheep to graze. Joseph, could you speak about some of the men’s societies, how the English word for warrior doesn’t adequately describe roles? What was that term again?

Joseph: Okihcitâw—it means, worthy young man. These men didn’t go out and fight, but stayed within the community to work and provide for and protect the camp from within. The others that went out, were called nâpêhkâsow—iyiniwak which translates to “acting like a man.” The okihcitâw perhaps had a special role also, requiring preparation in sacred rituals. Their preparation in that society was a lot more unique in terms of being called the protectors.

Cheryl: Joseph, you explained to me once that those men were providers, that they always made sure everyone in the camp was fed and that they used their prowess to track a deer. Whether they were protectors or warriors, the stories I’ve read and heard have imparted that how from an early age one had to learn to be both strong and pliable. It had more to do with being able to survive the elements, be resourceful, and know the land. Yael, this is what I witnessed in your films as well—Palestinians being displaced from their land, and yet there was something enduring I sensed. I think it was that element of humour, how you can always laugh and be happy. That’s very similar to Native people, hard times can be happening, but you still have to find the humour to keep on.

Passive Assertion

Joseph: What I appreciated about the documentary was its passive assertion in using the law, finding ways to keep their land intact. We’ve had to do that here because some of our land has been appropriated for hay or trees, taken illegally. The government or some business-minded Europeans removed treaty-marking posts that our reserve lands were defined by. Some situations around compensation, where Canadian settlers/farmers have used First Nations land for timber or haying, can take years to settle. There are many cases throughout Treaty 6 that have yet to be settled.

Yael: In Israel and Palestine recourse to the legal system has a mixed history, mostly problematic. It still seems unjust that people who are oppressed or whose land has been taken away are the ones who have to take on the cost of bringing these cases to the courts. In the few cases where the courts in Israel have found favour for these Palestinian communities, there is no follow-up on the legal decision. There are lots of places in Israel proper, in the Negev or up in the Galilee area for example; though the court found in favour of the village, they were never allowed back. Or in the West Bank, many villages, such as Bil’in where the wall has divided the village, Israel has taken 60 per cent of the village’s land; they can’t access their olive groves and farmlands.3. Retrieved 4 November 2010 from:]

Cheryl: This is why I’m a non-status treaty Indian. If the government wanted a piece of land, another method was to deem it to be “surrendered.” The reserve—in Cree the term is iskonikan askiy — means leftover land, so it refers to a strip of land that perhaps had the least value that would have been part of a larger territory that a band originally existed on throughout the cycle of the seasons. How the surrender worked is that government representatives went to that reserve during a time of year when people were away hunting and/or gathering. Since all they would find were a few people left in the enclave, they would say, “no one’s living on this land anymore so we’re going to take it back,” and this is what they called “surrendered.” There are still a lot of cases in the courts and still more cropping up, as this practice was common from the signing of the treaties and into the 1900?s. Many displaced by this system would move onto other reserves or go take scrip and become Métis.

Divide and Conquer

Yael: That’s interesting. There must have been some similar strategies. But also some were very violent offences. In 1947 when the United Nations mandate gave the new Jewish state 56 per cent of historic Palestine,4 Jews who wanted to expand that land base used military force. Some Jewish groups, such as the Irgun and the Stern gang, were considered to be terrorist groups at the time. The Deir Yassin Remembered video, you might have seen in Palestine Trilogy,5 documents one such example, but there were a number of massacres in other Palestinian villages. Because of the violence, many Palestinians left their homes. When I would talk to my mother about what happened she would say the Arab leadership told everyone to leave. In effect she is saying it was not Israel’s fault that there are refugees. The Arab leadership created this vacuum and emptied the land. It’s a kind of divestment of responsibility for Palestinian dispossession and the homes and lands that Jews took over. In the end Israel ended up with 78 per cent of historic Palestine, and the West Bank and Gaza were just 22 per cent of it. There was a race, just as there is now within the remaining 22 per cent, as to how much land could be procured before borders were declared.

