Mushuau Innu welcomed to Centre Wellington for performance of The Dancer

“This is our story. It is one of self-healing and we would like to share it with you.”

At Centre Wellington Dis­trict High School, Jack Frimeth repeated the phrase that meant so much to him.

Frimeth said Davis Inlet was known for the highest suicide rates in Canada. A fire in 1992 brought a world focus to the tragedy.

Homes there had no running water, no plumbing for washrooms, nor insulation. The only running water was for the police, the priest, in the school, and for the teachers.

Frimeth said there was quite a bit of substance abuse but nothing happened until the tragic fire. Six children had been left at home while their parents went to a dance. One of the children pulled a hot plate near a blanket, which caught fire.

By the time the fire was discovered, combined with the fact there was no running water, Frimeth said there was little that could be done, except watch. All six children died.

The play depicts their story, he said.

The Dancer is a play that portrays the influence of the Dark Spiritual Dancer and a Light Spiritual Dancer on the behaviour of the Innu people of Davis Inlet, Labrador.

The play holds a special message for Innu and all Cana­dians. The infiltration of outside mainstream influences has created tension and problems in many First Nations communities in addition to Davis Inlet.

The Mushuau were placed in the island community of Davis Inlet by the federal and Newfoundland governments and forced to live in Third World conditions. For years, Davis Inlet had been associated with suicide, substance abuse and tragedy. The Mushuau Innu were a forgotten, and in many respects, an ignored people.

In 2002, the people of Davis Inlet were moved to their new­ly constructed com­munity of Natuashish, a distance of 18 kilometres away, on the mainland. The play is performed by eight students from Mushuau Innu Natu­ashish School from Labrador.

The play will be held at several locations in the coming days, including a presentation at the Woodland Cultural Cen­tre in Brantford.

The connection for students at Centre Wellington District High School lies in a number of local students having seen the Mushuau Innu community first-hand.

Last year, 16 students from Centre Wellington District High School travelled north as part of an exchange. At that time, they saw the play, which Frimeth described as “extremely powerful and moving.”

Students also had the opportunity to visit Davis Inlet itself to view the conditions the Innu once lived in.

The play relies on emotion, music and movement and beautifully portrays the struggles which the Innu have had to face. Most significantly, it illustrates how the Innu people are beginning to overcome those obstacles.