De-ba-jeh-mu-jig Theatre Group (or informally as Debaj) is a First Nations theatre group based in Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve on Manitoulin Island in Northern Ontario.
De-ba-jeh-mu-jig derives from the Ojibwe debaajimoojig and Cree tepācimūcik, both meaning storytellers. The company performs across Canada. It operates extensive outreach and education programmes. The company was established so as to preserve Indigenous culture and language through that “Native youth be given the opportunity to see themselves and their lives reflected on the stage, in the characters, in the stories, in the experiences portrayed.”
The theatre has always been deeply involved in the local and national Indigenous community. Shirley Cheechoo, Debaj’s founder and original artistic director until the late 1980s, explains that the company was from the beginning engaging its community, through readings, performances, as well as formal and informal speaking engagements.
The theatre strives to “bridge” the urban and rural, native and non-native communities and artists, traditional and contemporary forms of expression. Its repertoire generally presents plays reflecting Native culture. Cheechoo, when speaking about touring, suggests that
"it’s very wise to tour because most of the issues and situations that happen on one reserve are happening on every reserve. I thought it would be best to share what come up with other communities."
The theatre’s mandate, which was changed in 1993 by its board of directors, states that Debaj “is a professional community based non-profit organization dedicated to the vitalization of the Anishnaabeg Culture, Language and Heritage, through education and the sharing of original creative expression with Native and Non-Native people.”
Debaj is one of two professional Native theatres in Ontario and is the longest running Native theatre in North America.