After being subjected to the sequel to Dracula, I took a moment to recall the good vampire stories I had read. The most recent was The Night Wanderer by Drew Hayden Taylor, one of Canada’s most prolific indigenous authors. A good book, enjoyable read and an interesting blend of First Nations (Anishinaabe) mythos and standard vampire fare. This was my first introduction to Taylor and made note to track down some of his other work.
Now that the connection and recommendation are out of the way, I made good on reading something else of his, an award winning 1993 play, Someday. Simply brilliant. With humour and tact, Taylor addresses some of Canada’s blackest moments in First Nations relations. The play introduces Anne and Barb Wabung and Barb’s boyfriend, Raymond. Raymond relates the personal, the past and fills in the parts of the relationships that are not immediately perceived on-stage to the audience. It is Christmas time and while the preparations should lend to a festive mood, there is a tension from a dark memory that hangs over the house. That is the memory of a sibling not able to attend the celebration because of the “scoop up” of the 1960s.
The eldest daughter, the one in absentia, was a victim of that governmental action. In turn, Barb feels like she has grown up in the shadow of a sister she never knew. Anne refuses to give up hope that Grace will find them, and she does after a picture of Anne and Barb appears in the paper following a big lottery win. Act two begins with Grace at the door and welcomed in. The family history is revealed to the newcomer, including the taking of Grace and the accidental deaths of the brother and father.
As heart wrenching as this is, there is warmth in the dialogue of the characters. They speak to each other with the familiarity of love, teasing and supportive, truthful and blunt. There is humour in their interactions, with Raymond acting as the buffer just as much as he is involved.
The end is not happy. However, because of the human qualities of the characters that shine through, it remains heart breaking, but not soul crushing. It also should encourage the questioning of the human effects of government policy toward minorities. Residential schools and land claims are well known and widely discussed political subjects. The “scoop up” is less known, but the effects, the emotional scarring, are no less tragic. Taylor reminds us of it in a way that provokes but does not guilt, an amazing technique to raise awareness and allow investigation because of a desire to do right, not out of a compulsion to make up for the past.