Critic in residence Hayley Malouin writes,

“We are all Creator-made. And the Creator does not make junk.”

On Sunday evening Debajehmujig Theatre Group presented The Global Savages, an hour-long event sharing the cultural and spiritual history of the Anishinaabeg people. It is not so much a performance as a kind of heightened storytelling experience; the company deliver an upbeat, very much abbreviated, occasionally funny, and occasionally tragic retelling of the Anishinaabeg people’s “recorded history” in the oral tradition. It’s heavy on the exposition – it has to be, to encompass 18 000 years – but is punctuated by moments of both humour and deep sorrow. Performing to an audience crowded around a fire, a spectacular view of the 12 Mile Creek behind them, Debajehmujig demonstrate a keen intelligence and share their deep spiritual connection to prove the everlasting power of myth.

I was struck by the casual atmosphere The Global Savages was presented in. The company joked around with their audience, calling out to community members they had met throughout the week and sharing funny anecdotes. A little girl ran across the playing space several times, producing laughs from spectators and performers alike.

But when the company began telling their story – a story starting 18 000 years ago – the audience fell silent. There is a certain gravity to hearing the history of the very land you are sitting on. I remembered being in elementary school, learning about Leif Erikson and Jacques Cartier, and asking what had gone on in North America – Turtle Island – before the explorers came. I was told there was no known history, at least not one of any importance. This memory stayed with me throughout the evening, as I listened to a history that very few people have been fortunate enough to hear.

One of the most memorable elements of the evening was Jessica Wilde Peltier, the only woman in the group (at least for this engagement) who speaks as Giizhigookwe: the Sky Woman. Peltier is warm, gentle, and funny, but still possesses incredible presence as a dramatic performer. She tells the story of the European invasion, and the subsequent actions of the invaders, standing mere feet away from her audience with tears pouring down her cheeks. It’s a powerful moment, one that affected everyone present, and ended with Peltier letting out a piercing wail which is symbolic of the stories lost as a result of those events.

Ultimately, The Global Savages’ power as a group is their direct and honest approach to a history shared by both native and non-native communities. It cannot be denied that half of their audience represents a group of people that invaded this continent, and tried to colonize the aboriginal communities. The Global Savages address this – they must, if they are to be honest as storytellers. But they manage to do so in a way that does not villainize their contemporary audience. Instead, the group is empowered as a whole through the telling, sharing this history and viewing it as a community. The ensemble explains that not enough time has passed to talk about these events from a healed and whole point of view. There is still too much pain and residual damage for this to happen. But they take care to unite those present, condemning no one, stating that “We are all Creator-made. And the Creator does not make junk.” A unique, enlightening, and powerful experience, The Global Savages shared a night of myth and history that should not – and will not – be forgotten.

About the Author


Leave a Reply