Debajehmujig was the first - and remains the only - professional theatre company located on a Reserve in Canada. The organization was founded by Shirlee Cheechoo, Blake Debassige and a group of like-minded colleagues in the summer of 1984 in West Bay (M'Chigeeng First Nation) Manitoulin Island, Ontario. In August of 1989, the company moved to Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve, where it's headquarters remains to this day.
We create original work based on an Anishnaabag/Chippewa Nation worldview and builds bridges between cultures, generations, and territories. We also support the development of Aboriginal artists in remote rural areas as well as cities. Since 2009, we have operated a purpose-built multi-arts centre in downtown Manitowaning.
As an Aboriginal theatre company, Debajehmujig represent an Aboriginal worldview and reflects the reality of Native life. This worldview is a holistic approach to life and how all things are connected. We believe that as humans we create with our entire being – our physical, our emotional, our intellectual and our spiritual selves. Stories have been passed down for thousands of years by storytellers, musicians, record keepers and dancers. It is because it was never written down, that it survives. The history and the culture of the people is contained within the bodies of the people, in the muscle memory of the dancer, in the songs of the singers, in the stories of the storytellers.
We have travelled to many different places all over the world to share our message.
"Ultimately, the intended impact of our work is to improve the quality of life for Native people in Canada, by nurturing positive relationships between Aboriginal cultural communities and the rest of society. Specifically, to share our stories, our characters, our knowledge, our worldview, our fears, and our visions with the rest of the word, so that seven generations from now, when we are leaves, there is a greater level of respect among inhabitants of this land, more honor shown for our elders and our ancestors, and a better quality of life for our descendants. This requires that we make a commitment every day to deepen our relationship with the storyteller within us. As keepers of stories, our very survival depends on it.” Joe Osawabine, Artistic Director
‘De-ba-jeh-mu-jig’ translates as ‘storytellers’ from the Cree and Ojibway language.