Shirley Cheechoo (Cree) was born in Eastmain, Quebec on the eastern shores of James Bay.
The Founder and Artistic Director of Weengushk Film Institute, Shirley is an accomplished and awarding winning artist, actor and filmmaker, and has been working in the Indigenous community for over 30 years. She is the proud recipient of numerous awards both for her own work and for recognition of her profound contributions to arts practice throughout Ontario. This multi-award winning filmmaker is the first person from a First Nation to write, produce, direct and act in a feature length dramatic film in Canada; Bearwalker had a market screening at the Cannes Film Festival in France.
Shirley began directing films in 1998, after working as a playwright, actor and director of notable plays. Her directorial debut is the award winning short film Silent Tears, in which she chronicles the events of one harsh winter trip with her parents to a northern trap line when she was eight years old. It was screened at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival, and was also awarded the Telefilm Canada and Northern Canada Award for Best Canadian Aboriginal Language Program.
As a respected visual artist, her paintings have been exhibited worldwide. Her commissions include Christmas Cards for UNICEF, Amnesty International, The Ontario Native Women’s Association, and the Hospital for Sick Children. Her works can be found in many private and public collections.
Shirley’s play, PATH WITH NO MOCCASINS, gave her an opportunity to speak about her life and the struggle to retain her identity and Cree heritage. She continues to teach drama workshops to Indigenous youth and young learners across Canada. In 1984, Dr. Cheechoo founded De-ba-jeh-mu-jig Theatre Group, located on Manitoulin Island, and this touring company has become one of the foremost and respected independent Indigenous theatre companies in the world.