Sam Bob, playing Trickster, tells us about his first experiences as a performer in the longhouse, his grandparents, and the damages of residential school

Sam Bob is an actor, most recently seen in Theatre for Living’s šxʷʔam̓ət (home). He is a former Jessie Richardson GVTA nominee for Best Actor in Headlines Theatre’s production of Out of the Silence and nominated for Best Actor by Edmonton’s Dreamspeakers Film Festival for his performance in Dana Claxton’s The Red Paper. With Vancouver Moving Theatre he has performed in Storyweaving and Bah! Humbug!and has taken part in several Downtown Eastside Heart of the City Festivals.

Sam Bob as a child (middle)

Can you tell me a bit about yourself?
My name is Sam Bob. I am from Snawnaw-us First Nation, my traditional name is Tulkweemult. I was raised with my grandparents, my grandfather Kholestun, and my grandmother Waytultanault. I was raised with them before I went to residential school, but after leaving residential school grew up in Vancouver, Seattle, Los Angeles, but came back and graduated high school here in Vancouver. A thing that drew me into acting is it reminded me of the oral tradition that I learned in the long-house with my grandparents. I love the display, pageantry and ceremony of the longhouse and I try and find that in the work that I do on stage wherever possible.

My first audience that I became aware of was all of our people sitting in the longhouse, and in a way I think of them every time I’m on stage. When I was four and five my grandparents used to pay me a quarter to dance in the longhouse when it was quiet, and it always made everybody laugh. That was my first gig, and it seems I’ve been performing ever since.

How do you see your experiences reflected in Weaving Reconciliation: Our Way?
I attended Kuper Island residential school. I was forced to go when I was six years old. And the loss of family and the loss of culture and language hurt me a lot as a child. And I feel that we reflect those in the play.

Sam Bob as Trickster (Weaving Reconciliation: Our Way) throwing Slahal sticks

In Weaving Reconciliation: Our Way you play Trickster. Have you ever played a trickster character before?
Yes, I was in a play called Guyasago, the workshop of it, and I played a native archeologist clown that was discovering all the items of colonization. I was trained in clown turns by Gina Bastone, who is a world renowned clown now based out of Montreal. I was accompanied by Ahmed Hassan, a world renowned percussionist out of Toronto. I believe the sound is very important when doing Trickster clown, it seems to alter the reality to a deeper level.

What has been challenging about this process so far?
The growing pains, because it’s so different from 2012. But one thing that remains constant is the pleasure in seeing old one on stage and to see his journey being documented in time with such a wonderful cast and crew.

What does reconciliation mean to you?
No one knows what reconciliation is. No one can define it accurately. There are no precedents for the constructs that it purports to define. Reconciliation came to the forefront when the prime minister apologized for residential school, and he apologized for Canada to First Nations people. We as First Nations people, we received the apology politically, and personally. Having gone to Kuper Island residential school and living through the injustice through a child’s eye, there is no apology that will replace the loss of family and parental love and communal living that I missed out on. Our reserves and our communities are still being affected by the fallout of residential school and all the wrong social statistics that we carry today: suicide, native apprehension, drug and alcohol issues. For me, reconciliation will truly happen when we as a country can address all of these fallout issues in a uniform and holistic manner with inclusion and consultation from our First Nations people.

What keeps you grounded?
A belief in the work that I do and the trust that I have in my relationship to the audience. The stories that I get involved with, the productions that I join. One of my goals is that I display our culture and our identity in a positive light, and also that it be an example for young people in a variation of the storytelling tradition. One of my biggest fans is my grandson and that makes me happy.

Posted by Julia Siedlanowska

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