2018_02_07_Ajijaak photo by Theo Cote 17_preview.jpg

Ajijaak on Turtle Island tells the story of Ajijaak, a young whooping crane. Separated from her family in a Tar Sands fire caused by the monstrous Mishibizhiw, Ajijaak must make her first migration from Wood Buffalo, Canada, down to the Gulf Coast on her own, finding her voice and a family through the interconnectedness of all of creation.

Ajijaak begins her travels with a medicine bundle, given to her by her parents, as her guide. She encounters deer, buffalo, coyote, and turtles as well as communities of people from Ojibwe, Ho-Chunk, Lakota, and Cherokee Nations, living in balance with their environments. These people share with Ajijaak prayers, songs, and dances that celebrate life on earth and help Ajijaak find the meaning and strength of her own song.

It is with this song that Ajijaak must restore balance to Turtle Island and return Mishibizhiw to sleep.

Ajijaak’s story puts forward visions from indigenous communities to reach the next generation of storytellers and change-makers. All of our environment is interconnected. Life’s energy burbles throughout all aspects of our world. Ajijaak on Turtle Island brings community together through puppetry, traditional dances, animations, and kites and reveals the symbiotic relationship between cranes and Native American/Indigenous people, inspiring the next generation of eco-champions. 

The world premiere presentation of Ajijaak on Turtle Island was hosted at La MaMa in NYC, February 8-18, 2018.

2018_02_07_Ajijaak photo by Theo Cote 48_preview.jpg
Credit Richard Termine

Credit Richard Termine


Miigwetch/Thank you for coming to Ajijaak on Turtle Island today!

As you experience this story, please note the perspective we are telling this story from. I encourage us all to invoke our senses and open our hearts as if gathered around a community fire with stars above as we await an oral story to be heard.

Follow Ajijaak on her migration on Turtle Island (North America) and notice how she learns wisdom from Indigenous peoples of past, present, and future. The crane is a metaphor and sacred symbol to help us mark the survival of living cultures still thriving today along the fly-a-way. Native nations assist us in reflecting how we are taking care and taking action for the environment.

Can you imagine yourself being an Indigenous/Native American youth seeing yourself for the first time on a theater stage? And, then, can you imagine having a story be embedded in the world you exist in?  The art of giving teachings is threaded throughout and is subtle, and comical, as it humbly unfolds. Ritual, shape-shifting, and ceremony are invoked as storytelling shifts from I to WE, as all living things become the tellers and listeners of place and land. This story is woven with love and a gift to the community. You, regardless of racial identity, sexual orientation, gender, age, or religion, are included in the great hoop of art making. I'm grateful to be a steward of this story and am incredibly grateful to people on and off the stage whose lived experience has been invaluable to this process. To my mentors, family, and friends, a BIG MIIGWETCH for believing in my leadership to foster a charge for new ways to make theater in this world, at this time.


-Ty Defoe (Giizhig), Writer, Co-Director, and Performer