Cheryl: The Canadian government starved Indian people during the signing of the treaties—one of many divide-and-conquer methods. It split apart bands and made it extremely difficult for some of the great chiefs like Big Bear to negotiate a better deal for everyone in the Treaty 6 area. But there were other strategies employed as time went by. While we were storytellers-in-residence at Meadow Lake Tribal Council in northern Saskatchewan, we heard a story from Mr. Alfred Bekkattla who told us how the government finally infiltrated the Dene communities in the north, in Treaty 10.6 The Dene were different than the Cree, in that they lived in small family enclaves on lands that were not suitable for agriculture, hence not as desirable for repopulating with settlers. Their treaty wasn’t signed until the beginning of the 1900?s, and it took the government a while to figure out how to make them subservient. They went into their communities in the wintertime, again when the men were out hunting, to the home of a woman, with many children, usually very low on food because she was waiting for the husband to return. They’d say, “your husband has left you here starving when he should be providing for you,” and then promised the woman that the government would take care of her and ensure there was always food in the house, but she would have to be obedient to the government, like it was her new husband. That was how welfare entered these communities and started to erode their family structures. Maria Campbell also told us the Cree had these rings of protection within a band that at the core was their children. The government came in and slowly eroded all of these protective rings with starvation, disease, imprisonment, alcohol, et cetera and eventually got to the children. That was the beginning of the residential school scoop—re-educate the children and strip the language.7 Once accomplished, be rid of the worldview. Isn’t that what Trudeau’s White Paper was all about?8

Yael: Well it seems that divide and conquer has always been very much part of the colonial strategy: in India between Hindus and Muslims, and certainly in Palestine. But it’s weird to hear about it in First Nations communities, how it happened at the levels of family, not just tribes or ethnic groups, and that’s really amazing.

Cheryl: Joseph, what is that term I’ve heard you use for when things went wrong?

Joseph: Mâyipayiwin.

Cheryl: Cree people will use that term when discussing what happened around the time of the signing of Treaty 6—like when we watched your film about—

Yael: Deir Yassin.

Cheryl: There was mention of something similar—it was called—

Yael: The Nakba.

Cheryl: I think it’s the same concept. There was a promise made and then things went terribly wrong.

Yael: Yes, the Nakba for Palestinians was significant. It means “the disaster”; it’s the moment in which they lost their lands and many became refugees, exiled from their lands. At the same time Israelis celebrate independence, of getting the land. Israel does not want to acknowledge the previous inhabitants. What’s happened in the last number of years is that the state has created laws that Palestinians are not allowed to commemorate the Nakba within Israel; it’s an attempt to criminalize memory and commemoration. It has been legally entrenched: flying the Palestinian flag or talking about the trauma and rupture that Palestinians experience is now illegal. Of course people break that law, including Israelis. The Israeli organization Zochrot (it’s a feminine word for remembering) deliberately speaks about the Nakba to Israelis. It’s important for Israelis to acknowledge that this happened—that this Disaster is part of our narrative, and to try and educate Israelis about the many villages that were destroyed and disappeared and about those who were on the land previously.

Joseph: It still happens here, there’s still silence among people who can’t really do any protesting in a real way. It takes infrastructure and planning to try and get the rights settled and we don’t have that. The perception is that Indian governments are either displaced or are pawns of the Canadian government.

Cheryl: There are small pockets of Indians who practice international law, trying to honour earlier ways. They get rid of their status cards and squat on Crown lands and follow teachings from people like Peter O’Chiese (hereditary Chief from Alberta). We’ve heard stories how their modest homes are mysteriously set on fire, forcing them to relocate. But these people are extreme cases and not everyone is willing or able to take such risks for their rights.

Joseph: A lot of our Chiefs and leaders try to heed Canadian legislation; they need it to function and provide for their bands.

Yael: The system favours the Canadian government and determines that First Nations are limited in their sovereignty. In Palestine there was an attempt at an agreement, and more recently the Oslo Agreement in ’93,9 which created the Palestinian Authority, to ostensibly allow Palestinians some level of governance, some control over their own properties and lands. But in fact these agreements and the Authority have been hugely compromised. Palestinians have really lost faith in the possibility that the Palestinian Authority could have any kind of independence because Israel controls everything. Israel always has the upper hand whether it’s about people getting permits to go into Jerusalem, or whether it’s about building permits, or whether one can leave the country, let alone controlling resources such as water rights, farming, or access to ports.

