On The River

On the River is a 60-minute live performance of music and video that tells the story of the Cree, Dene and Metis peoples’ community of Fort McKay, through the lens of the life of former chief Dorothy McDonald.

Songs written and performed by Asani and Maria Dunn with video by Don Bouzek of Ground Zero Productions.

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Fort McKay is located on the Athabasca River, just north of Fort McMurray, in the midst of major oil sands sites. The community has experienced tremendous changes in the past 65 years. On The River explores these changes with song and video, telling this story through the lens of the life of former chief Dorothy McDonald.

In 1980, Dorothy McDonald became the first elected female Aboriginal chief in Alberta. She served several terms, during which she helped Fort McKay develop from a small cluster of houses without basic services into a self-sufficient community with full services. She also fought oil sands companies to protect the health and safety of her people. Later, she worked to set up the Fort McKay Group of Companies, creating employment to help the community benefit from the resource development already taking place.

On The River is a live performance that combines new songs from Asani and Maria Dunn with video interviews from people who knew Dorothy McDonald.

Asani is an Aboriginal women’s trio from Edmonton: Debbie Houle, Sarah Pocklington and Sherryl Sewepagaham. This circle of First Nations and Metis women have performed across Canada and internationally at such venues as Carnegie Hall in New York and The Kennedy Centre in Washington D.C. Their debut CD Rattle and Drum was nominated for 11 music awards, including a Juno nomination for Aboriginal Recording of the Year, and received a 2005 Canadian Aboriginal Music Award (CAMA). Asani composed the theme song for the CAMA’s in 2005 and the honouring song for the Esquao Awards in 2009. With their second recording Listen, Asani received a 2010 Canadian Folk Music Award for Aboriginal Songwriter of the Year and a 2010 Indian Summer Music Award for Best Spiritual Song.

On The River is produced by Ground Zero Productions, a thirty year-old professional theatre company. Ground Zero has toured Maria Dunn’s two previous multimedia shows, GWG: Piece by Piece and Troublemakers throughout Alberta. The company’s Artistic Director, Don Bouzek, has created the video segments for this show. His award winning video work has been broadcast by Access-TV and is featured on many websites.

Development of On The River received special funding from the Canada Council for the Arts (Theatre Section – Artists and Community Collaboration).

Ground Zero Productions thanks the Fort McKay First Nation, Canada Council for the Arts, Alberta Foundation for the Arts and Edmonton Arts Council for their support.

More information: http://gzpedmonton.org/projects/view/on-the-river