Dr. Suzanne M. Steele
Dr. Suzanne Steele is an award-winning poet, installation artist, librettist, and scholar. She is Métis (Gaudry and Fayant) with roots that extend back to the first families (French and Anishinaabe). She graduated from the University of Exeter (UK) in 2017, her undergraduate degree is in Music (voice) from UBC, and she has a Master of Library and Information Science from the University of Western Ontario. Dr. Steele has won, with Neil Weisensel, a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Award to establish a database of aesthetic translations of Indigenous languages (Saulteaux, Cree-Michif, or Heritage/Southern Michif, and French-Michif). Dr. Steele was recently made an Honorary Senior Research Fellow of the University of Exeter, UK.
Dr. Steele has taught Métis cultural history, poetry of the First World War, and creative writing in Canadian and UK universities. Her work has been broadcast to 11 million worldwide (BBC World Service, CBC, NPR), presented and performed internationally, and is studied internationally at the PhD, Master, and high school levels. She has read extensively at literary festivals and given papers in Oxford, London, St Andrews, Scotland, Amiens, France, and other locations. Dr. Steele’s current research is in the aesthetic translation of Indigenous languages. Past research includes narrative studies, ethics, and the artistic challenge of representing war beyond tropes of combat.
From 2008-2010 Dr. Steele served as an Official Canadian War Artist, Canada’s first poet sent into a war zone (Afghanistan) in the 101-year history of Canadian War Artists. She was embedded over an 18 month period with the First Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (1PPCLI) and visited them outside the wire in Afghanistan in 2009. In 2012 Suzanne and composer Jeff Ryan premiered their critically successful symphonic/choral work, Afghanistan: Requiem for a Generation, a major commission from the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, a work based on Steele’s observations of a Canadian infantry battalion going to war and returning. This war requiem, sensitively and movingly composed and orchestrated by Ryan, was broadcast nationally and internationally and was recently performed by the Vancouver symphony in January 2017. It returned again in November 2017 in Calgary and Toronto. The requiem has been recorded for future commercial release.
Dr. Steele would like to extend her gratitude to the Canada Council New Chapter Awards, the BC Arts Council, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, and many more organizations and individuals, for this opportunity to explore the heart of the north, the traditional homelands of her people. She would especially like to thank her agent Ian Arnold of Catalyst TM (Toronto), and all the artists and translators that are participating in this project. Suzanne lives with musician and adventurer, Jeff Hilberry, and daughter, Ella Speckeen, a Métis fiddler now studying archeology at the University of Oxford (UK). In 2015, Steele and Hilberry traversed the North Saskatchewan in their 17’ sailboat, Miss Moose, from the Rocky Mountains to Lake Winnipeg. They were the first sailboat to travel the length of the old river highway of Steele’s ancestors, since the York boats of over a century ago.