One act: ten minute play
scrossbear (c) 2011
PO Box 214, Hovland, Mn 55606
The play is an exchange between an older Ojibwe woman-Angelic, and her great-niece, Rosetta. They do not really know each other except through relatives. Angelic has lived her entire life on the reservation and Rosetta, who has a non-native father, has lived most of her life within a city. Rosetta has come to gather information from Angelic hoping to learn more about her cultural roots and connections.
Characters: Angelic: Older Native Woman
Rosetta: Young adult woman with some native ancestory.
The scene takes place inside a small cabin. The stage is a small table with two or three chairs. The contents of the table are a couple of cups, a teapot, various jars of loose leaf non-commercial tea, some sugar, spoons, canned milk, tobacco, rolling papers, and some craft work.
Items that seem congruent could be added to the scene- old blanket, pictures, etc. Dress should be casual. Angelic should be dress in layers, long skirt, pants underneath, shirt, sweater, and suit jacket all with pockets. Rosetta’s attire is the current style of young with a scarf or some item of clothing that can be left behind (scarf works well).
Scene opens with Angelic as she hears a knock at the door. She gets up and moves toward the door.
Angelic in a loud voice: “A-neen- bin di gein. Who is it? Come in!”
Rosetta enters slowly; she has a can of tobacco, some coffee and a small tape recorder with her in a canvas tote.
Rosetta a bit sheepishly: “Boujo, Angelic, I’m Rosetta Jones.”
She extends her hand but Angelic does not take it, so she returns it to her side.
Rosetta continues:” I’m Cecelia’s granddaughter, Ester’s daughter. People know me as Rosie. I was wondering if I could visit with you for a while.”
Angelic turns away from the door and heads toward the table.
Angelic instructs: “Be ma-di-min”- motioning toward the chair- “ come sit down”. “ You must look like your father” You can call me “granny auntie”. I am, you know, your granny auntie, Ci ci was my sister.”
Rosetta nods in agreement.
Angelic continues without eye contact:” I sure miss Ci-ci. She was the best at makin’ baskets that I ever saw.”
She looks up at Rosetta and with a nod of her head and lower lip out says,” You ever make baskets?”
Rosetta: “No, I never learned but I am going to take a class next year.” Angelic somewhat disgusted: “hmph! “Well, want some tea?”
Rosetta: “aii yaa” “yes, granny auntie, that would be nice.”
Rosetta takes her items out of her bag and slides the coffee and tobacco across the table while setting the small tape recorder on the table.
Rosetta continues: “ Granny auntie, I was wondering if you would tell me some stories?”
Angelic, suspicious: “What kind of stories? What is that?” as she is pointing with her chin to the tape recorder.
Rosetta: “It is a tape recorder, so that I can remember.”
Angelic harsh: “ I don’t talk into no box! You remember because you listen! You remember because you pay attention! Stories are alive and you kill them if you try to capture them! They have to be carried to stay alive! Are you a story killer?”
Rosetta, embarrassed and flustered: hesitantly,” No, I’m sorry, I’ll put it away. I didn’t mean to offend you, granny auntie…. I just thought we could visit and you could tell me about the way things were… about grandma Ci-ci, growing up and stuff.”
There is a pause as Angelic examines the girl and recovers her own composure. Rosetta continues softly:” How did you learn the stories granny auntie?”
Angelic, still harsh but softening: ” I learned the stories one at a time, told hundreds of times, over many seasons… I didn’t have these boxes or papers… I had relatives and life to teach me. I learned them, one cup of tea at a time. I spent time with my relatives…. unlike some people.”
Rosetta, eye down looks wounded.
Angelic responds more gently:” Here, try this tea. It’s women’s tea, your grandma Ci-ci got it from a Ponca woman. I forget her name now. Anyway, drink it-it is good for you.”
Rosetta: “Mmmnnn- it is good- what kind of tea is it?”
Angelic disgusted:” See you aren’t even paying attention. I told you it was a women’s tea! I told you where it came from! How do you expect to remember stories when you can’t even remember from one moment until the next?”
Rosetta hurt angry and defensive:” I DID hear that- I just thought if I knew the name of the plant, I could bring you some.”
Rosetta standing up wounded and frustrated: “ IF I come to visit again.” Angelic, Standing up: “IF I invite you!”
Rosetta angry, “ Grandma Cici said I could come and talk with you but maybe she was wrong!”
Angelic sits down and says sarcastic, “ Well, it wouldn’t be the first time…. What made your grandma Cici think YOU could be a storyteller?”
