by Kenneth T. Williams
Yvette Wong is a girl of mixed heritage growing up in Saskatchewan in the 1950s. Her father is Chinese and he runs a small town café. Her mother is Cree. When Yvette is ten her mother extracts a promise from her. She must never tell anyone she is Cree. Yvette holds this secret close to her heart along with a dream. Until the moment when she can no longer hide her heritage from herself. Based on the true story of Senator Lillian Eva Quan Dyck, Café Daughter is the powerful, funny and touching tale of one woman’s journey to reclaim her heritage.
“I thought, ‘OK, now I am Dr. Lillian Dyck now I can admit to anyone that I’m an Indian because I’ve proved myself,” she says. “All people who are minorities I think (feel) they have to prove themselves … you have to be better than them in order to be seen as equal.” – Dr. Lillian Eva Quan Dyck
Senator Lillian Dyck is a woman of firsts. She’s the first First Nations woman appointed to the Canadian Senate. She’s the first Canadian-born Chinese person appointed to the Senate. She received a master’s of science from the University of Saskatchewan the first year it awarded them and she is one of the firsts, if not the first, First Nations woman to obtain a PhD in the sciences in Canada, and likely worldwide.She’s an advocate for women, Chinese-Canadians and First Nations. And she’s proud of her First Nations heritage. But it wasn’t always that way. There was a time when hardly anyone knew she was aboriginal.
Gordon First Nation
Senator Dyck’s mother is from Gordon First Nation. Click to read more about the history of this reserve.
History of Kenneth Williams’ Café Daughter
Café Daughter began as a Gwaandak Theatre new play commission, with award-winning Cree playwright Kenneth T. Williams. This included intensive script development over two years, readings of earlier drafts with actors, script consultations with dramaturges and the director, and writing time at Banff Playwrights Colony and in Saskatoon.
Following Gwaandak Theatre’s world premiere in Dawson City, Yukon in May 2011, Café Daughter toured to Whitehorse and five others Yukon rural communities (Mayo, Pelly Crossing, Haines Junction, Teslin & Watson Lake), receiving standing ovations throughout the tour.
Gwaandak Theatre’s national tour of Café Daughter in January and February 2013 – to Thunder Bay (Magnus Theatre), Kitchener (The MT Space) and Toronto (Aki Studio) in Ontario and Vancouver in B.C. (The Cultch during Talking Stick Festival) – garnered universal critical and audience acclaim.
Café Daughter received the Bob Couchman Yukon Theatre Awards for Outstanding Direction (Yvette Nolan), Outstanding Female Performance (PJ Prudat), and Outstanding Play. – Gwandaak Theatre, Yukon
COLIN MACLEAN REVIEW: CAFE DAUGHTER
Writer: Colin Maclean
Date: Friday, November 27, 2015
Reclaiming identity against the odds: Café Daughter
Writer: Liz Nicholls
Date: Friday, November 27, 2015
Noting the pattern: Café Daughter explores cultural identity and micro-aggressions
Writer: Paul Blinov
Date: Wednesday, November 25, 2015
As Idle No More heats up, Cree playwright Kenneth T. Williams Descends on Toronto
Writer: J. Kelly Nestruck
Date: Sunday, Jan. 20, 2013
The Globe and Mail
One-woman play featuring P.A. actor explores racism
Writer: Matt Gardner
Date: February 6, 2013
Prince Albert Daily Herald
Saskatchewan in the 1950’s
Post World War II Saskatchewan was a dynamic place, driving into the future while embracing roots of agriculture.
Electricity was becoming available to the rural farmers, allowing for modernization and new electronic technology such as washing machines, lighting and radios or televisions. Read more here.