Joseph: Same narrative as it is here, similar because it will happen outside of our knowing. While we’re negotiating with bureaucracy the corporations are going in and mining and cutting down trees, polluting and patenting medicines.

Yael: A few years ago I read this analogy of the sandwich addressing the negotiation over land10 and specifically the Oslo agreements by Palestinian intellectual and author Edward Said—you and I are sitting across the table from each other and we’re discussing how we’re going to share this sandwich and I’m eating the sandwich while we’re talking about it.

Joseph: Yeah, that’s a good analogy. A very prominent leader from way up north knew and spoke his language so his leadership fostered a solid identity among his people. He was working within the basis of the natural laws, not anything man-made.

Cheryl: We have visited hereditary chiefs in some of the communities we’ve spent time in who were well respected by the people because more than just having knowledge of history they also understood what was happening on a spiritual and ecological level too. Though not all are currently elected chiefs, they embody their sense of responsibility on an intrinsic level that spans across space and time.

Joseph: Yes, exactly. Cheryl already mentioned hereditary Chief Peter O’Chiese, but we know another from northwest of Saskatoon in Saskatchewan who still lives by traditional Cree principles that are built on natural laws.

Reservations to Apartheid

Yael: There was one other connection that I wanted to make because I’ve read in a number of places that the whole reservation system that was implemented in North America actually influenced the way that apartheid was developed in South Africa.

Cheryl: I’ve heard that too that the South Africans were looking for and saw the Canadian system and went back and developed the townships on what they witnessed.

Yael: By extension—in Israel and Palestine—that system in South Africa has influenced Hafradah (meaning “separation” in Hebrew), which is official Israeli policy. There are people who object to the use of the term “apartheid” being applied to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and of Gaza saying, “well it’s not the same,” and of course none of these separations, cultural genocides, whatever, none of them are ever exactly the same. But that does not mean that the term is not applicable, and certainly it fits the United Nations’ definition of apartheid. It’s worthwhile to think about this genealogy: what happened to First Nations people in Canada then migrates to South Africa then to Israel/Palestine and that these political systems are connected.

Cheryl: It’s like we’ve been forced to live in a petri dish under constant scrutiny and in a fixed environment so our characteristics could be monitored and understood. Then factors and elements were added to gauge a response. The findings from this experiment were sold to the rest of the world.


Joseph: There was a time here in the fifties when we couldn’t gather or they’d separate us.

Cheryl: And ceremonies were outlawed.

Joseph: At one point the government tried to retrieve all the treaty medals that had originally been given out to try to stop or deny what they represented:11 the Canadian agreement according to international law. There were times when they just shamed the people­—a practice where they’d line up all the Elders and confiscate their sacred pipes and destroy them by throwing them into a fire. Something akin to desecrating the Holy Grail.

Cheryl: Joseph was involved with The Office of the Treaty Commission in Saskatchewan and they produced a great book entitled Treaty Elders of Saskatchewan.12 The thing about the book I think is so important is it presents the treaties from an Aboriginal perspective that is still rooted in the old ways and explains how kind, generous, and caring the people are. I think in the same way that you, Yael, are a Jewish woman who is very responsible about this whole issue around land and identity in an honourable way—it’s something inclusive. So there’s a concept the old people talk about that is essentially pre-treaty.

Joseph: It’s wêtaskêwin and means “living in harmony with one another.” For example, I come from Sturgeon Lake and the land is not really owned by individual people, it’s a communal piece of land owned by everyone. There’s no such thing as ownership on reservations, but there are roles, responsibilities, and agreements. We share the resources of the land.

Yael: It was amazing to me to find out that over nine hundred treaties have not been settled in Canada.

Joseph: There’s still a lot of shame Canadians feel today. In high school they know nothing about First Nations, Inuit, or Métis people. They get to university and study us and suddenly they are aware of their history—it’s a shame to be a citizen of this country, Canada. Treaties are now being taught in elementary school to a degree as well as high school, yet it’s still not compulsory learning for university.

Yael: The rationale and politics that prevail in both locations are you lost: so go away and shut up. Histories are erased. It’s counterproductive to what people really need—to know their own histories and to act out of that knowledge.

