Elder in Residence Maria Campbell wins literary award
Dr. Maria Campbell wins the 2023 Cheryl and Henry Kloppenburg Award for Literary Excellence
Athabasca University (AU) Elder in Residence Dr. Maria Campbell has received the 2023 Cheryl and Henry Kloppenburg Award for Literary Excellence from the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild.
Campbell, an acclaimed writer, filmmaker, playwright, and teacher from Gabriel’s Crossing/Batoche, Sask., received the award on Sept. 27. The award honours a Saskatchewan writer who has written a substantial body of acclaimed literary work and has had a significant impact on writing in Saskatchewan.
“Maria Campbell is a towering figure in the Métis and writing communities of Saskatchewan,” the jury wrote.
“In a career that has spanned half a century—bookended with the groundbreaking memoir, Halfbreed, first published in 1973 and republished in 2019—Campbell has been … instrumental in elevating Indigenous voices in the arts in Canada. She has been an inspiration to many Indigenous writers, especially Indigenous women, and continues to advocate for their stories to be told and heard.”
“Maria Campbell is a towering figure in the Métis and writing communities of Saskatchewan.”– Award jury, Saskatchewan Writers' Guild
Elder in Residence at AU
In addition to her writing, Campbell has taught Métis history and the study of Oral Traditions at universities in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Alberta. She is the Elder in Residence and a visiting academic and researcher at Nukskahtowin at AU.
“I feel very honoured and privileged that I’m receiving this award when I think about all the writers who have worked so hard and have done much more writing than I have,” Campbell said in a video accepting the award. “I want to thank all of you and thank the people who buy my books. And I’d like to thank my family for all their support.”
In her acceptance video, Campbell shared a story she wrote years ago and re-discovered while organizing during the pandemic. “It was like finding treasures,” she explained.
Campbell tells the story of “an old woman from Poundmaker,” Mary Peemee, the daughter-in-law of Chief Big Bear. She interviewed Peemee for a piece published in 1975 by Maclean’s magazine.
“’When I think about it, there is only death and pain. My childhood is one of hunger. We were always hungry as children,'” Peemee told Campbell during their first meeting.