News Release: Haida Writer/Storyteller-in-Residence

January 8th, 2010 · No Comments · Aboriginal, History, News Release, Outreach

The University of Manitoba Centre for Creative Writing and Oral Culture is pleased to announce the arrival of Roberta Kennedy, its new Writer/Storyteller-in-Residence.

A Haida performer, writer and storyteller from British Columbia’s Haida Gawaii, (formerly the Queen Charlotte Islands), Kennedy will visit with students, mentor writers and storytellers and give several performances over the winter term. In addition she will be working to complete her own project, “Raven Before the Beginning of Time to the Present Day.”

Kennedy, whose Haida name Kwii-Ge-Ii-Wans means “Big Precious Loved Cloud,” grew up in Haida Gawaii: “The Land of the Good People.” As a child she learned to be ashamed of her culture. As one of only a few Aboriginal children in a school dominated by students from a military base, she endured years of cruel taunting.

“I believed what they said…all the stereotypes that exist of my people. To save myself from further shame I climbed into a shell of shame and silence where I stayed my whole life - that is until my son started school,” she says.

To spare her son the same plight, Kennedy gathered up her courage, took him in one hand and her button robe in the other and walked into the boy’s classroom. Shyly she gathered the other youngsters around her and told them how long it took her great-grandmother to make the robe and how honoured she was to receive it at her high school graduation.

“All the students in the class looked at my son and told him ‘You are so lucky!’ I noticed my son sitting a little taller,” she remembers.

So began a 16-year journey that has taken Kennedy across Canada performing traditional Haida stories. As well as a storyteller, Kennedy is a drummer, a singer, writer and educator. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and women’s studies and a Bachelor of Education. At the beginning of this year she moved to Winnipeg from Yellowknife, where she taught Dené language and culture to Dené, Inuit, Métis and non-Aboriginal children.

“We are thrilled to have the chance to learn from Roberta this term,” says Warren Cariou, director of the Centre for Creative Writing and Oral Culture and Canada Research Chair in Narrative, Community and Indigenous Cultures. “Her talents as a storyteller, writer and mentor will enrich our creative potential at the University and the larger community.”

The Centre for Creative Writing and Oral Culture was created to provide a space for scholars, students and visiting artists to collaborate, create works of verbal art and study the relationship between oral and written culture.

Information about the Centre for Creative Writing and Oral Culture is available at:

More information about Roberta Kennedy can be obtained from

You are invited to join in welcoming Roberta Kennedy at 2:30 pm on Thursday, January 21, 2010 in the Student Lounge of Aboriginal House, 45 Curry Place at the University of Manitoba’s Fort Garry Campus.

The event will include an exclusive performance by Roberta Kennedy as well as a reading by Visiting Fellow Niigonwedom James Sinclair.

This event and the reception to follow are both free and open to the public.

All are welcome.

For further information, please contact Jessica Woolford at: 204-480-1065 or email:

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