Indigenous History of 1950’s Saskatchewan
During the 1950’s, Indigenous people living on the land known as Saskatchewan were not allowed to vote or leave their reserves without permission. Their children were forced by Indian Affairs to attend residential schools and the government was strongly encouraging settlement for the Nations that were still living nomadic life styles. As revealed in the 1963 Hawthorn Report, Saskatchewan Indigenous Peoples were some of the most poverty stricken in Canada. Most recently, the landmark Truth and Reconcilitation Commission, has made public the tragic nature and acts of the Residential School system. Read more here.
Tommy Douglas and Post-War Saskatchewan
Tommy Douglas and the birth of Canada’s modern socialist political party, the New Democrat Party was upon us. Tommy Douglas most lasting legacy, was socialized medicine, now known as Public Health Care.
Chinese Cafés on the Prairies
The Royal Alberta Museum exhibited “Chop Suey on the Prairies” which featured the history of Chinese immigration to Canada and rural Chinese Western Cafes.
A restaurant was one of the more profitable businesses for a Chinese man, especially in a small town. Owners were able to provide work for other Chinese immigrants as the kitchens suited those who did not speak English, while those who had picked up the new language could work the front counter. Restaurants often became the centre of family’s migration to Canada; someone would start the restaurant and save money for the first few years to afford to bring over a son or brother or nephew; slowly more men from the extended family would immigrate and through their work the family still in China would prosper until the men in Canada decided to return to China permanently to live out the remainder of their lives with their wives and children. After the repeal of the 1923 Chinese Immigration Act (also known as the Chinese Exclusion Act) in 1947 and the implementation of the points-based immigration system in 1967, it became easier for Chinese men to bring their wives and children to Canada. – Active History
Edmontons Own: Blue Willow Restaurant
Notes from T. Erin Gruber
The design for Café Daughter was the outcome of a wonderful collaboration I was gifted to experience with Lisa C. Ravensbergen. Early on we committed ourselves to expressing visually the deep running and fast moving undercurrents of this play. We are building up the liminal space of the memory- the architecture of what shapes us. I found access to this space through the exploration of artifacts and the land of Saskatchewan. I think it’s true that the place in which we are born stays with us all our lives as do our defining emotional experiences.
I have been deeply inspired by the research I’ve undertaken surrounding our central character’s heritage on her mother’s and her father’s side. But even more important than the visual and factual information to be explored from such rich cultural heritage is the emotional journey explored in this beautiful play. The search for and understanding of our own identity is one of the most important and often one of the most fraught journeys of a lifetime and the tumultuous conditions which faced Yvette were what inspired my visual explorations and ultimately the world we are presenting to you with this production of Café Daughter.
About the Artistic Creative Team:
Kenneth T. Williams – Playwright
Kenneth T. Williams is a Cree playwright and dramaturge from the George Gordon First Nation in Saskatchewan. He is also the first Indigenous person to earn an M.F.A. in playwriting from the University of Alberta. He is thrilled to be back at Workshop West Playwrights Theatre with the production of Café Daughter. His other plays, Gordon Winter, Thunderstick, Bannock Republic, Suicide Notes and Three Little Birds have been produced across Canada. He is the playwright-in-residence for the Drama Department at the University of Saskatchewan and currently lives in Saskatoon.
Tiffany Ayalik – Yvette
Tiffany Ayalik was born in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories and is of Inuit ancestry. It was in the North, listening to stories from her elders that she discovered her love of storytelling, and the powerful change that hearing a story can bring about. After receiving her Diploma in Acting from Red Deer College, she continued her studies at the University of Alberta, and graduated with Distinction from the Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting. Some of Tiffany’s other credits include Zhaboonigan in The Rez Sisters (The Belfry Theatre), Sedna in The Legend of Sedna (Table D’Hote Theatre) Woman in A Taste of the Wildcat (Stuck in a Snowbank Theatre), Bobby in The Big League (Manitoba Theatre for Young People), Kili and Elrond in The Hobbit (Manitoba Theatre for Young People), singing and storytelling as a cultural representative for the Northwest Territories at the 2010 Olympics (BDK Services), Lady Capulet in Romeo and Juliet (University of Alberta), Clara in Hay Fever (RDC Arts Centre), Queen Gertrude in Hamlet (RDC Arts Centre), Reporter in Aklavik Journals (Stuck in a Snowbank Theatre). Tiffany continues to weave her southern education and her northern inspiration into her storytelling, dancing and singing. Tiffany would like to thank Workshop West and Lisa for all of their hard work and believing in powerful stories with small voices. Kilaasi asasasara, asaninninnut tapersersuininnullu qujanaq!
