Dr. Shirley Cheechoo

Artistic Director

Dr. Shirley Cheechoo is a residential school warrior, who was pulled out of a self-destructive path when the late artist Tom Peltier introduced her to the arts. As part of an effort to educate, inspire and entertain, in 1984 she co-founded the Debajehmujig Theatre Group, one of the world’s foremost independent Native companies. Meanwhile, while shooting her feature film in 2002, Cheechoo was amazed at how many youth were itching to get involved in filmmaking. So, that same year, she also initiated the Weengushk Film Institute.


Shirley is the proud recipient of numerous awards both for her own work and for recognition of her profound contributions to arts practice throughout Ontario, including her installment to the Order of Canada. She was the first person from a First Nation to write, produce, direct and act in a feature length dramatic film in Canada; Bearwalker, for which she won the Best Director award at the first Reelworld Film Festival in 2000, and screened at the Cannes Film Festival.


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, including her installment to the Order of Canada. 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.


Since 2015, she’s served as the eighth Chancellor of Brock University, the first woman and first Indigenous Canadian to hold the position, allowing her to play a leadership position in the educational welfare of students; connecting them to the role Indigenous people have played in the development of the country, and showing how the arts can inspire people to leadership.


Dr. Shirley Cheechoo