BRUCE KING – THREADS, ETHEL
NICKLE’S LITTLE ACRE – 2001-2003
A strange play indeed. We are at
the beginning of the 21st century and the reservation is
crisscrossed by new projects that go against old traditions. All the characters
are more or less from one single family. That unity only represents the unity
of an Indian tribe or of the Indian nation.
The stake is simple. It is one
acre of land that the white American county next door wants for a highway to go
through. The last owner refuses to give it in spite of the pressure from the
more or less self-appointed boss of the reservation. He became the boss by
becoming rich with tax free gas and cigarettes sold to white Americans from
outside the reservation. Now he wants to have a casino and the license can come
only if the acre of land possessed and occupied by Ethel Nickle is sold to the
county. And there is the rub.
It is discovered that the boss –
Radcliff – has eliminated some members of the tribe with sheer violence and
that he has determined and closed the list of the tribe members who can benefit
from the casino. Better be his friend. He is in other words buying the tribe. Except
Ethel Nickle, the ghost Woods, the mute girl Birdie and the just arriving new
member of the, family Bluestone. And a triplet of dolls.
On the other hand Ethel Nickle is
the guardian of the Indian tradition represented by Woods who is today a ghost
and was a wizard or a witch doctor before, the one in a tribe who helps others.
He has been here in the house for a long time waiting for his time. Three
conditions have to be fulfilled.
The mute Birdie girl has to regain speech and
Louis’s daughter has to come back (Bluestone
from San Francisco
where there are many Indians,
is not far away and where some
men think they are girls, which is just slightly sexist).
Radcliff has to change, confess his crime and
recommit himself to the tradition and the tribe.
Note this last and third objective
of three is triple and just similar to the objective of the Catholic Church
concerning Indians since the early 1970s. The Catholic motto is “remember,
reconcile, recommit.” Remember the past and the tradition. Reconcile with the
survivors, the tribe and the tradition. Recommit yourself to that very
tradition again and the tribe.
And that is exactly what happens
with a little bit of “magic” and the intervention of the ghost Woods and other
Elders from the other side. Birdie recovers her voice and her singing. And
strangely enough Radcliff is regenerated and finds an epiphany. No one knows
what is going to happen to the acre the white county wants to buy and to the
casino that is supposed to be licensed on the reservation.
This play thus is a metaphor of the
final stage of the rejuvenation of American Indians and ten years later Indian
reservations finally got from American justice and from Congress the
reparations they had been fighting for with no exchange of territory in the
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU