Vancouver Moving Theatre
Weaving Reconciliation: Our Way

by Renae Morriseau, Rosemary Georgeson & Savannah Walling

Dates and Venue May 17-19 & May 24-26, 2018, Thurs and Frid 7:30pm, Sat matinees 2pm | Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre, Chief Simon Baker Room, 1607 East Hastings Street

Director Renae Morriseau Artistic Director Savannah Walling
Lighting Bryan Kenney Costumes Crystine Booth Projection Chandra Melting Tallow, Michelle Sylliboy Sound Debbie Courchene, Chandra Melting Tallow, Jason Burnstick

Reviewer Christian Steckler

The term, “reconciliation,” has gained traction in recent years in Canada’s efforts to come to terms with the effects of the colonization of the indigenous lands of this country, and of the social and cultural maps that existed before contact. For most, the term communicates the need for a path to mutual respect and healing of the relationship between indigenous peoples and the colonizers. Without doubt, there is much to be done in that area, as we witness systemic barriers and deeply held prejudices in individuals played out every day in our country.

However, an aspect of “reconciliation” that has gone largely unnoticed, particularly in the non-indigenous sector of society, is the need for indigenous communities and families to come to terms with the effects of colonization that have threatened to extinguish their livelihoods, traditions, and community and family relations. Who can we say we are when our past has been stripped from us? Who can we become if we are confused about who we are, and who we have been? These are the difficult questions addressed in this powerful presentation, Weaving Reconciliation: Our Way.

The performance centres around Old One, a former fisherman, presently living in the Downtown East Side, recently out of jail, clean and sober, and struggling to find self-worth. An accident has put him into a coma, and the action of the play takes us into his mind, his memories and his struggling spirit. Jonathan Fisher masters the portrayal of a man teetering on the fine line between determination and resignation. His memories of ancestors and mentors sustain him, and those of his failed relationships with his family threaten to undermine him.

His ancestors and mentors, representing the four directions, were his encouragement. Inspirational performances by Delhia Nahanee, Stephen Lytton, Latash Maurice Nahanee, and Sophie Merasty brought nurturing memories of inner strength and accomplishments, camaraderie, traditional knowledge, and particularly endearing motherly love.

Meanwhile, memories of his failure to succeed in relationships with his family haunt him. Tracey Nepinak is convincing as Old One’s sister, frustrated with his reluctance to reconcile with his family, particularly with his daughter, powerfully played by Tai Amy Grauman. Vern Bevis, who plays his nephew, brought to this reviewer shocking new insights into a kind of impatient animosity and resentment between generations in some indigenous families.

All of the action of Old One’s conflict are engineered and manipulated by Sam Bob’s delightfully performed Trickster. His mischief ignites confrontations and soothes tensions, steering Old One to acknowledgements that he fears to face. Tania Carter, as a community member, skillfully pokes and prods other characters with reminders of the real-life context of their ethical and cultural obligations.

Weaving Reconciliation: Our Way is an important work. It sheds light on various well-known issues such as residential schools and the erosion of culture, and it reminds us of perhaps forgotten issues such as the near elimination of traditional livelihoods like fisheries. More importantly, it teaches us that reconciliation is necessary not only between indigenous and non-indigenous populations, but within indigenous communities, also. It signals to us that healing is only just beginning, and that generations of ruin will take generations to rebuild. To this reviewer, it sends a message from cultures of the heart to cultures of the head: When all you are has been decimated, first you have to find yourself once more. Otherwise, who is it that should “just get over it and move on?"

© 2018 Christian Steckler