Lisa C. Ravensbergen – Director
Lisa is thrilled to collaborate with Workshop West for the first time! A tawny mix of Ojibway/Swampy Cree and English/Irish, she is a multi-hyphenate theatre artist based in Vancouver. A director, play-maker, Jessie nominated actor and dramaturge, writer, and sometimes dancer, she supplements her somewhat eclectic practice with the joys of motherhood and the challenges of self-produced works. She is an Associate Artist with Full Circle: First Nations Performance, a member of Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas as well as a former Associate Playwright and Dramaturg-in-Residence at Playwrights Theatre Centre. She is a graduate of TWU and Simon Fraser University’s School for the Contemporary Arts. What a gift it is to work with such generous and inspiring artists on such an important story.
T. Erin Gruber – Design
T. Erin Gruber is an independent theatre designer with experience in set, lighting, costume and projected media design. She holds a degree in Theatre Design from the University of Alberta and is a founding member of the ShowStages video collective, a group expanding the boundaries of projected media’s role in theatre. (showstages.com). Recent credits include:Category E (Production Designer, Sterling Award for Lighting Design, Maggie Tree Collective), A Bomb in the Heart(Production Designer, Downstage Theatre, Betty Mitchell Nomination), Monstrosities (Video and Lighting Designer, Maggie Tree Collective, Sterling Nomination), TOMMY (Assistant Video Designer, Stratford Festival). For more information:www.eringruber.com.
Shawn Gan – Sound Design
Born in Wuhan, China, Shawn moved to Canada at the age of 8 in 2000. His interest in music started at the age of 13 after receiving a guitar for Christmas. From years of playing, what began as a past-time quickly became a passion that never stopped growing, and in 2014, Shawn became a graduate of MacEwan University’s music program with a major in Composition and a minor in Music Technology. He is currently pursuing a Double Bachelor in Music and Education at the University of Alberta. Outside of the orchestra, Shawn is an international solo musician, producer, and music teacher. He composes and performs music of various genres ranging from classical and jazz to heavy rock. He also writes and arranges scores for film and video games, records and produces music for other musicians, holds clinics, workshops, teaches guitar, bass, and piano to student of all ages. Shawn is also the director, conductor, and writer for the Edmonton Concept Pop Orchestra, as well as a player in various other ensembles such as the Edmonton Chinese Philharmonic Orchestra, University Symphony Orchestra, and the University of Alberta Symphonic Wind Ensemble.
Adam Tsuyoshi Turnbull – Technical Director and Builder
Adam Tsuyoshi Turnbull is a multi-talented technician and theatre designer who works in set and lighting design and construction. He is sought-after as an artistic collaborator and his work has been seen on the stages for Northern Light Theatre, Shadow Theatre, Teatro la Quindicina, Fringe Theatre Adventures, L’UniThéâtre, Theatre Yes, multiple high school and performing arts groups, as well as trade shows and conventions. Adam has been honoured with multiple Sterling nominations for design and last year was awarded with a Sterling Award for Outstanding Achievement in Production.
Cheryl Milikin – Stage Manager
Cheryl has Stage Managed many shows for Workshop West Theatre over the years and she’s happy to be back again and to be working on another Ken Williams script after a great run of his play Thunderstick in 2009-2011, (Theatre Network and Persephone Theatre). Other shows Cheryl has Stage Managed for Workshop West Theatre over the years include: The Blue Light, Mary’s Wedding, My One & Only, Secret Spaces – The Bus Project, The Red Priest, Apple, and Letters in Wartime. Cheryl’s also worked for The Citadel Theatre, Theatre Network, Catalyst Theatre, Bent Out of Shape Productions, Theatre Yes and Free Will Players in Edmonton, as well as most cities across Canada and has toured internationally to Scotland, Wales and Australia during her career.
