University theatre production looks at the meaning of Treaty 4 in 2017

A University of Regina theatre class has created a production based on issues that arose following the signing of Treaty 4 in 1874, such as missing and murdered Indigenous women, the Sixties Scoop, residential schools and suicide.

'Making Treaty 4' hits the stage Thursday evening

The cast of Making Treaty 4. (Brad Bellegarde/CBC)

A group of University of Regina students are taking Indigenous history to the stage this week, nearly 143 years after Cree and Saulteaux chiefs gathered in Fort Qu'Appelle, Sask., to enter into a treaty with the Crown.

The theatre class is the first of its kind. Researching events of the historic agreement, the students developed a performance piece entitled Making Treaty 4.

"The first thing I wanted to do was build a community," said Jesse Archibald-Barber, a professor at the First Nations University of Canada.

It touches on stories of present day, contemporary issues that obviously stem from the initial treaty in 1874 [and] where we are at.- Erroll Kinistino, actor

"One of the primary principles of making Treaty 4 is the spirit of inclusiveness, so we want to bring together people from all walks of life and ethnic backgrounds," he said.

"We have different people playing different types of characters: we have First Nations actors playing white characters, white characters play First Nations roles ... so in a sense we're flaunting all of those ethnic boundaries and categories because those are what are limiting and oppressive."

The student-created performance dives into the issues that plague First Nations communities in the present day.

University of Regina students act out a scene from a play that looks at contemporary Indigenous issues. The performance at the University of Regina theatre is free to the public. (Brad Bellegarde/CBC News)

The play was written by the class and student Skyler Anderson, who is also a director. He said combining performance with learning was a huge benefit.

"That's the best way to learn," said Anderson.

"I'm going to remember this for the rest of my life. There are papers I don't even remember I've done from last semester," he said laughing.

University of Regina students will be performing a play that looks at contemporary Indigenous issues, from missing and murdered Indigenous women to the Sixties Scoop to residential schools to suicide. (Brad Bellegarde/CBC News)

The idea for the project arose when the late Michele Sereda initiated the conversation with some Regina artists in fall 2014.

Sereda, Lacy Morin-Desjarlais, Narcisse Blood and Michael Green lost their lives in a motor vehicle accident on Highway 6 just north of Regina in February 2015.

Both Green and Blood were involved in the creation of the Making Treaty 7 production in Alberta and were in Saskatchewan to talk about how it evolved. 

Students rehearse Making Treaty 4 on Wednesday night. (Brad Bellegarde/CBC)

Among the artists involved in the initial conversations were Erroll Kinistino, a longtime actor from the Ochapowace First Nation. Kinistino's role in Thursday's production is as a performer and acting coach. 

According to Kinistino, Making Treaty 4 has evolved into a well put-together production, and he thinks the audience will not be disappointed.

"It touches on stories of present day, contemporary issues that obviously stem from the initial treaty in 1874 [and] where we are at," he said.

The free performance is open to public and takes place at the University Theatre in the Riddell Centre on Thursday at 7 p.m. CST.