Joseph: It’s difficult to watch your documentary work. It pushes buttons and reminds me how I was treated in residential school. On an emotional and psychological level what you portray is now that we’re safe at the moment, and having signed treaty we are now trying to be more equal in our efforts to bring fair treatment at all stages of the Treaty Rights fulfillment owing to First Nations from here on in.

Cheryl: It really does connect the greater peace with the world, what’s happening in the lands that your documentary films are about. When we start to drive off the people who have a deep connection to the land, the ceremony of communing with the land is disrupted and these are some of the very rituals that help keep the world on its axis.

Yael: Being close to the land and working the land, having that connection, is an incredibly powerful place to be. That has been lost, certainly for me. I can bring some analysis about the disruption and displacement, but I don’t have a connection that comes out of place. I think it is necessary to have a different kind of system, to be able to hear and understand and interact with First Nations communities and Elders and to likewise think about and access the histories that are here.

Joseph: To remain calm and peaceful and follow the essentials of kindness, love, respect, and sharing and to continue practising our rituals and prayers is for me the only way. It’s all about balance.


Cheryl L’Hirondelle is a much sought-after multi- and interdisciplinary artist, singer/songwriter and curator. A nomadic mixed-blood (Métis/Cree-non-status/treaty, French, German, Polish) originally from Alberta, her creative practice investigates the junction of a Cree world view in contemporary time and space. Since the early 1980?s, Cheryl has created, performed, and presented work in a variety of artistic disciplines, including: music, performance art, theatre, spoken word, storytelling, installation, and media art. In the early 1990?s, she began a parallel career as an arts consultant and programmer/curator, cultural strategist/activist, and director/producer of both independent works and projects within national artist-run networks. Cheryl’s activities have found her working in the Canadian independent music industry, educational institutions, community organizations, the prison system, First Nations bands, tribal councils, and various Canadian governmental funding agencies, provincially and federally. Cheryl’s practice as a musician and artist has also garnered several awards and honours. In 2004, Cheryl was the first Aboriginal artist invited to present her new media work at DAK’ART Lab, as part of the sixth edition of the Dakar Biennale for Contemporary African Art, Dakar, Senegal. In both 2005 and 2006, L’Hirondelle was the recipient of the imagineNATIVE New Media Award for her projects: treatycard, 17:TELL and wêpinâsowina. In 2006 she won Best Female Traditional Cultural Roots Album, and in 2007 won Best Group Award from the Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards for her work with M’Girl. Her 2008 interdisciplinary project nikamon ohci askiy (songs because of the land), was recognized as an honouree in the NetArt category of the 13th Annual Webby Awards.

Joseph Naytowhow is a gifted Plains/Woodland Cree (nêhiyaw) singer/songwriter, storyteller, and voice, stage, and film actor from the Sturgeon Lake First Nation Band in Saskatchewan. He is renowned for his own unique style of Cree/English storytelling, combined with original hybrid and traditional First Nations drum and rattle songs. Joseph is the recipient of the 2006 Canadian Aboriginal Music Award’s Keeper of the Tradition Award and the 2005 Commemorative Medal for the Saskatchewan Centennial. In 2009 Joseph also received a Gemini Award for Best Individual or Ensemble Performance in an Animated Program or Series for his role in Wapos Bay: The Series. That same year he was also awarded Best Emerging Male Actor at the Winnipeg Aboriginal Film Festival for his role in Run and won Best Traditional Male Dancer at the John Arcand Fiddlefest in Saskatchewan. Joseph’s generosity and compassion for sharing cultural knowledge makes him a much sought-after speaker, performer, and teacher for children and adults alike. He has performed for the Prince of Wales, the lieutenant-governor of Saskatchewan, former United States President Jimmy Carter, and many other notables. His demanding schedule continues to take him to conferences, symposia, forums, festivals, and film sets across Canada, North America, and around the world. From 1995 to 2000 he served as the Storyteller-In-Residence for Meadow Lake Tribal Council; as a child, he was influenced by his grandfather’s traditional and ceremonial chants as well as the sounds of the fiddle and guitar. He holds a Bachelor of Education degree from the University of Saskatchewan.

