Indigenous-led theatre company Making Treaty 7 turns 10, throws a party for the city

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Seven years ago, there didn’t seem to be much chance Calgary’s audacious, inspiring Indigenous-led theatre company Making Treaty 7 would even continue to exist, let alone make it to 2023.

That was because on Feb. 11, 2015, five people died on a highway in a Saskatchewan, including One Yellow Rabbit’s Michael Green, one of co-founders of Making Treaty 7, and Narcisse Blood, a Blackfoot elder who played an instrumental role in the shape of stories told in the early days of the company.

Making Treaty 7 was a coalition of Indigenous theatre artists and others from Calgary’s theatre community, who joined together with communities from the seven First Nations who signed Treaty 7 back around 1877, to create a new kind of Alberta history.

It was the origin story of Western Canada from the Indigenous point of view.

Not only did the company survive the death of two of its founders, it has emerged in the ensuing seven years to grow into one of the city’s – and the country’s – most important companies.

Back in 2015, Making Treaty 7 artistic director Michelle Thrush was a board member who signed on to co-direct a show when the devastating news came from Saskatchewan.

“We considered shutting everything down at that time,” said Thrush, in an emai. “We were not sure how to go forward without our two amazing leaders, but after much thought and prayers from our elders we decide to keep going.

“Now, 10 years later, the company is stronger and healthier than it has ever been and we are all super-excited to celebrate 10 years of bringing our stories to the stage.”

Friday night, Making Treaty 7 is celebrating its birthday at the Grand Theatre, its new theatrical residence, with a celebratory fundraiser.

There will be a reprise of some of the artists who performed in the earliest editions of Making Treaty 7 – “the big show” – clips from a film the company shot in 2021 called ISTOTSI, and a scene from a 2022 production of Time Stands Still. There will be Indigenous burlesque and a sneak peek of an Indigenous musical from the U.S. called Distant Thunder.

There will be a guest appearance by actor Gary Farmer, music by Juno winner George Leach, and a silent auction featuring Flames tickets, weekend passes to the folk festival, zoo passes, Stampede rodeo passes and earrings donated by local Indigenous artisans. And after all that, there will be a dance, with beats by DJ Sean.

All of it will be to raise money for an upcoming April production of The Ministry of Grace, by Siminovitch Prize-winning Calgary playwright Tara Beagan.


How would you describe Making Treaty 7 to someone who doesn’t know anything about it?

“MT7 is an Indigenously-led, settler-supported cultural society that explores the stories from this land and the repercussions of colonization,” Thrush said. “Back when we first began (in early 2013), we gathered over 150 Elders and knowledge-keepers together over various weekends to get their perspective and their consent to tell a story that had never been told in a place we all called our home.

“Through the years, we have maintained a promise to tell these stories in an honest and caring way, always having elders as our compass,” she says. “Every story we engage has elders in the lead alongside actors, dancers, singers and musicians.

“We are very conscious how we bring these stories to the stage with ceremonies, feasting, and the guidance of knowledge keepers,” she says. “In the last few years since I have become AD (artistic director), we have expanded beyond the original big show we once presented and have brought in other playwrights to carry forward the momentum.

“Every story is written by people that are from southern Alberta and have connection to the land in some way,” she says.


“The importance of having an Indigenous-led company is essential in creating a safe place for our storytellers to feel respected in their approach and feel heard in their stories,” Thrush says.

“There are many theatre companies across Canada that explore some of the greatest writers in the world. Here in Treaty 7 (territory), we hold the same amount of wisdom in our stories and the same amount of grand imagination. I consider the stories we share as medicine for the soul.

“We approach our process in a way that carries the story as a child that is growing up with a circle of relatives surrounding them,” she says. “We are all aunties and uncles and grandparents that hold that child in honour of its pure potential and its divine wisdom.

“In rehearsals, we all nurture that story with kindness and we all want it to grow into its most powerful form. There is no hierarchy and we carry strong that same respect for each other in the room.

“I have been a part of many theatre projects in my life and this is not always the case, to be able to speak our truth in a room that is dominated by a society that is mainly patriarchal.

“That is not always the case in all rehearsal spaces but I have had to deal with this and it is a lonely place to be the only person of colour in a lot of spaces,” she says.

 “The true history of Canada is just now coming to light,” Thrush says, “and it is our artists that are leading the way with this incredible opening of truth.”


The company is currently co-presenting Little Red Warrior and His Lawyer with Theatre Calgary, a satire by Governor-General Award winner Kevin Loring.

It’s a big, splashy production on the biggest main stage in the city – not bad for a company that started out doing its first production at the tiny theatre inside Fort Calgary.

In fact, it’s a pretty huge deal, Thrush says.

“This is a huge coup for us as a company,” she says.

The walls of the lobby of the theatre has been decorated with the work of Indigenous artists. There are Indigenous greeters at every performance.

And for Thrush, hopefully, it all adds up to an audience that looks a little more like the folks up on stage.

Now that they’ve found a way to share Indigenous stories on stage, the company wants to Indigenize its audience as well.

“Getting more Native people into theatres has been a huge priority for us at MT7,” Thrush says. “The theatre has not always felt like a welcoming place for us and this is seen in the audiences throughout the years.

“MT7 is trying to change that statistic through our approach. We put together a focus group, a few months, back to attend a performance of The Importance of Being Earnest at Theatre Calgary.

“After they watched the show, they were brought to a room in the theatre and asked many questions about how they felt being in this huge institution. A lot of the answers that came back to us were a feeling of not being comfortable. They did not see themselves represented in so many of the stories that were being told in theaters.”


For Little Red Warrior, the company, along with Theatre Calgary, are working to make live theatre more accessible and more affordable, she says.

“We provided a barcode on our website for any Indigenous people that wanted to see the show for $20 as opposed to what the theatre prices normally are,” she says. “We also do this with our own productions of having a three-tiered payment price.

“I truly feel this has been a promising endeavour as more people are coming to see theatre from the communities and more people are seeing themselves on stage.

“MT7 has always been a community-driven company that holds all of our members in respect for what they have contributed to who we are,” she says. “I want to continue to explore what it means to tell our stories alongside our allies in a way that transforms hearts to know we are all human beings and we all have stories that inform and build change.”


What, Thrush is asked, does she think Michael Green and Narcisse Blood would say if they knew there was a 10th birthday party for the company taking place Friday?

“If Michael Green was still with us,” she says, “he would just be smiling with his pointy boots on and sitting in the audience, knowing this vision became bigger than all of us.. I think him and Narcisse would be proud of the challenges we have faced through the years, knowing we are all just doing the best we can.”

For more information on Friday’s party and Little Red Warrior and His Lawyer, go to Making Treaty 7’s website.

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