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Saskatoon, Fifth House, c1986. 112pp. paper, ISBN 0-920079-26-1 (cloth) $14.95, 0-920079-24-5 (paper) $5.95.CIP

Grades 7 and up
Reviewed by Louise Griffith

Volume 15 Number 2
1987 March

The Land Called Morning: Three Plays begins with a seven-page preface in which the editor outlines the importance and the development of native drama. Each play also has a short author's introduction outlining the purpose and background of the play. For the serious student of Canadian literature, this critical material is of great interest.

The first play in the book is "Teach Me the Ways of the Sacred Circle," by Valerie Dudoward. Set in Vancouver, it depicts the lives of three Indian teenagers who are just about to graduate from high school. Each is attracted by the opportunities of the city, but each responds in a different way to the call of a common Indian heritage. Sam decides to accept a job offer at the reserve. Elaine takes a job as a pow-wow dancer for the summer to obtain Indian ideas for her art studies. The main character. Matt, goes to the bedside of Granny, critically ill in hospital. She comes out of a coma and asks him to go back with her to Fort Simpson to learn of his own origins. After talking to Grandpa Jack in a vision, Matt decides to go to Fort Simpson and then return to university in the fall. The characters are very well drawn and the play has a high dramatic impact. For an eastern Canadian director, some of the Indian props, such as Matt's eagle costume, might be diffiicult to obtain. Students and others from grade 7 and up would enjoy producing or watching this fine play.

"Gabrielle," by Loris Bergerson, deals with the efforts of a band of Indians to fight the opening of an oilfield on their land. Their spokesperson is Gabrielle, a band member and law student. Gabrielle is inspired by the ghost of Louis Riel, who encourages her at crucial moments. Probably falsely, she blames her frustrations and the completely negative response from officialdom on her Indian background. With its weaker plot and characterization, this play lacks the ring of authenticity, despite its merits.

In the title play, "The Land Called Morning," by John Selkirk, we meet four young Indians: Robin, a young boxer who becomes Canadian champion; Patsy, his girl friend and the mother of his son; Anne, his sister, a sensitive nature lover who commits suicide; and Peter, Robin's wild chum, who breaks into the school to find out where Seoul, Korea is. They too reflect their Indian heritage, both the good and the bad. Peter uses language that might create problems in some communities.

Although the title play appeared in Five From the Fringe,* this is one of the first collections written by Indians about Indians. They depict themselves as high school graduates with the potential for post-secondary education, bravely attacking the problems of growing up. The Indian heritage is presented positively as an enrichment to be cherished. Thus, this volume is a landmark in the history of Canadian drama.

Students from grades 7 and up, as well as adults, would be interested in studying, watching, or performing the plays. Librarians in school and public libraries will want this significant text for their collections.

Louise Griffith, Agincourt, Ont

*Reviewed vol. XV/1 January 1987.

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