Presenters from 2011 Ânskohk Aboriginal Literary Festival

Photo courtesy of  Jorge Cueto 

photo by Jorge Cueto

Throughout his career Tomson Highway has travelled the world giving readings, lectures, and performances. Fluent in Cree, French, and English, he holds the post of Adjunct Professor at University of Toronto’s University College, and has been awarded seven honorary doctorates from Canadian universities. As well, he has received equivalent honours from The Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto and the National Theatre School in Montreal.

Tomson Highway has written three children’s books published by HarperCollins Canada, an academic work Comparing Mythologies, and has acted as Writer-in-Residence at several universities. He returned to playwriting in 2004 with Ernestine Shuswap Gets Her Trout, and then wrote the libretto for Pimooteewin: The Journey, a dazzling new opera written in Cree, which premiered with the Elmer Iseler Singers in 2008 and toured Northern Ontario in the spring of 2010.

Tomson Highways’s contributions to Canadian theatre and cultural life have been recognized with his induction into the Order of Canada and a National Aboriginal Achievement Award, as well as many other honours. His work both illuminates the collisions between Native and non-Native cultures in Canadian society and offers compelling portraits of joy and sorrow that give us a greater understanding of the human condition.


Other Talented Presenters Included: 

 Maria Campbell

Maria Campbell is one of Canada’s most accomplished Métis literary artists. Halfbreed, her poignant memoir, awakened the country to the poor social conditions facing the Métis. A highly-acclaimed writer, storyteller, playwright, and filmmaker, her broad body of work tells inspiring Métis stories with pride and compassion, with humour and sorrow, and with the same enduring spirit that keeps Métis history and culture vibrant. Through various genres of books, plays, and films, and through her ongoing work as an Elder, mentor, and community activist, Maria has made enormous contributions to both the Métis people and to Canada.

 Barry Ahenakew

Barry Ahenakew was born and raised on the Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation, where he served in leadership and administration for 24 years, 18 of which were Chief; Barry is a last carrier of many traditional stories of Cree origin.  His involvement in traditional practices and knowledge of Cree language has made him a unique and valuable contributor in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal writings as a consultant, editor and more importantly, a teacher.
Brought up by his grandparents, Ahenakew learned first-hand the oral traditions, ceremonial protocols and origin of many of the lost ceremonies of Cree people from a very young age. His knowledge of ‘old-style’ Cree language is rare and an important asset as he passes on his knowledge in his role as the Cultural Advisor of the Saskatchewan Indian Cultural Centre. He welcomes opportunities to share his knowledge and be involved in sharing his teachings all across our province.
His current work focuses on sharing cultural knowledge and consultation providing culturally and historically relevant information while he is also involved in editing. He would like to transfer stories he carries from oral to print in the future. He maintains a passion for promoting anyone and everyone in their cultural endeavors. He was honored in 2010 to be chosen to broadcast the Winter Olympics in
Vancouver in Cree for APTN. Barry has been approached by numerous organizations and University students to contribute to their writings and shares them without ownership of the stories reminding us that oral tradition is passed on through generations and are living stories of the people, culture and history.

 Darryl Chamakese

Darryl Chamakese was fortunate to be born into a family where the primary language spoken was nēhiyawēwin (Plains Cree).  Speaking and hearing the language  at an early age gave him a strong sense of identity and self-awareness.  His home First Nation is cahcakiyiw sākahikan (Pelican Lake) in Northern Saskatchewan. 

 He is an avid fisherman and spends as much time as he can on the land where he grew up.    He has completed a degree Bachelor of Arts Degree majoring in Political Studies from the University of Saskatchewan and is currently completing a Master’s Degree from the University of Alberta focusing on the Plains Cree language.  He is currently the Cree Language Developer at the Saskatchewan Indian Cultural Center and has instructed Cree at the University of Saskatchewan and The University of Regina.


 John McDonald

John McDonald is a 30- year-old award-winning writer, artist, tattoo historian, musician, playwright, actor and activist originally from Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. A sixth-generation direct descendant of Chief Mistawasis of the Plains Cree, John’s writings and artwork have been displayed in various publications, private and permanent collections and galleries around the world, including the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. John is one of the founding members of the P.A. Lowbrow art movement. He has served as guest editorial writer for several international publications. John is also the author of "The Glass Lodge", published by Kegedonce Press.

John has studied at England’s prestigious University of Cambridge, where in July 2000 he made international headlines by symbolically ‘discovering’ and ‘claiming’ England for the First peoples of the Americas.

