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  • Editorial:Stages of Unsettling
  • Kimberley McLeod

In her book Medicine Shows, Algonquin theatre artist Yvette Nolan discusses the Anishinaabe teaching of the "Seven Fire Prophecies," which traces Indigenous histories up to the current "seventh fire" centred on Anishinaabe resurgence. Nolan introduces the "eighth fire" as "an extension of the prophecies, a suggestion and a wish that now is the time for the Indigenous people and the settler communities to work together to achieve justice, to live together in a good way" (117). Nolan acknowledges that moving toward the eighth fire can be challenging for both Indigenous peoples and settlers alike—that such a process demands a taking of "risks" as we enter sometimes-difficult territory (126). She argues:

If we are going to move into the eighth fire, we have to go together. That means the non-Indigenous people are going to have to keep reaching out to the Indigenous people; they must risk asking questions that may expose an uncomfortable ignorance; and we are going to have to practise patience, generosity, and humility, and keep answering questions. And if we do not know the answers, we will have to commit to finding answers together.


The concept of an "uncomfortable ignorance" relates to settler scholar Paulette Regan's work on settler decolonization. In Unsettling the Settler Within, Regan points to Megan Boler and Michalinos Zembylas's concept of a 'pedagogy of discomfort' to consider how settlers might deal with being outside of their comfort zones. According to Boler and Zemblylas, 'comfort zone' here "[means] the inscribed cultural and emotional terrains that we occupy less by choice and more by virtue of hegemony" (qtd. in Regan 52). For Regan, this shift to a sense of discomfort is key to developing consequential reconciliation, which requires "humility" on the part of non-Indigenous people (237). In similar terms to Nolan, Regan recognizes that this is no small task but rather one that requires "nothing less than a paradigm shift that moves us from a culture of denial towards an ethics of recognition" (237).

In this Views and Reviews section, artists and audience members grapple with moments of discomfort, particularly in terms of Indigenous-settler relations. The first three articles respond to recent works created or presented in the Vancouver area. We open with two reflections on Bard on the Beach's 2018 production of Lysistrata by Quelemia Sparrow and Lois Anderson. The production had the cast playing versions of themselves and was built on the premise that the actors were supposed to perform Hamlet but instead put on Lysistrata to protest a shipping terminal being built on Vanier Park, where Bard on the Beach is located. Sparrow—an actor, writer, and director from the Musqueam Nation—shares her reactions to first reading the script and discovering that her character "had absolutely nothing to say about the shipping terminal being developed on my land. Absolutely nothing. Instead, I was oddly silent." In addition, she found that she would be playing The Earth and the Women's Chorus leader—"the Indigenous stereotype of the earth and the wise elder." Instead of stepping away from the project, Sparrow decided to work with Anderson, who directed and co-adapted the text, to rewrite her part using her lived experience and knowledge about the land. Sparrow discusses how difficult this process was but also finds that the experience demonstrates how genuine reconciliation requires "acknowledging the truth" and being "together in it."

In her response, Anderson shares how talking with Sparrow led her to realize she "had to re-examine [her] point of view" and "[meditate] on what listening means in a creative process with an Indigenous artist." The latter action included rethinking what a rehearsal space and directing process look like, particularly in terms of temporality and hierarchies. In the end, Anderson expresses her gratitude to Sparrow and notes that as an artist she "acknowledge[s] the blind spots" she had and "[takes] responsibility for [her] re-education," an acceptance of accountability that hearkens back to Regan's "ethics of recognition."

Next, Anna Griffith discusses works presented at the 2018 rEvolver Festival, an annual event that engages with experimental and provocative performances. Griffith focuses on three pieces...


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pp. 72-73
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