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You used to call me Marie… celebrates rise of Métis Nation through a series of love stories

You used to call me Marie...
Tai Amy Grauman plays Iskwewo, and Aren Okemaysim is Napew in You used to call me Marie... Photo by Benjamin Laird.

It’s being billed as an epic Métis love story. Playwright Tai Amy Grauman’s You used to call me Marie… will bring eight intertwined stories of love and resilience to Vancouver’s York Theatre.

Grauman, an artistic associate with Savage Society, has Métis, Cree, and Haudenosaunee ancestry. She performs opposite Beardy’s & Ikemasis’ Cree Nation member Aren Okemaysim. The show runs from from April 18 to 28 as part of the Cultch’s seventh annual Femme Festival. You used to call me Marie… also includes a four-member music and dance ensemble: Cole Alvis, Rebecca Sadowski, Kathleen Nisbet (fiddler, band captain), and Krystle Peterson (keyboard, guitar, vocal captain). The Cultch is presenting the world premiere.

Grauman won the 2018 Jessie Richardson Award for most promising newcomer. According to the Cultch, she was inspired by stories of the Calihoo women in her family. The Savage Society and NAC Indigenous Theatre production tracks Iskwewo (Grauman), Napew (Okemaysim), and Mistatim (horse in Michif) through generations. This coincides with the rise of the Métis Nation.

The Métis are descendants of mixed European (mostly French) and Indigenous people. Sometimes referred to as children of the fur trade, they are known for their elaborate beadwork, bright ribbon clothing, and fabulous fiddle playing and jigging. Their Michif language is making a comeback as part of a broader Métis revival.

Marie emerges from difficult history

The Métis people experienced tremendous hardship in the 19th and 20th centuries. Prior to Confederation, they rose up to resist the transfer of territory in Rupert’s Land to the federal government. After Manitoba became part of Canada, Métis were pushed off their land. The federal government gave them false promises that they could obtain property in the West. As a result of this double-cross, Métis people formed “road allowance communities” in the late 1800s to mid to late 1900s.

“The term road allowance originates from the designated space that is measured between a paved or unpaved road and the boundary of where a section of private, municipal, provincial, railway or Crown land is marked,” the Canadian Encyclopedia states. “Forced into the geographic and economic margins of Canadian society, Métis built the road allowance communities upon unused portions of land that were typically on the border of a larger non-Indigenous community, a First Nations Reserve or in less populated rural areas.”

You used to call me Marie… is a 90-minute show with no intermission, recommended for all ages. The Ronald S. Roadburg Foundation is making complimentary tickets available for Indigenous patrons. For tickets and more information, visit the Cultch website. Follow Pancouver on X (formerly Twitter) @PancouverMedia and on Instagram @PancouverMedia.

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Charlie Smith

Pancouver editor Charlie Smith has worked as a Vancouver journalist in print, radio, and television for more than three decades.

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The Society of We Are Canadians Too created Pancouver to foster greater appreciation for underrepresented artistic communities. A rising tide of understanding lifts all of us.

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We would like to acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional and unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. With this acknowledgement, we thank the Indigenous peoples who still live on and care for this land.