Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
- Age: 16
- Grade: 11
Based on a deposition signed by 14 Chiefs of the Thompson River basin on the occasion of a visit to their lands by Canadian Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier in 1910, Ernestine Shuswap Gets Her Trout is a ritualized retelling of how the Native Peoples of British Columbia lost their fishing, hunting and grazing rights, their lands, and finally their language without their agreement or consent, and without any treaties ever having been signed. It is one of the most compellingly tragic cases of cultural genocide to emerge from the history of colonialism, enacted by four women whose stories follow each other like the cyclical seasons they represent.
Written in the spirit of Shuswap, a “Trickster language” within which the hysterically comic spills over into the unutterably tragic and back, this play is haunted by the blood of the dead spreading over the landscape like a red mist of mourning.
About the author
Tomson Highway was born near Maria Lake, Manitoba in 1951. Living a nomadic lifestyle with no access to books, television or radio, Highway’s parents would tell their children stories, kindling Highway’s life-long interest in the oral tradition of storytelling.
Tomson Highway is widely recognized for his tremendous contribution to the development of Aboriginal theatre in both Canada and around the world.
In 1994, he was inducted into the Order of Canada, the first Aboriginal writer to be so honoured.
Ernestine Shuswap Gets Her Trout: A “String Quartet” for Four Female ActorsThis play takes place on the eve of a visit to BC’s Thompson River area by Sir Wilfred Laurier in 1910. It is the story of how the local Aboriginals lost their hunting, fishing, land and language rights as told from the point of view of four local women. The play is both comic and tragic which is conveyed using the English equivalent of the ‘Trickster’ aspects of the Shuswap language. The play includes much of the text of a document authored by the fourteen chiefs of the Shuswap, Okanagan and Couteau tribes, which outlines their concerns about what is happening to their people.
Highway has won the Dora Mavor Moore Award as well as the Chalmers Award. He is a member of the Order of Canada.
Caution: Includes some coarse language and sexual innuendo/ double entendres.
Source: The Association of Book Publishers of BC. Canadian Aboriginal Books for Schools. 2008-2009.
Other titles by Tomson Highway
Laughing with the Trickster
On Sex, Death, and Accordions
My Name Is Seepeetza
30th Anniversary Edition
Growing Up Cree in the Land of Snow and Sky
Permanent Astonishment (Signed Edition)
Kiss of the Fur Queen
Penguin Modern Classics Edition
Conversations about Indigenous Manhood
From Oral to Written
A Celebration of Indigenous Literature in Canada, 1980–2010