A story of reconciliation — New Blood — is a play that looks at the Blackfoot history and traditions through the use of movement and storytelling.

The play features Blackfoot music, traditional and contemporary Indigenous dancing, and poems to tell the Blackfoot history.

New Blood tells the story of major moments in history that changed the lives of the Blackfoot people. From fur trade to smallpox, the play touches on the First Nations people being put on reservations and sent to residential schools. It follows the story of Chief Vincent Yellow Old Woman, former chief of the Blackfoot people, as he overcomes addiction and becomes the chief of his people.

“It covers a lot of history but, I think because we made it focus sort of on one person and you follow that person throughout all those moments in history it really personalizes it,” said Deanne Bertsch, director of the show and teacher at Strathmore High School.

“But then it is also the story of many First Nations people, in Canada specifically and North America as a whole too.”

The production of the story is exceptionally done. A story such as this one, complex and rich of history, can be overwhelming, however, with the combination of dance and music, the story is told in a remarkable way.

“Sometimes movement can be more powerful than words,” said Bertsch.

The play originally began in 2014, in Strathmore High School. Bertsch had been working at the school when she learned about the history of the Blackfoot people and being trapped on reserves.

“I was just horrified to learn that, and that’s my Blackfoot students’ history that they don’t even know,” said Bertsch.

She became inspired upon learning that. She went to her fellow colleague, Eulalia Running Rabbit, who was teaching a Blackfoot class at the time, to combine their two classes to create the show.

Since then the play has been performed over 100 times all over Alberta and British Columbia.

“The last show we did, a Blackfoot man stood up and said that he was very proud of the show and he could watch the show over and over, and that he was touched by it, and that he would like to bring it home and show it to his people out on the Piikani Nation,” said Running Rabbit, creator and narrator of the show.

“Another person [in the audience] said it was the first time he was able to cry since residential school,” said Bertsch.

“Another lady said watching the show it was if she was coming home.” This play brings healing and reconciliation to the Blackfoot people. It is a story of growth and overcoming many obstacles. It is a remarkable performance that everyone can benefit from watching.

Organizations interested in the play can contact: www.newblooddance.com

This story appears in the November-December 2018 print issue of the Calgary Journal, on stands now!

Editor: Simran Sachar | ssachar@cjournal.ca 

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