Maria Campbell

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Maria Campbell
Born (1940-04-26) April 26, 1940 (age 79)
EducationHonorary doctorates, Athabasca University (2000), York University (1992), University of Regina (1985)
OccupationAuthor, playwright, filmmaker, English professor
EmployerUniversity of Saskatchewan
Known forHalfbreed, a 1973 memoir taught in Canadian schools
Family[Ben, Ray, Dorothy, Diane, Wil, John and George [Brothers and sisters)]
AwardsOrder of Canada, and others

Maria Campbell (born April 26, 1940 near Park Valley, Saskatchewan) is a Métis author, playwright, broadcaster, filmmaker, and Elder. Campbell is a fluent speaker of four languages: Cree, Michif, Saulteaux, and English. Four of her published works have been published in eight countries and translated into four other languages (German, Chinese, French, Italian).


Campbell is the oldest of eight children, and had to drop out of school to care for her siblings when her mother died. She moved to Vancouver at age fifteen, but returned to Saskatchewan in her twenties and became an organizer in her community.[1] In 1969 she published Many Laws, a handbook that explained the issues faced by Indigenous people who move into cities.[1]

Halfbreed (1973)[edit]

Campbell's first book was the memoir Halfbreed (1973), which deals with her experience as a Métis woman in Canada, and the sense of identity that is generated by being neither wholly Indigenous nor Anglo.[2] The text focuses on Campbell's sense of collective Métis identity, emphasizing community belonging and common Métis experiences.[2] However, Campbell uses the term "halfbreed" over Métis due to ongoing debates about the precise definition of the latter,[3] and makes a distinction between the identities "Indian" and "halfbreed."[2] Halfbreed is considered to be a seminal work of Indigenous literature in Canada and has been the subject of much scholarly work,[3] sparking academic debates about pan-Indigeneity, Métis identity, Indigenous status, and the contemporary Indigenous experience in Canada.[3] It recounts the difficulties Campbell faced in her search for self-discovery, including poverty, substance abuse, sexual abuse, and sex work.[1] Halfbreed continues to be taught in schools across Canada, and inspires generations of Indigenous women and men.

In May 2018, researchers from Simon Fraser University (BC, Canada) published an article detailing the discovery of two missing pages from the original Halfbreed manuscript.[4] These pages, discovered in the McClelland and Stewart fonds at McMaster University, reveal how Campbell was raped at the age of 14 by members of the RCMP, and how she was prevented from including these pages in her published autobiography by publishers McClelland and Stewart.[5][6]

Other works[edit]

Campbell is also the author of three children's' books: People of the Buffalo (1975), Little Badger and the Fire Spirit (1977), and Riel's People (1978). All three are meant to teach Métis spirituality and heritage to Métis children.[7]

Her short-story, "Blankets of Shame" is included in the anthology of Native American Women's writing and art, #NotYourPrincess (Annick Press, 2017).


Campbell's first professionally produced play, Flight, was the first all Aboriginal theatre production in modern Canada.[1] Weaving modern dance, storytelling and drama together with traditional Aboriginal art practises, this early work set a stylistic tone that her most recent productions continue to explore. It won the Dora Mavor Moore Award at Toronto's Theatre Passe Muraille in 1986 (where it debuted) and the Best Canadian Production at the Quinzanne International Festival in Quebec City.[1]

Two of her plays have toured extensively within Canada and abroad to Scotland, Denmark and Italy. From 1985 to 1997 Ms. Campbell owned and operated a production company, Gabriel Productions. She has written and/or directed films by the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) and Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), including My Partners My People, which aired on CTV for 3 years. She is coordinator and member of Sage Ensemble, a community theatre group for Aboriginal elders, and is actively associated with the Gordon Tootoosis Nikaniwin Theatre (Formerly Saskatchewan Native Theatre Company) in Saskatoon.

Political career and education[edit]

In addition to her work in the arts, Campbell is a volunteer, activist and advocate for Aboriginal rights and the rights of women. She was a founder of the first Women's Halfway House and the first Women and Children's Emergency Crisis Centre in Edmonton. She has worked with Aboriginal youths in community theatre; set up food and housing co-ops; facilitated women's circles; advocated for the hiring and recognition of Native people in the arts, and mentored many indigenous artists working in all forms of the arts. Campbell sits as an Elder on the Saskatchewan Aboriginal Justice Commission, and is a member of the Grandmothers for Justice Society. Academically, she has focused on teaching Métis history and Methods in Oral Tradition Research. She has worked as a researcher, meeting with elders to gather and record oral historical evidence of many aspects of aboriginal traditional knowledge, including medical and dietary as well as spiritual, social, and general cultural practices. She has completed the course work for an M.A. in Native Studies at the University of Saskatchewan (though it has not been awarded) and has received honourary degrees from the University of Regina, York University, and Athabasca University.[1]

Selected works[edit]

Books and plays[edit]

  • Stories of the Road Allowance People (1995)
  • The Book of Jessica (co-writer) (1989)
  • Achimoona (editor) (1985)
  • Little Badger and the Fire Spirit (1977)
  • Riel’s People (1976)
  • People of the Buffalo (1975)
  • Halfbreed (1973)

Film and video[edit]

  • Wapos Bay she does the Cree voice for Kohkum in "The Hardest Lesson" in 2009, which debuted 14 June 2010 on APTN
  • Journey to Healing (Writer/Director) (1995)
  • La Beau Sha Sho (Writer/Director) (1994)
  • Joseph’s Justice (Writer/Director) (1994)
  • A Centre for Buffalo Narrows (Writer/Director) (1987)
  • My Partners My People (Co-Producer ) (1987)
  • Cumberland House (Writer/Director) (1986)
  • Road to Batoche (Writer/Director) (1985)
  • Sharing and Education (Writer/Director) (1985)
  • Red Dress (Writer) (1977)
  • Edmonton’s Unwanted Women (Writer/Director) (1968)


  • Kiskamimsoo (Writer/Interviewer) (1973–1974)
  • Tea with Maria (Writer/Interviewer) (1973–1975)
  • Batoche 85 (Writer/Interviewer) (1985)

Writing about Campbell[edit]

  • Armstrong, Jolene, Ed. Maria Campbell: Essays On Her Works. Toronto: Guernica, 2012. ISBN 978-1-55071-648-1
  • Barkwell, Lawrence J. "Maria Campbell" in Women of the Métis Nation. Winnipeg: Louis Riel Institute, 2010. ISBN 978-0-9809912-5-3



  • Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Fellowship (2012)
  • Officer of the Order of Canada (2008)[8]
  • Distinguished Canadian Award (2006)
  • Saskatchewan Order of Merit (2006)
  • Canada Council for the Arts Molson Prize (2004)
  • Saskatchewan Theatre Hall of Fame (2000)
  • Chief Crowfoot Award, Department of Native Studies, University of Calgary (1996)
  • National Aboriginal Achievement Award (1995)
  • Golden Wheel Award, Rotary Club, Saskatchewan (1994)
  • Saskatchewan Achievement Award, Government of Saskatchewan (1994)
  • Gabriel Dumont Medal of Merit, Gabriel Dumont Institute (1992)
  • Chalmers Award for Best New Play (1986)
  • Dora Mavor Award (1986)
  • Order of the Sash, Métis Nation of Saskatchewan (1985)
  • National Hero, Native Council of Canada (1979)
  • Vanier Award, Vanier Institute (1979)
  • Honorary Chief, Black Lake First Nations (1978).

Honorary Doctorate Degrees[edit]

Academic career[edit]

  • Assistant Professor at the University of Saskatchewan (current; cross-appointed in the departments of English, Drama and Native Studies, and as a Special Scholar under the Dean of Arts and Science)
  • Stanley Knowles Distinguished Visiting Professorship, Brandon University (2000–01)
  • Seasonal Instructor, Saskatchewan Federated Indian College (since 1998)
  • Aboriginal Scholar, University of Saskatchewan (1995)
  • Lecturer, University of Saskatchewan (1991–1997)



  1. ^ a b c d e f "Maria Campbell". Canadian Writers, Athabasca University. Retrieved 2018-05-08.
  2. ^ a b c Culjak, Toni A. (2001). "Searching for a place in between: the autobiographies of three Canadian Metis women". The American Review of Canadian Studies. 31.1-2: 137–57 – via ProQuest.
  3. ^ a b c Fagan, Kristina (2009). "READING THE RECEPTION OF MARIA CAMPBELL'S HALFBREED". The Canadian Journal of Native Studies. 29.1-2: 257–81 – via ProQuest.
  4. ^ Reder, Deanna and Alix Shield (May 29, 2018). ""I write this for all of you": Recovering the Unpublished RCMP "Incident" in Maria Campbell's Halfbreed (1973)". Canadian Literature: A Quarterly of Criticism and Review. Retrieved 2018-10-22.
  5. ^ "Maria Campbell's account of being raped by a Mountie was scrubbed from her memoir Halfbreed | CBC Radio". CBC. Retrieved 2018-10-22.
  6. ^ "Publisher exploring new edition of 'Halfbreed' after excised rape passage discovered". Saskatoon StarPhoenix. 2018-06-02. Retrieved 2018-10-22.
  7. ^ a b c d STOTT, JON C. "Maria Campbell". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2018-05-08.
  8. ^ "Governor General Announces New Appointments to the Order of Canada". Archived from the original on 2009-09-08. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  9. ^ "Ryerson University to Honour Maria Campbell and Hassan Yussuff, October 10-11". Ryerson University. Retrieved 2019-08-13.
  10. ^ "Maria Campbell Awarded Honorary Degree | English | The University of Winnipeg". Retrieved 2019-08-13.

External links[edit]