Allan Gilliland – Sound Design Advisor
One of Canada’s busiest composers, Allan Gilliland has written music for orchestra, choir, big band, film, television and theatre. His music has been performed by some of the finest ensembles and soloists in the world and appears on over 20 CD’s. For five years he was Composer-in-Residence with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. Other highlights include his two operas Hannaraptor and The Untimely Death of Whatsisname, the musicals The Seventh Circle and Dead Beats, The Winspear Fanfare composed for the opening of the Francis Winspear Centre for Music and Dreaming of the Masters III, given its American premiere by Jens Lindemann and the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall in 2012. Allan is presently Chair of Music, and Head of Composition at MacEwan University.
Truth and Reconciliation – An Indigenous and Canadian History Primer
The history of the land known as Canada is complicated and evolving, particularly regarding the relationship between The Crown (the Government of Canada) and the First Nations, Metis, Inuit and other groups Indigenous to the land. The French and English settled the land through the use of land settlements and trading corporations such as the Hudson Bay Company. As the British and then the Government of Canada wished to further settle west through agriculture and European Settlement, Numbered Treaties were signed with select Indian leaders. For the First Nation leaders that signed, it was seen as a negotiation of friendship, sharing the land “to the depth of a plow” and to ensure rights and protection for their people for generations to come. For the Government, it was seen as the first step to assimilation into the dominant European based culture. We also wish to note that Indigenous Nations and Cultures that did not sign treaties were still subject to them, or have been lost in the limbo of our current court system (such as the Lubicon Cree).
At this time, Residential Schools were set up to “kill the Indian in the child” and the Indian Act came into legislation, cementing a dominant and paternalistic relationship between The Crown and the Indigenous Peoples of the land.
The effects of legislation and the residential schools, as well as marginalization and racist systemic oppression, have created lasting damage within the First Nation, Metis and Inuit/other Indigenous communities. Below are some of the modern issues and political movements: Truth and Reconciliation Commission regarding Residential Schools, Inquiry request into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women, and the Idle No More Movement. Additionally, despite the many challenges Indigenous cultures have survived and make up one of the fastest growing demographics in Canada.
Workshop West wishes to acknowledge that this is complex and current language does not always do all the narratives justice. We strive to acknowledge Treaty and welcome ways to respect the cultures and their unique histories and current realities.
Please contact us regarding any questions or concerns regarding this document.
They have been in Canada 150 years, but for much of this time Chinese Canadians were unwelcome in this country. It started in 1885 when the Canadian government imposed a Head Tax on all Chinese immigrants entering Canada. By 1923, the government intensified its anti-Chinese efforts by making it virtually impossible for Chinese people to immigrate to Canada. This period of exclusion and legislated racism lasted until 1947. No other ethnic group was targeted in this way. Why did the federal government take such severe actions against Chinese people? – http://www.culturalcentre.ca/chinese_albertan_history/policies.htm
Canada passed its first Chinese Immigration Act in 1885, the same year Prime Minister John A. Macdonald was able to muster enough support in Parliament for an electoral franchise act that excluded persons belonging to the Chinese race, and fast on the heels of a Royal Commission on Chinese Immigration.
Justice John Hamilton Gray had recommended in his final report, as a commissioner to the Royal Commission, that the federal government impose a $10 tax on every Chinese man, woman or child disembarking from a ship at a Canadian port. Interestingly, it was Justice Gray who had earlier ruled against the constitutionality of British Columbia’s Chinese Tax Act, in Tai Sing v. Macguire (1878).
