Ambitious cultural show being planned

Tyler Clarke
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Prince Albert-based musician and counsellor Violet Naytowhow is seen this week, in the midst of brainstorming the details of an ambitious multi-faceted cultural show. 

Finding inspiration in New Zealand aboriginal performance group “Moana and the Tribe,” local artist Violet Naytowhow has an ambitious plan.


Blending various artistic mediums together, she wants to distill on stage what it means to be a Saskatchewan Woodland Cree person, as best she can.

Naytowhow envisions the project as “Painting a picture of the culture and getting it out there in a way that’s honest and honourable and respectful.”

Earlier this year, Naytowhow received a $7,500 Indigenous Pathways Initiative grant from the Saskatchewan Arts Board to “expand to anew areas in music, composition and performance and presentation” – the details of which she’s in the process of hashing out.

Moana and the Tribe “sing about their treaties, and some of the stuff that we have,” Naytowhow explained, noting that they incorporate theatre and dance within their musical stage performance.

“What I want to do is do what they do, but from my perspective as a Saskatchewan (Woodland) Cree,” she said. “I want to change it to a pop style -- my song.”

Working with local rock musician Garry Ostafischuk, her daughter, spoken word poet Tala Tootoosis, a First Nations drum group, powwow dancers and various other people, Naytowhow is in the midst of planning her own tribute to the Woodland Cree people of Saskatchewan.

Being culturally respectful will be key to the project, she said.

“There’s so much taboo stuff that you can’t portray in public, from a ceremony,” she said, adding that everything will pass through elders before it reaches the stage.

“What is OK for me to show about our culture, right now, so people can understand who we really are. I don’t think we need to hide every single thing.”

Anticipating some leeway when it comes to sharing the Woodland Cree culture with a greater audience, she said that the intent isn’t to make money, but to give people “a flavour of who Indian people are.”

The show will be done in such a way that the performers “feel respected and honoured as a traditional culture -- that you’re still in the spirit of your dance while you perform to my song, which would be pop contemporary.”

A Tribe Called Red -- an Ontario-based musical group that mixes First Nations music with hip hop, reggae, dubstep and other musical influences, is another good example of the eclectic blend of influence Naytowhow hopes to harness.

“It might sound terrible when we do it,” she said with a laugh, adding -- “Or, it might be great!”

An early incarnation of Naytowhow’s vision will see the light of day later this month when she embarks on a short tour of northern Saskatchewan with local musician Liza Brown, accompanied by a band that includes fiddle and mandolin players.

The mini tour will cap off with a Prince Albert performance in early April.

Naytowhow’s MySpace page,, will have more information about upcoming performances as it comes available.

She’s also set up a Facebook page, titled “Integrity of Song and Dance,” which will map her project’s progress. 

Organizations: First Nations, Indigenous Pathways Initiative, Prince Albert

Geographic location: Saskatchewan, Northern Saskatchewan

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