Debaj’s ‘Seven Stones’ brings Indigenous values into focus onstage

Falling leaves and seven stones with key messages take their place onstage at Debajehmujig Storytellers winter production ‘Seven Stones,’ a tale of a young man’s journey to peace through the values of the Seven Grandfathers. The production delivers a powerful message of resilience that resonates across cultures and generations.

MANITOWANING—The latest live theatre offering from Debajehmujig Storytellers, ‘Seven Stones,’ provides audiences with an opportunity to better understand the Anishinaabe value system and provides a great jumping off point for non-Indigenous viewers to begin their own journey of reconciliation.

Fair warning, ‘Seven Stones’ intro can be a tad triggering for anyone who has lost a loved one in a fatal fire, but the production’s utilization of lighting, shadow player effects and sound provides an incredibly powerful introduction to the character and storyline of the play.

Co-written by Bruce Naokwegijig and based on a story concept by Robert Pheasant, ‘Seven Stones’ follows the orphan Billy (played to authentic perfection by Daniel Recollet-Mejaki) who was orphaned at a young age when his parents perished in a fire while he was away visiting relatives.

Billy is handed over to a “nice and respectable” family to be fostered, where he grows up in an atmosphere that is all too familiar to those trapped in an impersonal alien system.

Mr. Naokwegijig took a turn onstage as the sage elder to whom Billy finally turns for help in dealing with the nightmares of his past.
Mr. Recollet-Mejaki does double duty as an Anishinaabe Cultural Arts animator with Debajehmujig, where he has plied his talents and improved his skills diligently since 2017—and it shows.

Playing opposite Mr. Recollet-Mejaki is Aaron Courtorielle, a Woodland Cree who is working on her Master of Integrated Studies at Athabasca University. As Autumn, Ms. Courtorielle acts as a sometimes humorous and often sage sounding board and mentor to Billy.

‘Seven Stones’ provides a window into a better understanding of the personal reconciliation challenges faced by those ripped from their families and culture and the resilience exhibited by many survivors. Not every one of those stories provides a happy ending (spoiler alert, ‘Seven Stones’ being a tale of redemption through a return to cultural foundations does).

Samantha Lynn Brennan co-directed ‘Seven Stones’ and played a behind the scenes, on stage role in blacksuit, helping to enhance the storyline while remaining technically “invisible” in the production.

‘Seven Stones’ has a plethora of contributing artists, including the incomparable Marsha Coffey, who provided the original score for the production. Ms. Coffey, a regular contributor to Debaj productions event took to the keyboard backstage to add a more organic feel to critical parts of the action onstage.

Other contributing artists in the production include Kristin Pitawanakwat, Dustin Trudeau, Quinten Kaboni and Tyler Pangowish. The production team includes Jason Manitowabi on voice recording, David Sunny Osawabine on stage management along with Isha Eshkawkogan, Dustin Trudeau and Quinten Kaboni.

‘Seven Stones’ is well worth taking a few moments break from a busy Christmas schedule. Not only does this production provide stepping stones to a better understanding through art, it does it with plentiful dollops of sweet moments.