Bringing together indigenous storytelling, cultural teachings, songs and language and oral traditions, a play on now at the En’owkin Cultural Centre, weaves a tapestry of a journey to healing.
It’s the story of Old One (played by Jonathon Fisher) and his journey to reconcile with himself, his family and his community.
“He represents a lot of different people,” said Renae Morisseau, the director and lead writer, explaining why they chose not to give the character a name.
As indigenous people, she said, reconciliation has been going on for a long time, as people deal with the multi-generational effects of the residential schools, of being taken away from their communities and families.
“There is a lot of sadness and grief that is tied up in that, and that goes back generations, in terms of our relationship to the spirts of the land and water, but also our own selves, our families and communities,” said Morriseau.
”/Weaving Reconciliation: Our Way/, is about that journey for this Old One.”
The play also focuses on the resurgence of culture and practice in youth, incorporating the voices of Syilx youth in the persons of Savannah Louis and Madeline Terbasket.
“They are not scripted. They are taking on the role of telling Old One that ‘everything is OK, we’ve got it. We understand our language, we know the stories of these mountains and these waters around us. We understand our place within our communities,’” said Morriseau. “They don’t have to reconcile as much as people in their 50s and 60s. They’ve been raised in a good way.”
Old One’s dream-like healing journey unfolds as he opens himself to his memories: of the impact of residential school on his family, the effect of intergenerational trauma on his daughter Nicole (Tai Amy Grauman), the decline of the fishing industry and the resulting loss of a working life on the water.
Reconciling is a continual reality according to Morriseau, and takes different forms, from that of a youth finding his place in a community and family he was torn away from, to Indigenous people finding their relationship to Canadian society.
Does Old One find what he is seeking? Morisseau said it is a step-by-step journey.
“Because the play wants to give the balance between hope and grief. We don’t want Canadians to feel guilty, but grieve with us and celebrate hope,” said Morriseau. “As parents, we all want the best for our children. We all want the best for our next generation of people coming up. And that is what the choice of Madison and Savannah are doing for us in the play.”
Indigenous people have a lot of universal understandings of our relationship to our land and water, Morriseau said, and that plays a part in the production.
“We started in Vancouver, with the Coast Salish people, and they told us stories of the waterways that are now covered over in Vancouver,” she said, adding that now they are here in Penticton, they are hearing stories of the Okanagan waters and mountains.
“The story we told in Vancouver is different than the story we are going to tell here,” said Morriseau. “I don’t know what Madeleine or Savannah are going to say, but we created space within the play for our Trickster character, played by Sam Bob, to have a conversation with Savannah and Madeleine about their resilience, and their cultural resurgence and what that represents in terms of their responsibilities as Okanagan people.
“The stories we have about our land and water are about being custodians and being good custodians to the earth, our mother. For any Canadian, we are in an era of time in Canada, I think we all need to be custodians. I think we all need to look after the earth and understand all sorts of things about looking after this place we call home.”
Weaving Reconciliation: Our Way is co-written by award-winning artists Renae Morriseau (Saulteaux Cree) with Rosemary Georgeson (Coast Salish/Sahtu Dene) andSavannah Walling (American Canadian); enriched by contributions from the cast, knowledge-keepers and partnering communities; and developed with the assistance of Playwrights Theatre Centre (Vancouver) and the Weesageechak Begins to Dance Festival (Native Earth Performing Arts, Toronto).
What: Weaving Reconciliation: Our Way
When: May 30 to June 1
Where: En’owkin Centre – 154 En’owkin Trail, Penticton, BC
Tickets: Sold at the door only, $15 regular, $10 seniors and students. Limited seating.
Doors open 30 minutes before showtime for pre-show activities: including Carole Allison, weaver; Maryssa Bonneau, traditional singer; slideshow with images and sounds of Syilx homelands co-curated by Sylix youth and Honouring our Grandmothers Exhibit- Puta?ntm i? anxa?cintet, curated by Cori Derickson.
Savannah Lewis will perform in the May 30 and 31 performances, and Madeline Terbasket on the June 1 performance.
Senior reporter, Penticton Western News
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