Indigenous Waldorf Marionette Performances

The Silk and Strings Marionettes group put their recent learnings about Indigenous culture to good use earlier this year in three performances of  “The Dancing Stars”, the Mohawk legend of the Origin of the Pleiades, at the Toronto Waldorf School’s Children’s Winter Festival in mid-January of 2019.

Putting the Learning into Practice

Many members of the group had attended last November’s RSCT Waldorf Development Conference and/or last years RSC Summer Festival’s Indigenous Waldorf Week which were about how to integrate Indigenous cultural material into the Waldorf curriculum in a respectful and good way.

The group consisted of current and former Waldorf EC teachers and RSC teacher trainees.

One of those trainees, Wasohnti:io Hill, was very instrumental in making the performances possible. She suggested this particular story and was very generous with her support, offering advice with respect to the creation of the script and costumes, doing the drumming and singing in the performance  and helping with the coordination with her Mohawk community.

After the TWS Winter Festival performances, the Silk and Strings Marionette group was invited to present the same “Dancing Stars” puppet show at the Everlasting Tree School at Six Nations of the Grand River Territory.. The Everlasting Tree School is a Mohawk immersion school that just last year was recognized by AWSNA as a Waldorf initiative.

It was particularly meaningful that the group was able to offer two performances there on February 2nd, since this story is a central part of their community’s New Year ceremonies that are held right at that time of year.

Performing for an Indigenous Community

One of the players in the group, Patti Wolfe, sent this report about their experience at the Everlasting Tree School:

“Our performances at the Everlasting Tree School went very well indeed. Everyone from the ETS community and our marionette group were very excited about the opportunity to come together for the event.  We were beautifully welcomed with all the support we needed to stage the production and we were warmly hosted with bountiful servings of wonderful healthy food all day, including some specially prepared indigenous dishes .Two of the Everlasting Tree School teachers were able to step in at the last minute and take up supportive parts in the performance which very much added to the wonderful feelings of connection.

The audience was a mixed crowd of the very young, adolescents and elders as well as visitors from afar. This was a wonderful step forward in developing a stronger relationship between our established Waldorf community and this young and growing Mohawk immersion school that has chosen to embrace Waldorf pedagogy.

Sharing with the Community

Afterwards, we were able to sit together over soup and hear about Mohawk (Haudenosaunee) history and culture and to share questions and common contemplations. There was also some discussion about the possibility of future shared marionette shows. I would say that it felt good all round and in fact for me it felt very much like a happy reunion.”

It is encouraging to see how last year’s Indigenous Waldorf courses and conferences at the RSCT are bearing fruit in both regular and indigenous Waldorf school settings so close to home. Let’s hope that, as time goes on, Indigenous Waldorf will find growing acceptance across Canada and across the continent.

Photos are from the dress rehearsal for the Toronto Waldorf School performance in January 2019.

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