© 2023 by EK. All rights reserved.

Search
  • Kim Senklip Harvey

NAC Indigenous Theatre Section Denied Funding: Zero Dollars for the Indians.


On April 1, the Artistic Director of the National Arts Centre, Indigenous Theatre Section, Kevin Loring posted the following statement:

"On World Theatre Day, Wednesday March 27, the CEO of the National Arts Centre of Canada received news from Canadian Heritage that there would be no money in the 2019 Federal Budget for Indigenous Theatre at the NAC.

In the year and a half that I have been in the position of Artistic Director of Indigenous Theatre, I have had the great honour of witnessing the depth, talent, ingenuity, bravery, skill and excellence of the Indigenous performing artists of this land. I have attended national and international performing arts events, conferences and festivals where I was celebrated, (to my discomfort), as the incarnation of Canadian progressiveness, the Artistic Director of the world’s first ever national level Indigenous Theatre.

It has been my hope to present and produce Indigenous dance and theatre productions, not just at the NAC, but to partner with companies across Canada. To bring Indigenous stories across the country, from coast to coast to coast. I hope to tour Indigenous artists, not just to our urban centres, but to under served communities as well. And to be an international hub of Indigenous artists and voices from around the world. In light of this funding denial, the scope of these aspirations must now be reconsidered.

I want to assure the amazing artists we’ve already engaged that, despite this disappointment, our inaugural season will go ahead as planned!

Since the decision to create the Indigenous Theatre department under the leadership of former CEO Peter Herndorf, the NAC Foundation has been tirelessly raising money through private and corporate donations from across the country. Because of their efforts and the generosity of these individuals, families and businesses, the first ever season of Indigenous Theatre is assured, albeit in a greatly diminished capacity.

And although the leadership of the NAC is committed to the existence of Indigenous Theatre, without ongoing financial support, we will not have the capacity to achieve our vision and full impact. We do not have the resources for outreach, professional development and engagement with Indigenous artists and communities that would have supported the work. We also won’t be able to support the efforts we had imagined necessary to elevate the Indigenous performing arts sector across the country. As the actual capacity of the department is now diminished, so too is the scope of any subsequent seasons.

I have now been put in the disturbing position of overseeing a department whose creation and existence is a financial burden to an already stressed institution – the NAC has not received an increase to its annual base funding in 15 years. To produce our inaugural season we have had to rely heavily on the other departments. This was necessary for our first year as we build capacity within the department. Going forward we will be even less capable of producing or presenting a season, even in partnership with the other departments without significant sacrifices to the seasons of our colleagues at the NAC. Perpetuating the narrative of Indigenous people being a burden, and looking for a hand out to support our existence.

Our stories are medicine. And they will persist despite the violence of neglect. Our stories have and will continue to transform this country. Our stories speak to the interconnected-ness of all things. They are the cultural heritage of this land. I have seen the power of story to heal. I have seen the engagement with the creative process transform and empower at-risk youth into the brilliant, powerful and spirited human beings they always were. I have personally witnessed theatre bridge the gaps within families and between communities.

Like our stories, we too are resilient. The NAC is committed to Indigenous Theatre going forward. And though I was tempted to resign in protest at the news of this funding denial, I am resolved, and will continue to honour the commitment that I made to the Indigenous storytellers of this land. Despite this set back, we will continue to celebrate Indigenous artists on our national stage.

We welcome you to witness the excellent season of Indigenous Theatre we’ve planned for you at Canada’s National Arts Centre.

Thank you for your support.

We remain committed to rising.

All my relations.

Kevin Loring

Artistic Director, Indigenous Theatre, National Arts Centre of Canada The National Arts Centre of Canada is located on un-surrendered Algonquin Territory"

National Arts Centre, Indigenous Theatre Section, Artistic Associate Dr. Lindsay Lachance posted the following on social media on April 1:

Indigenous Theatre at the National Arts Centre wouldn't exist without the love, labour and talents of the Indigenous theatre community. Mairi Brascoupé and I have spent the last year creating programming for Indigenous theatre artists, development opportunities for Indigenous youth, and public programming featuring Algonquin teaching artists and educators. For us, giving back to the community in this way is essential. We want to be accountable, in offering space, programming and opportunity that benefit the artists we love and respect. I'm heartbroken to know that I will spend another year without the resources to financially support the community of artists, kin and colleagues that I respect beyond words.

With funding or not, we are a constellation of spirits joined together by our love of storytelling. Your shining guides so many of us from darkness, and I refuse to let you go unseen.

To All Non-Indigenous Folk,

Bear witness to this news and figure out your activation plan to truly support and work for Indigenous peoples.

The NAC Indigenous Theatre section has been give ZERO dollars to run their programming.

This is disturbing, reprehensible and deliberate colonial oppression with the deliverable to erase the Indigenous peoples of these lands.

There is a National Indigenous Theatre crisis happening right now. Indigenous artists across Turtle Island are facing impossible systemic barriers, intolerable racial inequities and fighting with all our might to have our voices heard and bodies present.

Our spirits and hearts are strained or are breaking under all the colonial state run attacks.

Kevin and his team have been working tirelessly and deserve the budget the rest of the NAC sections get. Instead you've positioned him to have to put his hands out and ask for subsistence from his colleagues?! You're making Kevin, Lindsay and Lori beg for support at fundraisers!? You're going to make them tap dance in front of all the white folk for a god damn budget?

Where the fuck is the dignity in any of this?!

And he and his team, will undoubtably be held to the same impossible standard as his non-Indigenous counterparts, which again positions all Indigenous artists for more colonial oppression and failure.

Indigenous Theatre is at a very dangerous tipping point - our jobs and work and art are being threatened out of existence. This is the evolution of state run policies where you banned the potlach, your made it illegal for us to do our dances and hold ceremony. Don't look back in time and think "oh how could they treat Indigenous peoples so poorly, I would never do that" - it's happening right now.

Kevin champions something we all know to be true, that our stories are our medicine and it's as if you and the canadian state know that and want us to continue to fight for our healing, wellness and our lives.

As a previous public servant, I know that there is also a level of political muzzling that occurs, so WE have to speak up and speak out to blast the state run Indigenous oppression because Kevin and his team can only do and say so much.

This is a political decision to continue to marginalize and disenfranchise Indigenous peoples. The state knows that when we gather it is powerful. The NAC IT is - if nothing else a gathering of Nations and the line itemizing of ZERO dollars is a clear decision to keep Indigenous peoples separated.

Do not just like, share or comment - do not read this and walk away saying to yourself "thats horrible" we fucking know it is - so rally, rally for us. We need you to inconvenience yourself and we need your active mobilization NOW.

The Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism responsible for the budget is Pablo Rodriguez and he can be reached at pablo.rodriguez@parl.gc.ca

With hope for your activation and in complete refusal of the continued state run genocide programs against Indigenous peoples,

Kim