Storyweaving (2012): The inspiration for Weaving Reconciliation: Our Way

“Storyweaving is about how our songs, oral traditions and spirituality define our urban environments with our unique connections to three Coast Salish First Nations.
– Renae Morriseau, Director

Storyweaving is a past production that served as the foundation for the development of Weaving Reconciliation: Our Way.  In 2012, Vancouver Moving Theatre in a partnership with the Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre and the Indian Residential School Survivors Society, co-produced Storyweaving to honour First Nation ancestral and urban presence in Vancouver.

Inspired by stories and memories from Greater Vancouver’s urban Aboriginal community,  Storyweaving emerged from nine years of Downtown Eastside-based  research. Over these years, co-writers Renae Morriseau, Rosemary Georgeson and Savannah Walling listened to individual stories describing impacts of dislocation of family; disruption of economics of land and water; and displacement from traditional roles and governance practices.  

Out of these nine years of listening and one year of research and interviews, Storyweaving emerged. This one act play and cultural encounter described urban Aboriginal experience through the eyes of one man’s journey (Old One) around the medicine wheel.

Storyweaving is where the co-writers first began their exploration of stories, poems and personal memories intertwining with oral histories woven from cultural teachings, West Coast dances and the ancient bone game of Slahal. A Coast Salish dance group Spakwus Slulum along with the Northwest Coast Git Hayetsk dancers opened and closed the event. With story, song and dance, they enacted a traditional and very contemporary protocol of welcoming strangers arriving by canoe onto Coast Salish Territory.  The audience simultaneously witnessed a theatrical play and a teaching and passing on of cultural practice, oral history and lived experience.

“This was the healing needed for all of us to reclaim and/or maintain our cultural knowledge while we share lived experiences of residential school.”
Renae Morriseau

In 2012, Storyweaving premiered at the Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre before the Idle No More Movement, before Vancouver City Council’s declaration that the city sits on unceded ancestral homelands of the Coast Salish, before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s  Final Report on its Calls to Action and before the launch of the National Inquiry into Missing and  Murdered Indigenous Women.

Since 2012, and six more years of listening and interviews, a brand new play and cultural encounter has emerged: Weaving Reconciliation: Our Way.  The artistic team of Morriseau, Georgeson and Walling have created a new production woven around indigenous storytelling, lived experience, oral history, memories of residential school and intergenerational impacts and the current pulse of cultural resilience.

Story Weaving (2012) featured performances from Sam Bob, Jenifer Brousseau, Sue Blue, Craig Frank Edes, Stephen Lytton, Brenda Prince, Quelemia Sparrow,Priscillia Tait, and Muriel “X” Williams; elders  Woodrow Morrison and Marge C. White; and cultural teachings from Git Hayetsk Dancers (led by Mike & Mique’l Dangeli) and Spakwus Slulum dancers (led by Bob Baker, Squamish Nation).

Storyweaving was directed by Renae Morriseau and co-written by Morriseau with Rosemary Georgeson and Savannah Walling, with contributions by Downtown Eastside urban Aboriginal artists and knowledge-keepers, interviews with Marjorie White, and with story elements from the 2003 Downtown Eastside Community Play (Morriseau, Walling, James Fagan Tait and Adrienne Wong).

“…the script is not a play script but a real life script, felt and grieved by each of the performers, who with spiritual and bodily languages and with great faith and courage and optimism fight the fight, knowing they are succeeding.”
– Grace Eiko Thompson, The Bulletin: A Journal of Japanese Community, History & Culture