The cast of O’kosi from left to right Garret C. Smith, Mary Rose Cohen, Michelle Thrush, Janine Owlchild, and Dustin Frank. PHOTO: Hidden Story Productions.

Making Treaty 7 Cultural Society’s newest production, O’kosi, combines film, live powwow music, spoken word and Blackfoot prayer to explore the consequences of colonization while elevating Indigenous voices.  

O’kosi (oh-go-see), named after the Blackfoot word for autumn time and the traditions surrounding it, opened in Calgary on Sept. 22 – the same day Treaty 7 was signed 145 years ago. The play ran until Oct. 1 at the Pumphouse Theatre.

Michelle Thrush, artistic director of Making Treaty 7 and an actress herself, wrote and directed the play which aims to explore the intergenerational trauma of colonization and the signing of Treaty 7. 

“I created a vision of something that I feel is really important, just looking at the relationship between parent and child and how that’s been so devastated by residential school and the system,” she said.

Michelle Thrush fills in for the role of Sylvia in O’kosi. PHOTO: Hidden Story Productions.

The play’s follows generations of Indigenous Peoples from 1877 until 2077, and grapples with the pain of the past as well as each current generations’ hopes for their children. 

The Indigneous arts and culture organization emerged in 2012 as part of Calgary’s winning bid to be the arts capital of Canada for the year.

Since its establishment, the organization has produced a variety of Indigenous led, elder-guided content. 

“We always have elders in residence,” she said. “Elders that we go to and that give us guidance and give us blessings”. 

Making Treaty 7’s mission is to bring Indigenous heritage and art to the public forefront, while sharing knowledge in a way that reflects traditional oral storytelling practices. 

“My mandate is to have Indigenous people feel more comfortable entering into theatres and feel like they have their stories on those stages and that they can see themselves.” 

For this production, part of getting more Indigenous people in the Victor Mitchell Theatre at the Pumphouse included a “Pay What You Can Afford” approach, which allowed guests to choose what they paid. 

Aside from this approach, Thrush stresses how even though audiences may have a tendency to view the production as an act of reconciliation, it is more about bringing to light the truths of colonization. 

“There’s all this pressure to reconcile and there’s all this pressure to bring people together, but until we get the absolute truth said, we can’t even step into reconciliation,” she said. “For me, this show has so much truth in it.”

Thrush expressed that the play is a story for Indigenous people by Indigenous people – producing the “medicine” her community needs to heal.

“You have the ability as an artist in front of an audience to bring that medicine forward and affect their hearts. To me, that’s power and that’s the ability to create change and create healing and create love.”

Powwow musicians Dana Goulet and Skip Wolfleg. PHOTO: Hidden Story Productions. 

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