History of the Festival

The word Ânskohk was given to us by a respected member, storyteller, and language-keeper of our Cree community, Mr. Joseph Naytowhow.  It is pronounced “ans-cook” and means “passing on the teaching tying one generation to the next or in other translations, passing the story on” in the context of the Festival.

The first Ânskohk Aboriginal Literature Festival was held from September 29 to October 1, 2004 as part of Saskatchewan Native Theatre Company’s overall mandate to present cultural and artistic experiences that when combined promote cultural awareness and create understandings about the richness and diversity of Aboriginal culture . In particular, this festival was created to showcase the diversity of writing by Aboriginal authors, to educate the general population about the richness of Aboriginal literature and to promote further understanding of Aboriginal peoples.  In addition, this festival was put together to highlight positive role models for Saskatoon’s Aboriginal community. The festival was, and is, designed to appeal to a broad audience.

To ensure success of this first festival, a partnership was created with McNally Robinson Booksellers to utilize their established relationships with publishers and their expertise in hosting reading series. McNally Robinson Booksellers has hosted over 500 authors in the 7 years that they have been a presence in Saskatoon. McNally Robinson Booksellers became a presenting sponsor/partner by supporting promotions, facilitating negotiations with publishers and authors and providing an additional facility for readings.  In addition, McNally Robinson Booksellers provided sponsorship for advertising, covered initial expenses and supplied meals for participating authors.  Readings were held in our Black Box Theatre and at McNally Robinson Booksellers. 

The first festival received tremendous support from the community of Saskatoon and within the province of Saskatchewan. The majority of the readings had attendance that was at least at 80% capacity with some readings “sold out” prior to the festival starting. Teachers of elementary and high schools were encouraged to reserve space for readings and we had such tremendous response that many were turned away.  All readings were free of charge to ensure access for all people regardless of their financial situation.

Since 2004, the Ânskohk Aboriginal Literature Festival has promoted over 120 authors, hosted readings, workshops and seminars.  In 2009, the Saskatchewan Native Theatre Company could no longer support this event and it was cancelled.

In the Fall of 2010, after a two year hiatus, a number of First Nations and Métis writers approached the Saskatchewan Aboriginal Literacy Network Inc. (SALN) to revive the Festival and ensure its longevity.  The process of incorporation of the Ânskohk Aboriginal Writers’ Circle Inc. has begun under the guidance of the newly incorporated "SAWCI" - Saskatchewan Aboriginal Writer's Circle Inc. - and the Ânskohk Aboriginal Writers’ Festival is the main event.

The board is currently formed of talented and knowledgeable representatives from the literacy and literary communities.  Florence McLeod - Elder; Lisa Wilson - author and educator from Gabriel Dumont Institute; Louise Halfe - author, former Poet Laureate of Saskatchewan and recipient of an Honorary Doctorate for her work; Joely BigEagle - SWG Aboriginal Programming Co-ordinator; Andréa Ledding - freelance photojournalist, author, poet, and editor; and Carol Vandale - Executive Director of the Saskatchewan Aboriginal Literacy Network. There are also numerous others working in an advisory capacity, including Rita Bouvier and Della Anaquod.

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