Canadian playwright Tomson Highway is releasing two of his most
famous works in his first language Cree.
Cree versions of the plays The Rez Sisters and Dry Lips
Oughta Move to Kapuskasing were officially released at a launch
party at the University of Ottawa Monday night. Highway, 58, said
a publisher, Fitzhenry and Whiteside, approached him earlier this
year and expressed its interest in releasing the plays both
of which have been performed in English since the 1980s in
who was born near Maria Lake, Man., said when he writes, the characters
speak in Cree in his head but the words often come out in English
actually the Cree versions that are coming out tonight are actually
the original versions. As it turns out, the original ones that came
out 20 years ago were the translation," Highway said.
language that I'm most familiar with that I'm closest to,
emotionally and otherwise is Cree, which is my native tongue
It's the first language that I spoke. My parents and my oldest
brothers and sisters didn't even speak English."
encourages more young aboriginal thespians to use their language,
many of which he describes as "endangered species."
if anybody in this country is capable of saving those languages
from extinction, it's the writers," he said.
of those appearing to heed Highway's call is Kevin Loring, who's
from a First Nation community in British Columbia.
won a Governor-General award in 2009 for his first play Where the
Blood Mixes, which includes snippets of dialogue in Salish. He said
he got the theatre bug after performing a monologue from Dry Lips
Oughta Move to Kapuskasing in a Canadian literature class.
was the first time I had really encountered aboriginal literature
in that way, right, where I saw characters that I recognized in
environments that I recognized and I could see myself in it. And
so I really credit Tomson with that inspiring moment," Loring
said he also hopes his plays will now be taught not just in Canadian
literature classes in universities, but Cree language courses as
is the most common indigenous language spoken in Canada. There are
about 100,000 Cree speakers in the country, according to the 2006