November 25, 1950 – April 24, 2016
Born November 25th, 1950, on the Six Nations territory on the Grand River near Ohsweken in southern Ontario, Aiyyana grew up in Rochester and Buffalo, New York. Spending time in Vancouver, Toronto, Chippewa territory, and Montréal, in 2010 she returned to the Six Nations reservation. On April 24, 2016, Aiyyana Maracle died surrounded by her loving family and friends.
Aiyyana Maracle was a multi-disciplinary artist, scholar, educator, story-crafter and storyteller. For half a century, Aiyyana was actively involved in the merging of Ogwehoweh art and culture into the Euro-centric world and consciousness. For 20+ years she sought that same inclusion for herself and other gender-variant folks by offering an alternate framework to the prevalent Euro-centric view of gender. Aiyyana Maracle was both a maker and keeper of culture.
Describing herself in her article “A Journey in Gender” as a “transformed woman who loves women,” Aiyyana’s work steered people towards a decolonized understanding of gender and sexuality. Through her work she argued that in most traditional Indigenous cultures gender identifications fall outside the strict confines of the gender binary and are recognized as both socially and spiritually integral to the culture. Her one-woman show, Chronicle of a Transformed Woman, detailed her use of traditional medicine rituals for transitioning genders while struggling under colonial rule.
Aiyyana’s work, which reflected her various transformations in relation to her ongoing process of decolonization, received numerous honours and recognitions. She’s believed to be the first Indigenous person to be awarded the John Hirsch Prize, a national award for the most artistically exciting new director in Canadian theatre (1997). In addition to performing across Ontario and Chippewa territory, in 1998 she exhibited an installation and a performance piece at the Second International Transgendered Art Festival in London, England. She is the author of the book, Chronicle of a Transformed Woman (2000), and many articles.