Dr. Jo-Ann Episkenew was a Métis woman originally from Manitoba but long-time resident of Saskatchewan. A former Professor of English at the First Nations University of Canada, she served as director of the Indigenous Peoples Health Research Centre from 2010-2016.
She held many roles throughout her life including english professor, health researcher, colleague, friend, mother, grandmother and a symbol of perseverance, hard work, and dedication to achieving goals. Her interests included studying the connection between story and healing and in applying literary analysis skills—a close reading of the text—to her work with Indigenous youth. She was also a member of the Regina Riel Métis Council. She is remembered by her community of Regina, including her husband, Clayton, children grandchildren, friends, and colleagues.
Jo-Ann Espiskenew will always be remembered as an important member of Acting Out. Her dedication to this project will never be forgotten.
“I think if you pulled in the driveway over there and started walking in, you would follow the laughter. You would follow the laughter, because when they’re participating in the games and the theatre activities, laughter starts immediately, and laughter’s a great equalizer.” – Jo-Ann Episkenew Acting Out…In a Good Way Documentary 2015.
What is it about this project that excites and inspires you?
I love the laughter. It’s the laughter that engages youth and adults, and it’s laughter that gives us a feeling of freedom – freedom to be silly, not self-conscious.
What is your favourite game to play in the workshops and why?
I like to play “Watcha Doing?” In this game, the person in the centre performs an action, such as brushing their hair, but when someone else asks “Whatcha doing?” they say something completely different. Then the questioner acts out the new action. We get to be silly while using our imaginations.
What other exciting and inspiring projects are you working on right now?
Suicide prevention through Aboriginal youth wellness! This is so important to our communities. We want to help youth feel good about their futures, not hopeless.
If you weren’t in your current position, what fun career would you be acting out in?
I think I’d like to be an actor. My university degrees are in English, and if you scratch an English professor, you’ll find a ham underneath. And, my family says that sometimes I’m a bad actor.