I first learned about Maria Campbell when I took a history class on Women and maria campbell 2451675the Canadian West. Maria is a huge presence in the Canadian Indigenous community. She is a Métis author, filmmaker, playwright, broadcaster, teacher, researcher and Elder with the Saskatchewan Aboriginal Justice Commission.

Maria had a very difficult life in her youth and she makes no secret of her struggles with addiction, prostitution, poverty and sexual abuse. She owns it and shares it in her autobiography Half Breed (1973) and gives an intimate level of transparency into how the system and society built that path for her. If you haven’t read or heard of Half Bread, I highly recommend it. It’s a heartbreaking and disturbing read, but given that these issues are still going on and Maria was born in 1940, we can’t afford to be ostriches in the sand about the treatment of indigenous people in our country (or any country). Sometimes people like to think “Oh, it can’t possibly be that bad.” It’s that bad and probably worse. Maria’s experience is one that echoes the experience of thousands more.

Maria has been an advocate for indigenous people for many years. She began the first women’s halfway house and the Women and Children’s Emergency Crisis Centre in Edmonton. She’s begun community theatre initiatives, written and directed films with the National Film Board of Canada the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. She’s worked hard to pass on aboriginal knowledge, oral culture and practices to future generations.

Maria has written seven books and worked on eleven media pieces. She has a BA in Native Studies from the University of Saskatchewan and also has three honorary doctorates from the University of Regina, York University and Athabasca University. She has taught Métis history at universities throughout the prairie provinces.

One of the things I love about Maria’s life is that even though she goes so far down the rabbit hole, she manages to come back from it and turn her life into something so amazing. The journey from rock bottom to becoming one of the most respected and honored Métis leaders in the country is an incredible one.


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