John is also an acclaimed public speaker, who has presented in venues across the globe, such as the Anskohk Aboriginal Literature Festival, the Black Hills Seminars on Reclaiming Youth, the Edmonton and Fort McMurray Literary Festival, the Eden Mills Writers Festival and at the Ottawa International Writers Festival. John was honoured with the opportunity to speak before the Governor General of Australia in Sydney, NSW in April of 2001. John was also included in the Aboriginal Artists and Performers Inventory for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, BC

Louise Halfe 

Louise Halfe has three book publications to her credit. Bear Bones & Feathers was published by Coteau Books in 1994. It received the Canadian Peoples Poet Award, and was a finalist for the Spirit of Saskatchewan Award in that year. Blue Marrow was originally published by McClelland & Stewart in 1998; its revised edition was released by Coteau Books in September 2004. It was a finalist for both the Governor General’s Award for Poetry and the Pat Lowther Award, and for the 1998 Saskatchewan Book of the Year Award and the Saskatchewan Poetry Award. Her most recent work, The Crooked Good, was published in 2007.
Halfe's Cree name is Sky Dancer. She was born on the Saddle Lake Reserve in Two Hills, Alberta, in 1953. At the age of seven, she was sent to the Blue Quills Residential School in St. Paul, Alberta. She left residential school of her own accord when she was sixteen, breaking ties with her family and completing her studies at St. Paul's regional high school. It was at this time that she began writing a journal about her life experiences. Halfe made her debut as a poet in Writing the Circle: Native Women of Western Canada, the acclaimed anthology of life-writings by Native women. In 1993, she was awarded third prize in the League of Canadian Poets' national poetry contest and was Saskatchewan’s Poet Laureate for 2005-2006.
Halfe implements tools from her social work and addictions background to enhance and enrich writing workshops.

Curtis Peeteetuce

Curtis is Cree from the Beardy's & Okemasis First Nation.  He is an actor, writer, director and musician and the current Artistic Director of the Saskatchewan Native Theatre Company (SNTC).  Since 2001, he has had the honour of working with many talented artists in theatre, radio drama, music and film.  Selected highlights include Persephone Theatre (2011 Youth Tour of Secret Life of the Octopus & Wrecked, Berlin Blues, Bannock Republic), SNTC (Rez Christmas Story Series, RRAP, Thunderstick) CBC (Out in the Cold, Red Moon) and Rabbit Fall Season 2.  This Christmas SNTC will present his latest work, Kohkoms In Toyland.  Curtis dedicates all his efforts and accomplishments to his beautiful son Mahihkan.  Special thanks to family and friends for years of support! Nanaskimon.  




 Dawn Dumont

Dawn’s first book, Nobody Cries at Bingo was published by Thistledown Press, Saskatoon, SK  in 2011.  She has also written for television, radio, and the stage.  Four of her plays: The Common Experience (2009), The Red Moon (Love Medicine) (2007), Visiting Elliot (2006), and The Trickster vs. Jesus Christ (2005) were produced by CBC Radio.  In May 2010, the Centre for Indigenous Theatre produced The Red Moon on the University of Toronto campus.

Dawn is a frequent contributor to CBC Radio’s Definitely Not the Opera.  She has also been on CBC’s The Debaters and lost both times.  But she is not bitter about this.  For two years, she worked as the Story Editor for By the Rapids, an animated comedy currently broadcast on APTN.  She wrote two episodes and co-wrote three episodes.  She is currently the co-host for APTN’s Fish Out of Water with the always amusing Don Kelly.
Dawn began her writing career as a comedy writer for APTN’s Buffalo Tracks and Roger’s Mixed Nuts TV.  She is currently a comedian in comedy clubs across Canada and the U.S.  She was featured at the Winnipeg Comedy Festival and in CBC TV’s Turtle Island Too. 

Dawn attended the comedy-writing program at the Humber Comedy College in Toronto and trained as a screenwriter and playwright at George Brown College and the Can Com Aboriginal Screenwriter’s Program at the Banff Centre for the Arts under Jordan Wheeler, Carol Geddes and Carol Greyeyes.  An award-winning screenwriter and playwright, Dawn is the recipient of the following prizes: Best Radio Program, imagineNATIVE International Film Festival, 2007; LIFT Screenplay Series, 2005; Screenplay Audience Award, Female Eye Film Festival, 2005; and was the 2004 Playwright-in-Residence at Native Earth Performing Arts in Toronto.

