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Making a Dramatic Difference

By Gary Allison

Ramona Big Head began her sixth year of teaching this fall at Kainai High School on the Blood Reserve in southern Alberta. As the drama instructor, she has already made a major impact on the school and the community, helping her students come to grips with the stage, their culture, and their entry into mainstream society.

Her father, Peter Big Head, a former tribal council member, used to tell her, "You're no better than anyone else... but no one else is better than you."

She has tried to live by those words. Her drama club adapted the play Toronto at Dreamer's Rock, a story about the dilemma faced by Native people trying to live in white society yet keep alive their tradition and culture. Their version places the story at Ninastako, Chief Mountain, where Blackfoot still go for spiritual guidance. The club performed it for the opening of the refurbished high school a few years ago and took the play to the Cross-Cultural Days in Pincher Creek, to the Siksika Reserve at Gleichen, into Browning and the Flathead Reserve in Montana, and to the Assembly of First Nations National Education Conference in Calgary.

Last year her students travelled to Edmonton for the Dreamcatcher's Conference where they performed The Good, The Bad and the Indians, a play written by Carl Brave Rock, Big Head's son. The play was showered with praise at the conference, which included the Haida and Inuit people and other Aboriginals from B.C., Alberta, Ontario, and Saskatchewan. The play was also performed at the Treaty 7 Youth Conference and received good reviews at the Southern Alberta High School Drama Festival.

"It is a play with Satan and Jesus vying for control over the people, and then Napi comes along," says Big Head. "It is a play written by a young person for other kids his age."
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Reprinted with the permission from Garry Allison and Legacy (Winter 2001): 27-28.
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