Maria Campbell

Métis writer Maria Campbell is best known for her important memoir, Half-breed which initiated a rebirth of Aboriginal literature in Canada. She was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2008. Campbell was born in 1940 in northwestern Saskatchewan on a trapline and grew up in a road-allowance community. The oldest of eight children the young Maria had to leave her one-room country school to care for the other children when her mother died. At fifteen she left home and went to Vancouver. In her twenties she returned to the Prairies and became a community worker and organizer. Out of her city experience and with the help of a group she wrote Many Laws (1969), a hand book explaining the laws and problems that confront First Nations people who move to the cities.

Campbell overcame many difficulties to take control of her own life and to help her people. This journey of self-discovery is traced in Half-breed (1973), a moving account of a woman who struggled with poverty, alcoholism, drug addiction, sexual abuse and prostitution to reach thirty-three years of age and begin her healing process. Campbell tells her story in the context of Métis culture and a forgotten history. She brings in myth and creates a distinctive voice for a people ignored by mainstream society. This book has been used as a texts in countless university and college courses across North America and translated in Europe.

Maria Campbell went on to write three books for children: People of the Buffalo (1975), Little Badger and the Fire Spirit (1977), Riel’s People (1978) which capture aspects of Métis history. In Stories of the Road-Allowance People (1995), Campbell translated the narratives from the Cree-Mitchif language spoken by the Métis into oral English. She has used theatre to bring her Métis voice to large Canadian audiences. Her play Flight was the first all Aboriginal theatre production and included storytelling, drama, modern dance with Aboriginal arts. She wrote the play, Jessica in collaboration with Linda Griffiths. The play follows the story of a young Métis woman from innocence to despair and finally to self-realization. It debuted in 1986 at Toronto’s Theatre Passe Muraille and won the Dora Mavor Moore Award. At the Quinzanne International Festival in Quebec City it won Best Canadian Production. Campbell and Griffiths published the play in The book of Jessica: A Theatrical Transformation (1989), which also includes the story of its collaborative creation. Campbell’s script The Red Dress (1977) is a film for the National Film Board. Between 1985 and 1997 she produced thirty-four community film documentaries and a weekly Aboriginal TV series, My Partner, My People.

Maria Campbell earned an M.A. in Native Studies from the University of Saskatchewan. She has received honourary doctorates from the University of Regina (1995), York University (1992) and Athabasca University (2000). She has taught Métis history and the study of oral traditions at universities in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta. She is a visiting academic at the Centre for World Indigenous Knowledge and Research, Athabasca University. (Joseph J. Pivato, 2009)
Half Breed
Author: Maria Campbell
Format: Paperback
  • Maria Cambpell's biography is a classic, vital account of a young Metis woman's struggle to come to terms with the joys, sorrows, loves and tragedies of her northern Saskatchewan childhood.

    Maria was a strong and sensitive child who lived in a community robbed of its pride and dignity by the dominant culture. At 15 she tried in vain to escape by marrying a white man, only to find herself trapped in the slums of Vancouver; addicted to drugs, tempted by suicide, close to death. But the inspiration of her Cree great-grandmother, Cheechum, gives her confidence in herself and in her people, confidence she needs to survive and to thrive.

    Half-Breed offers an unparalleled understanding of the Metis people and of the racism and hatred they face. Maria Campbell's story cannot be denied and it cannot be forgotten: it stands as a challenge to all Canadians who believe in human rights and human dignity


Stories of the Road Allowance People: The Revised Edition
Author: Maria Campbell
Format: Paperback
  • Maria Campbell’s highly-acclaimed Stories of the Road Allowance People is the quintessential collection of traditional Michif stories. Since it was first published in 1995, this treasured resource has given voice to Métis Elders and has informed both Métis and non-Métis about the traditional Michif worldview. The Gabriel Dumont Institute is honoured to offer this invaluable book in a new edition. With a new story and introduction by Maria Campbell, new artwork by Sherry Farrell Racette and a narration component in English and in Michif, Stories of the Road Allowance People provides readers with poignant retellings of Michif traditional stories handed down from lii vyeu—the Old People.


The Book of Jessica: A Theatrical Transformation
Format: Paperback
  • Part dialogue, part narrative, part playscript, this unique book contains the award-winning play Jessica, as well as the extraordinary story of its making.

    After slipping into a life of prostitution and hard drugs, Jessica is rootless. She visits a Native elder who creates a ceremony in which Jessica’s animal spirits appear and promise to take her back through her life.



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