Thursday, July 23, 2015


Hard to reconcile the past and the future


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.

1-       The mute Birdie girl has to regain speech and song.
2-       Louis’s daughter has to come back (Bluestone from San Francisco where there are many Indians, where Alcatraz is not far away and where some men think they are girls, which is just slightly sexist).
3-       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 balance.


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