8th Fire: Playwright Tara Beagan on the need for storytelling

A multiplatform, multicultural documentary project, 8th Fire is a provocative look at the richness and diversity of Aboriginal cultures and Canada's complex 500-year-old relationship with Indigenous peoples -- a relationship still mired in colonialism, conflict and denial.

To further explore Aboriginal culture, CBC Books is presenting a series of video interviews with authors, playwrights and storytellers to discuss how their heritage influences and inspires their work. This week, we talk to Tara Beagan, artistic director of Native Earth Performing Arts.

As an artist of Irish-Canadian and Ntlaka'pamux heritage, playwright Tara Beagan has drawn upon her experiences and the memories of her elders to inform her many works. But it wasn't easy. Beagan said she was sometimes reluctant to ask her great aunties directly about the past because many people of Aboriginal descent have grown up feeling like they aren't supposed to express their culture. This is why Beagan believes storytelling is critical.

"I think it is through stories that we have managed to preserve the traditions that were legislated out of existence, or that the government tried to legislate out of existence," she said.

"I think that storytelling is a way of surviving, and I think that's why there are so many First Nations theatre artists who are such hard workers. Because it really is a case of survival, and a case of being the keepers of the traditions and the culture that, maybe, our predecessors weren't able to speak of openly."