b.h. Yael is a Toronto-based filmmaker and video and installation artist. She is Professor of Integrated Media at Ontario College of Art and Design University. Yael has received many arts awards including a Chalmers Fellowship. Her most recent work, Trading the Future (2008), recently won the Audience Award at the Ecofilms 2009 festival in Rhodes, Greece. Yael’s work has exhibited nationally and internationally and has been shown in various settings, from festivals to galleries to various educational venues. Her work has been purchased by several universities. Her past film and video work has dealt with issues of identity, authority, and family structures at the same time addressing the fragmentary nature of memory and belonging. More recent work focuses on activist initiatives, political fear, apocalypse, and gender. Fresh Blood, A Consideration of Belonging (1996) dealt specifically with the many intersections of identity, including its racialized aspects within Jewish culture. Palestine Trilogy (2006) includes three videos that focus on activist initiatives and address the politics of Palestine and Israel. b.h. has produced work as part of various artist projects: (of)fences (2001) is part of blah blah blah (re)Viewing Quebec (2002); installation works such as Home Rule (1989) and Bomb Shelters (1993) have exhibited with the Spontaneous Combustion Collective; and pacts (2003), produced for The Olive Project (2004) by the Hard Pressed Collective. An ongoing project, the fear series, involved separate video projections at the Koffler Gallery as part of DIG/DUG and as part of Images Festival’s Contained Mobility show at Harbourfront’s York Quay Gallery. In collaboration with Johanna Householder, Yael has produced Approximations and Verbatim (2007), a series of short works examining filmic representations of gendered redemption.

  1. McLeod, N. (2007). Cree Narrative Memory: From Treaties to Contemporary Times. Saskatoon, SK: Purich Publishing.
  2. See: Castellano, Marlene Brant, Linda Archibald, and Mike DeGagné (2008:1). Introduction: Aboriginal Truths in the Narrative of Canada. In Marlene Brant Castellano, Linda Archibald, and Mike DeGagné (eds.), From Truth To Reconciliation, Transforming the Legacy of Residential Schools. Ottawa, ON: Aboriginal Healing Foundation.
  3. FTP/HGL (2010, October 30). Israel attacks anti-apartheid wall demo. PressTV [online
  4. Parrott, R. (1995). Opinion: Dividing Palestine (letter to the editor). The New York Times, 23 July 1995. Retrieved 10 February 2011 from: A
  5. Yael, b.h. (Director/Filmmaker) (2006). The Palestine Trilogy: Documentations in History, Land and Hope (Film). Canada: b.h. Yael. Available at:
  6. When Joseph and I were the Storytellers-in-Residence for Meadow Lake Tribal Council (Joseph by himself from 1995–1997 and the both of us from 1997–2001), we hosted many events. This information came from a 1995/6 event called, Pê-Âcimow/Ho-ne: Come and tell a Story, which brought Elders from the nine MLTC First Nations to the Flying Dust Gymnasium for an evening of sharing stories. This story and information from Mr. Bekkattla came from this event.
  7. In 1998, Maria Campbell hosted 4th Line Theatre and several theatre artists, storytellers and performance artists on her land at Gabriel’s Crossing, to workshop a script by Bruce Sinclair (replaced by Greg Daniels in 2000) and Robert Winslow called, The Bell of Batoche. During the evening Maria would come out and sit with us by the fire and tell us stories. This information was from one such evening storytelling session.
  8. Government of Canada (1969). Statement of the Government of Canada on Indian Policy, 1969, 28th Parliament, 1st Session by the Honourable Jean Chrétien, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. Ottawa, ON: Indian Affairs and Northern Development.
  9. United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine (1993, September 13). Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements (“Oslo Agreement”), A/RES/50/28. Retrieved 4 November 2010 from:
  10. This metaphor has morphed from sandwich to pizza, retaining the same idea of a refusal to negotiate in good faith. See Avi Schlaim’s blog entry, The Dishonest Broker. Available at:


  11. See: Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations. Available at: http://www.fsin


  12. Cardinal, Harold and Walter Hildebrandt (2000). Treaty Elders of Saskatchewan: Our Dream Is That Our Peoples Will One Day Be Clearly Recognized As Nations. Calgary, AB: University of Calgary Press.