“In her teens, Melanie J. Murray’s mother confessed that she was Aboriginal. ‘Up until that time, I was told I was French,’ recalls Melanie. A survivor of the ‘Scoop’, Melanie’s mother grew to be ashamed of her heritage and kept it secret from her daughter. Slowly coming to terms with her roots, Melanie found solace performing in Prairie Theatre Exchange’s production of Tomson Highway’s The Rez Sisters alongside other Aboriginal actors. When she shared her story with fellow actor and Artistic Director of Centre for Indigenous Theatre, Rose Stella, she was immediately encouraged to put pen to paper. ‘I was so sick of hearing people say ‘The Residential School System happened a long time ago. Why can’t you let it go?’ says Melanie. ‘But it affects my own experience now. It affects how I see the world.’
Rather than run away from the truths behind her and her mother’s past, Melanie dove head-first into several years of development in search of the wreckage left behind by systematic genocide. ‘I found that there were a lot of sorrows in this history’, adds Melanie, ‘but also moments of joy and hope.’ After interviewing numerous elders about their experiences, she understood that the story behind A Very Polite Genocide or the Girl Who Fell to Earth was not the history of the Residential School System. It was that the fact that the ‘past is not past’. The facts could be looked up anywhere, anytime by audience members but it was the emotional truths behind the genocide that was going to move them. ‘I made peace with the fact that I was showing the audience what could not be shown in textbooks. These were the stories of the emotional world of these characters.’ (From the Education Guide, created by Cara Gee for Native Earth)
ROBBIE, Josie’s uncle
MARY, Josie’s Grandmother
ELDER MARTIN, Josie’s Grandfather
Native Earth Performing Arts at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, Toronto, ON, 2008
A Very Polite Genocide or the Girl Who Fell to Earth is available through the CPO Website.
To view more plays like this, click here.
Read about the Sixties Scoop on the Canadian Encyclopedia website here.