Dawn was born and raised on the Okanese First Nation and is of Cree and Metis descent

Dr. Priscilla Settee

Dr. Priscilla Settee is an Associate Professor in the Department of Native Studies at the University of Saskatchewan and a member of Cumberland House Cree First Nations from northern Saskatchewan.

Priscilla has initiated a number of projects locally and internationally, including a CIDA(Canadian International Development Agency) project with the University of San Marcos in Peru. This project supported Indigenous Amazonian and Andean students make the transition from their home communities to the university. She is chair of Saskatoon’s only Aboriginal High school, Oskayak and as a member of the Iskwewak group that focuses on disappeared and missing Indigenous women. She is a frequently requested speaker on topics of Indigenous Food Sovereignty, Indigenous Womenís Rights and Environmental Rights.  Settee has published many journal articles and book chapters. Her current book in progress (Coteau Publishing) is called Akemeyimow, Indigenous Womenís Stories.  In 2008 Settee was awarded a Global Citizen’s award by Saskatchewan Council for International Co-operation and was nominated for a teaching excellence award by her students.

Dr. Settee is a board member for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Canada’s leading progressive think tank and publishing organization, a Faculty Fellow at the Centre for Global Citizenship Education and Research at the University of Alberta and a Research Fellow at the Adivasi Academy in Tejgadh, Gujarat, India.



Harold Johnson

Born and raised in Northern Saskatchewan, Harold Johnson has a Master of Law degree from Harvard University.  He has served in the Canadian Navy, and worked in mining and logging.  Johnson is a published author.  This autumn Harold Johnson will launch his fifth book, The Cast Stone -- a fictional account of a US invasion of Canada that forces First Nations to decide where their loyalties lay in respect to a history of Treaties and racial conflict.  Johnson has four previous publications: Billy Tinker (fiction, Thistledown Press, 2001), Back Track (Thistledown Press, fiction, 2005 ), Charlie Muskrat (Thistledown Press, fiction, 2008), and Two Families: Treaties and Government (non-fiction, 2007, Purich Publishing). Both Back Track and Two Families  were nominated for Anskohk Book Awards in 2006 (Book of the Year and Fiction) and 2007 (Book of the Year) respectively. All of his titles have been nominated for Saskatchewan Book Awards. 

Janet Rogers

A Mohawk writer from the Six Nations territory in southern Ontario, Janet was born in Vancouver British Columbia January 29th 1963. She began her creative career as a visual artist, and started writing in 1996.
Since then, she continues to stretch her abilities as a writer working and studying in the genres of poetry, short fiction, science fiction, play writing, spoken word performance poetry and video poetry. 
Her literary passions are her native heritage, feminism, historical territories, human love, sexuality and spirit. Janet has many anthology credits as a writer and receives many invitations to share her performance poetry all over North America. Her first published collection of poems will be launched in the Fall 2007 entitled “Sound Waves”.  She began recording her poetry with music during a residency at the Banff Centre, Alberta and continues to create successful recorded collections of her work. Janet has been collaborating with musicians as a lyricist and reading with dance troupes, creating unique segments of mixed media presentations. Her most recent accomplishments include the creation of a video poem entitled “Rightful Place” and hosting Victoria’s only native radio program every Tuesday at 2:30pm on CFUV 101.9fm called “Native Waves.”


Larry Loyie and Constance Brissenden

Award-winning Aboriginal author Larry Loyie ( was born in Slave Lake, AB. He lived a traditional Cree life until the age of nine, after which he attended St. Bernard Mission residential school in Grouard, AB. Larry Loyie is the author of five children’s books dealing with Aboriginal culture, history and traditions. After returning to school at the age of 55 to accomplish his dream of becoming a writer, Larry received the 2000 Canada Post Literacy Award for Individual Achievement (BC).

His first children’s book, As Long as the Rivers Flow (Groundwood, 2002) won several awards and commendations. His five children / youth books have received multiple awards and commendations. His new title, The Moon Speaks Cree marks his fourth book published with Theytus, Canada’s leading Aboriginal publisher.

Larry Loyie’s partner and co-presenter Constance Brissenden (BA, MA – U of Alberta), is an award-winning freelance writer, editor, journalist and interviewer. In 1993, Larry Loyie and Constance Brissenden established Living Traditions Writers Group to encourage writing in Aboriginal communities. They have dedicated their lives for the past 15 years to promote writing and reading in Aboriginal communities and a wider general public, travelling almost non-stop to promote Aboriginal books and authors. Together they have given more than 1200 readings, presentations and writing workshops across Canada and in the USA.


