Extraordinary Women::Tantoo Cardinal
Education is not forcing 'knowledge' onto those who think or live differently, it is understanding, accepting, and finding truth by learning from past mistakes.
"Rose Marie “Tantoo” Cardinal, CM, actor (born 20 Jul 1950 in Fort McMurray, AB). Tantoo Cardinal has performed more than 100 film, television and theatre roles in Canada and the United States. She broke barriers for onscreen representation of Indigenous peoples and has challenged negative stereotypes of Indigenous communities throughout her career...
Tantoo Cardinal was born the youngest of four children to Julia Cardinal, a woman of Cree and Métis descent, and a Caucasian father who left when Cardinal was six weeks old. Her grandmother became the children’s caregiver when Cardinal was six months old. Cardinal’s mother lived in poverty until she died at a young age. Cardinal experienced further family tragedies when her sister was taken during the Sixties Scoop and her brother was murdered at the age of 24.
Cardinal was raised in the hamlet of Anzac, Alberta. The lack of electricity inspired her to use her imagination while playing in the bush. Her grandmother nicknamed her “Tantoo” after the insect repellent they used while picking blueberries together. She taught Cardinal the Cree language, the traditional ways of their culture and the difficulties she would face growing up Métis in Canada. Cardinal has said that it was walking behind her grandmother where she first learned to act.
Tantoo Cardinal gave her first performance in Grade 7 with the title role in Anzac’s Christmas concert play The Wise Old Man. She left Anzac at age 15 and attended Bonnie Doon High School in Edmonton on a bursary. Upon moving to Edmonton, Cardinal frequently encountered racist taunts and discovered the negative stereotypes of Indigenous people that contrasted sharply with the people and communities she knew. This experience inspired her to pursue acting and create positive representations of Indigenous communities. She joined a Native Youth Group to help create support networks for Indigenous families.
Cardinal’s legacy is a combination of acting and advocacy. Her career broke down barriers for Indigenous actors, and she has used the power of positive representation to challenge negative images and stereotypes. Cardinal has used her craft to honour the history of Indigenous people in Canada. “I always felt that as an actor we have to have the courage to go into the territory of hard experiences and tell the truth of what’s happened to us as human beings,” Cardinal said in 2010. “That’s where you find understanding. You don’t come through generations and generations of genocide and holocaust to be wimps, to be portrayed as monotoned and one-sided characters.” Cardinal is also an outspoken environmentalist. She drew upon her experience seeing the changes to Fort McMurray to advocate against the Alberta oil sands and the contamination of water for resource extraction. In 2011, she was arrested with fellow actor and activist Margot Kidder while protesting the Keystone XL pipeline outside the White House."
~ The Canadian Encyclopedia
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