Rosetta still standing, “ I don’t know. Maybe she was wrong. All I know is that when I was growing up, grandma Cici would come and visit us and my whole world was somehow… better. She would tell us stories about you, about uncle Bay, about winter camps
and growing up. In the summers I would come and stay with her, here, on the reservation, and we would go out gathering berries together and talk. I always felt that when I was with her, I was home. She said she knew the medicines but, you carried the stories. She always told me that when I was ready to learn the stories, I was to come and ask you. She said the stories held lessons to living life. She said that there was as much healing to be found in stories as there was to be found in the plant medicines she picked.” Pause
Rosetta sadly: “I miss my Grandma” Rosetta then starts to move toward the door. Angelic: “Where are you going?”
Rosetta, “Well, it didn’t seem like you want me here.”
Angelic: “ oh, sit down, don’t be so sensitive! That’s just the way I am these days.. when you’re days are limited your patience becomes short”
Angelic offers Rosetta a cigarette and motions with her head for Rosetta to sit down. Rosetta declines with a shake of her head and sits back down.
Angelic starts searching through her clothing for a match. Angelic continues her search through her layers of clothes and pockets until she finds a match. She chuckles out loud.
Angelic, obviously remembering something humorous: “Now that reminds me of old Louie. I remember watching him struggle to find a match in his pants pockets, shirt pockets, sweater and jacket pockets. Me and your grandma Ci-ci would laugh until our sides hurt. Ge-ba-dess chi mookaman “Silly white man” we’d say to each other— because there were matches right in front of him on the table. Now, here I am doin’ the same thing, searching through my pockets! Louie, was white by birth, but he lived with the people ever since he was a young man… came from out east somewhere…New Foundland, aii yaa, that was it… they all called him a Newfie. We all figured something happened to his own people. He never spoke of them but he lived here forty years, fished with us, celebrated and grieved with us- died here a few years back. Spoke better Ojibwe than your mom— don’t imagine your father being white and all, living in the city, ever learned?”
Rosetta : “No, only a few words”
Angelic continues: “ Well, Old Louie, he might not have been born to the people but he was one of us. He never married but both learned and created many a story in his time. He had fisherman hands that he could put in ice cold or boiling water, could do a handspring up until his sixties. He did like to drink though and I remember one time when he feel asleep in the sun, he looked like a lobster for weeks…he was a hurtin’ man that time!”
Angelic finally lights her cigarette, she begin mostly to herself, reflectively: “ Hmmn, there is always something about a good smoke… makes me think of those that have passed to the spirit world. My mother smoked. She smoked a pipe. Mostly in the evenings around twilight. She would sit out on the front porch, have a cup of tea and smoke. It was my fathers pipe and she took to smoking it the year after he died, said it made her feel that he was not so far away. One time, your grandma, washed that stinky old pipe and our father was so mad as her. I felt sorry for her because she was thinking to do something nice but was too young to understand that she was messing with something more than just a pipe. It wasn’t just that he didn’t have another pipe, but it was cherry wood and gifted to him by one the fur traders/ he got it the one and only time he ever left his family. That pipe had stories brought home with it. Stories about the people he met, stories about people from other places, far away places across the ocean. Yeah, that old pipe, was a story pipe, cause every time he smoked it he would talk about the things that happened on that journey. Father brought other things back with him, but that pipe, that pipe was the thing to loosen his tongue to tell us— I guess this cigarette has loosened mine, eh?”
Rosetta: “Granny auntie, where is the pipe now?”
Angelic: “ The pipe is with the stories now”… pause, ”The stories are with me and your great uncle Bay.” Pause. “ I’m tired, so take this tea:” Angelic puts some tea in a small jar. “ If you want to hear more, come back after a couple of sleeps but don’t bring that box!”
Rosetta rising to leave:” I’ll be back granny auntie, thanks.”
Angelic:” Let me see your hands, girl.”
Rosetta holds out her hands. Angelic takes them and looks at them, turning them over in hers.
Angelic: “Aii yaa, you look like your father but, your have your grandma Ci-ci’s hands… and your mothers walk …..we will see if you have the heart of a story teller.”
Angelic walks Rosetta to the door and as Rosetta exits commands: “ Bring cookies next time!”
Angelic turns back to the table, picks up a scarf Rosetta has left on the back of the chair, and says out loud to herself smiling: “Anishishin! She’ll be back!”
Submitted by Shannon Crossbear