Marcel Petit

Marcel Petit is an independent producer, filmmaker and photographer from Saskatoon, SK where he runs an independent production company productions.  He is also currently the Executive Director at the Core Neighborhood Youth Co-op ( in Saskatoon, an alternative education, life skills and social skills youth organization.
Marcel has several film/video works to his name including a few short dramatic pieces to several short videos to 3 feature documentaries; hookers. a documentary (2008), The PISIM Project (2010) and the Jim Brady Story (2011).  He is a community activist, environmentalist and believes in change for a better future.
He is currently working on several different projects to keep him busy that include a few feature documentaries, a few short dramatic pieces and music videos.  He has  also had three public showings of his photography.

Wes Funk

A few years back, when Wes published his chapbook Humble Beginnings, no one was more surprised than him at how well-received it was. This inspired him to keep plugging away at his sort-of memoir Dead Rock Stars. Shortly after being released, his novel was a subject of numerous local radio and television talk shows. It was short-listed in the Readers' Choice category for the Saskatchewan Book Awards and received an Honourable Mention in Writer's Digest's International Self-Published Book Awards.Wes' new novel Baggage, a tale of a group of Saskatoon misfits, has now also become a Saskatchewan Bestseller and a pick-of-the-month of several book clubs across Canada.

Besides being a published author, Wes has worked as a server, bartender, caregiver, and a janitor. He is heavily involved in Saskatchewan's Literary Community, and is an active member of the Saskatchewan Writers Guild and Saskatoon Writers Coop. He has also been fortunate to be a recipient of the Saskatoon Public Library Writer-in-Residence Program, where he has been mentored by such accomplished writers as J. Jill Robinson, Jeannette Lynes, Terry Jordan, John Barton, Anne Simpson, and Alice Kuipers.A strong belief in diversity, a passion for rock 'n' roll, and a love for the prairie lifestyle are all strong themes in Wes' writing. He is currently working on another manuscrip

 Wilfred Burton

Wilfred Burton grew up in the Midnight Lake area north of Glaslyn, Saskatchewan. His mother, Georgina Nolin, told stories about family, Louis Riel, and the Willowbunch Giant, Édouard Beaupré. This created a desire to know more about these Métis icons and explore genealogy. Although many of the events and scenes in these stories are based on real people, actual events, and places in Wilfred’s life, this is a work of fiction.

Wilfred has been a teacher since 1979. He began his teaching career in La Loche and then worked as a teacher and consultant with Regina Public Schools. He was employed for several years with the Gabriel Dumont Institute (Saskatchewan Urban Native Teacher Education Program) at the University of Regina, teaching pre-service Métis teachers. He is currently the Literacy Coordinator for Regina Public Schools and continues to teach Métis dance in the community.

Thirty years ago children’s literature honouring Métis history and experience was non-existent. Over the years, more and more titles have been published reflecting historical and contemporary Métis stories. As a teacher, Wilfred is always looking for the right book to use with students that reflects their culture and teaches others about Métis ways. This series of “Nolin” stories contributes to this growing body of Métis children’s literature.

This is his third children’s book written with friend, Anne Patton. The first collaboration, Fiddle Dancer, was nominated for the Saskatchewan Book Awards and for an Anskohk Aboriginal Literature Award. It was a 2009 nominee for the Shining Willows, Saskatchewan Young Readers Choice Award.

The second book, Dancing In My Bones, won three Saskatchewan Book Awards and the Moonbeam Spirit Award.

 Leah Dorion

Leah Marie Dorion is a Métis artist raised in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. A teacher,  painter, filmmaker and published writer, Leah views her Métis heritage as providing her with a unique bridge for knowledge between all people.

An instructor at the Gabriel Dumont Institute in Prince Albert, Leah has degrees in Native Studies and Education. She has numerous creative projects to her credit including academic papers for the Royal Commission of Aboriginal Peoples, a children’s book, gallery showings of her art works, and numerous video documentaries that showcase Métis culture and history.

Leah’s paintings honour the spiritual strength of Aboriginal women and the sacred feminine. Leah believes that women play a key role in passing on vital knowledge for all of humanity. She believes women are the first teachers to the next generation.


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