Parliament went a step farther, when it assented to the Chinese Immigration Act on July 20, 1885 to impose a $50 head tax on Chinese immigrants to Canada. The Act in its entirety placed an unequal financial burden on Chinese immigrants, attempted to limit new arrivals and interfered with the development of community services that responded to state-sanctioned racism. In 2005, the Canadian Government officially apologized for the Head Tax.
Truth and Reconciliation Commission
For over 100 years, Aboriginal children were removed from their families and sent to institutions called residential schools. The government-funded, church-run schools were located across Canada and established with the purpose to eliminate parental involvement in the spiritual, cultural and intellectual development of Aboriginal children. The last residential schools closed in the mid-1990s.
During this chapter in Canadian history, more than 150,000 First Nations, Métis, and Inuit children were forced to attend these schools some of which were hundreds of miles from their home. The cumulative impact of residential schools is a legacy of unresolved trauma passed from generation to generation and has had a profound effect on the relationship between Aboriginal peoples and other Canadians.
Collective efforts from all peoples are necessary to revitalize the relationship between Aboriginal peoples and Canadian society – reconciliation is the goal. It is a goal that will take the commitment of multiple generations but when it is achieved, when we have reconciliation – it will make for a better, stronger Canada. – Truth and Reconciliation
Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women
“Aboriginal women are almost three times more likely to be killed by a stranger than non-Aboriginal women are.” – Native Women’s Assocation of Canada, Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women and Girls fact sheet
Violence Against Aboriginal Women
- Aboriginal women in Canada have a higher rate of victimization compared to non-aboriginal women, both in relation to spousal and non-spousal violence (Measuring Violence against Women: Statistical trends, 2013, Statistics Canada).
- Aboriginal women experience higher rates and more severe forms of intimate partner violence (Measuring Violence against Women: Statistical trends, 2013, Statistics Canada)
- Aboriginal women are reported to be almost three times more likely than non-Aboriginal women to report they have been a victim of domestic violence in the past five years (Family Violence Hurts Everyone: A Framework to End Family Violence in Alberta)
Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women
- Of the 1,181 investigations, 1,017 are aboriginal female homicide victims between 1980 and 2012 and 164 women are considered missing.
- Currently, there are 225 unsolved cases: 120 are homicides, 105 are missing or foul play suspected.
- Aboriginal women make up 16 per cent of all murdered women on record, five per cent of all murders on record, 11.3 per cent of all missing women on record.
- The number of missing and murdered Aboriginal women is higher in the western provinces. In Alberta:
- There were 206 murdered Aboriginal women between 1980-2012, 28 per cent of all female homicides in the province during that time period;
- As of November 2013, there are 19 unresolved missing Aboriginal females and 28 unsolved murders.
Nearly half of murder cases in NWAC’s database remain unsolved. NWAC has found that only 53% of murder cases involving Aboriginal women and girls have led to charges of homicide. This is dramatically different from the national clearance rate for homicides in Canada, which was last reported as 84% (Statistics Canada 2005, p.10). While a small number of cases in NWAC’s database have been “cleared” by the suicide of the offender or charges other than homicide, 40% of murder cases remain unsolved. – NWAC
Calls have been made for a national inquiry to be conducted to find out the cause of violence and for recommendations that will protect and value the lives of Indigenous women.
As of November 10, 2015 the new Trudeau Liberal government has promised the national inquiry to begin in two weeks.
Idle No More has quickly become one of the largest Indigenous mass movements in Canadian history – sparking hundreds of teach-ins, rallies, and protests across Turtle Island and beyond. What began as a series of teach-ins throughout Saskatchewan to protest impending parliamentary bills that will erode Indigenous sovereignty and environmental protections, has now changed the social and political landscape of Canada. – http://www.idlenomore.ca/
In Association With:
Varscona Theatre Alliance
Alison and Scott Johnson
Larry and Kelay Ohlhauser
Nodin C. Ravensbergen
Alberta Aboriginal Performing Arts Acknowledgements
2015-2016 SCiP Interns: