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THEMES OF ISOLATION IN SASKATCHEWAN RADIO DRAMA - page 167 / 185

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APPENDIX C: VOICES DEBATE

A discussion of the voice of radio plays is important to this thesis. A number of plays were inspired as a direct result of the perceived lack of native voices in the mainstream arts scene in Saskatchewan in 1985. In radio drama terms, the question of the aboriginal voice in CBC Radio Drama seems to have reached a critical mass of sorts in 1985 with The Riel Commission: An Inquiry into the Survival of a People. This work is more a feature than a radio play, incorporating dramatic scenes with recorded stories, memories, and events. Recorded in March, 1985, the project was an epic (five one-hour episodes) exploration of the Métis in Canada in 1985 – with attention to the history of Louis Riel and the Métis uprising in 1885 at Batoche. Schmalz described what he hoped to accomplish with the project during an interview on the CBC program Arts Week: “it was important for me to do a program that would allow us to hear Métis on all variety of subjects” and to that end “we've used dramatizations from journal entries, from diaries, from letters people have written. We've mixed that with views of various people” (ARCSK09699). Schmalz was more explicit regarding his doubts about final shape of the whole project in his book On Air, Radio in Saskatchewan. While Schmalz did acknowledge that the project received wide-ranging praise -- even an award from Columbia University and the National Broadcasters Association in Washington -- he admitted:

I was less than euphoric at what it had accomplished. For it wasn't until I was halfway through the production, after I had firmly committed myself to this concept and couldn't turn back, that I realized I had made a basic mistake. By routing natives' opinions through the character of a white, middle-class commissioner, I may have been reflecting the way things have been done in the past and how things are done today, but at the same time I was also perpetuating a way of thinking that was surely out of place in Canada in the 1980s (Schmalz, 153).

Schmalz also admitted that there were people who refused to be a part of the project to avoid contributing to the inherent cultural appropriation of such a work (On Air, 154). The tensions over Native stories and who has the right to tell them was at the centre of a round table discussion that took place later that year, on CBC Saskatchewan’s Arts

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