On the morning of May 18th 2018, Daryl Cloran Artistic Director of The Citadel Theatre, Ashlie Corcoran Artistic Director of the Arts Club Theatre Company and myself with our witnesses, Claire Sakaki, Veronique West, Peter Cathie White, Lori Marchand and Kevin Loring, along with 70+ community witnesses, gathered on the Xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, Skxwú7mesh and Səl̓ilwətaɁɬ Nations to sign a treaty to hold my next play Break Horizons.
This treaty was the result of many things occurring before the creating and signing of the treaty itself. For me, it's been a lifetime of working almost entirely oppressed under colonial systems and agreements, which meant that colonial values were at the centre and foundation of almost every aspect of my work and I was not happy with the experience or the results.
The dominant patriarchal and colonial ways of working are built around a set of values and frameworks that do not consider me and they are not built for me to have any sovereignty or any immediate success, if at all. The systems we work in have been built and are now sustained to have outcomes that are meant to keep me down and away from power.
At the time I was enrolled in the Banff Centre's Cultural Leadership Program and I was thinking about one of our teachers Julian Norris, who had taught us about the power we have in moving systems. That the smallest effort can have some of the most significant impacts. I was practicing deep work on my "Year of Creative Thinking" (limelet BC Arts Council for funding this project) but before meeting Julian I felt complicit and like a powerless piece of the machine exhausted by the holders of the status quo but inspired and equipped with knowledge, I started to take an inventory of the power that I had in my life.
I had a lot more power and influence on systems and ways of doing things in many more parts of my life than I thought. Every movement, every thought, any email, any engagement with another person, any system I engaged with was going to be impacted by just the power of my presence and attention.
That really ignited a reclamation of my time and energy to create and innovate change. I claimed sovereignty in my own artistic practice and I applied that determination to every project I was currently working on and to the ones I wanted to start.
I met with Ashlie for a meeting about Break in February and after sharing her support for the concept, she created the space for me to create an environment that was going to best serve my ways of working. I've known Daryl Cloran for a while and we have a strong and trusting relationship, I emailed him and he was in! I had identified the people I wanted to work with and I went to work.
I remember I was sitting in my apartment typing away, I busted out the first draft of the treaty in 4 hours and I started sort of giggling to myself. I was so excited about this thing I had created but I was also terrified, what if they said no, what if I was laughed out of town (those two would never do that) but I want to be transparent with you - I had no clue if this treaty would go beyond my own laptop.
I sent it and the response was yes. We went into what we are now calling treaty negotiations, I happened to be in Montreal for work and I met with Rachel Peake, the Associate Artistic Director of The Citadel, to hammer out the details of what this treaty was going to look like on paper and in practice. I'd like to take a moment to honour the trust, respect, inherent wisdom, courage and humility Rachel embodied at that meeting, it was uncomfortable but that was important, it was decolonizing in action, it was Indiginization and ultimately it was awesome.
In that meeting, I explained how important it was for me that we have a signing ceremony with witnesses to share with the community but also to embed a practice in this treaty to have agency to be accountable to ourselves and one another. For me, as an Indigenous person our agreements traditionally are oral, they are ceremonial, they are with people and are values centered, they are not contracts with law jargon signed by yourself in someones office, filed away never to be looked at until there was a problem.
So we moved forward with creating a signing ceremony, constantly referring back to the values of the treaty which are the bedrock of this agreement: equity, safety, inclusion, excellence, peace, trust, love, respect, courage and humility. We made the event public, we had Quelemia Sparrow welcome us to the territory and invite the ancestors in, we read the treaty aloud and then we had a small feast.
One of the most important aspects of creating this new way of working with the ceremony and as we work to uphold and execute the treaty is the importance and vitality of our personal and community witnesses. The partners and I joked around at some point that it kind of felt like a wedding, that our people were there to bear witness to a important commitment and they kind of are.
I suggested that we each choose one or two personal witnesses that we can harken to if we're needing support and that these people were to hold us accountable, the community will then hold us all accountable. Their presence was and is incredibly important and when I think back I'm overwhelmed with the people who got up early and gave us their most precious commodity - their time.
From my knowledge and understanding, a treaty of this kind is a first for the Canada Nation. Kevin Loring, whose been an incredible leader and friend said to me, "You know this is the art Kim, this treaty, the act of creating and doing this, this is the art."
I didn't recognize that until he said it and now I'm really understanding that a big part of my contribution to the community will be my passion for creating theatrical sector reform that allows Canadian and Indigenous theatre to equitably co-exist with one another, this scope of my work goes beyond the proscenium. I'm also very excited about the Indigenous theatre method that I'm working on which center's the wellness, spirit and bodies of working with Indigenous peoples with our territorial work at the core, at the moment working specifically with Indigenous Matriarchs.
Mel Hague taught me never to say we're "lucky" because we work too hard to be lucky. So I'm grateful for so many people, people like Gideon Arthurs who selected me to participate in the National Theatre Schools Leadership Program which afforded me the opportunity to be a part of the Banff Cultural Leadership Program, for people like Ashlie and Daryl. Conscious leaders who are taking inventory of their power to distribute it and create environments that work towards real equity.
I also want to give a big thank you to all the administrators and people who worked to create the space to accomplish this ceremony, especially Veronique West and Rachel Peake. Institutions are people, and if we want institutional change, it's going to be accomplished by allies like Veronique and Rachel.
I know that I've been afforded so many privileges in my life and like the sharing of this treaty, I hope to continue to embed knowledge sharing in my artistic practice. So stay tuned for upcoming Community of Practice's and project's that invite us all to find, embrace and use the power that exists in our lives.
So without further ado here is the link to the Living Treaty Agreement.
with pride, love and in servitude of the community,