Indigenous Arts & Stories - I Remember

I Remember

2016 - Writing Winner

Mrs.Leroy: (still hopeful, but exasperated) Did you find a topic? Natalie: Yes. I chose the history of the first people to walk this land. A girl overhears the conversation. Girl: History of what? Nobody wants to listen to that! Natalie: You’re right. Everybody needs to hear about this.

Read Cyan-Raven Gielewska's I Remember

Cyan-Raven Gielewska

Kitchener, ON
Age 14

Author's Statement

I have always loved the freedom of creating stories. Stories through art, be it music, paint or words. There are often so many bursting from my thoughts just waiting to be told. This made me think of all the stories that sit untold by others, things they want to share but never got the chance to. Things that should have been told but were kept quiet and hidden, or simply lost. I feel there are also many things kept hidden from fear of other's reactions to them. In reality these are things that need to be told and need to be shared.

I find many people will hear a lesson and feel it does not affect them or hear of a horrible event and think of it as just another number or statistic. I put the lead role into the shoes of another character in her own story to communicate just how much we don't know, unless we realize what it would feel like to experience it ourselves. We may think we always know the full story but may get surprised when we are proven wrong.

Natalie, the lead, realizes herself that the story waiting to be told was right in front of her the entire time. She just had to listen and then not be afraid to speak to the world, giving a voice to another. I wanted to show the contrast between the two lives that grandmother and granddaughter had walked but how they are still connected.

I had the opportunity to perform the play of "Dead White Writer on the Floor" by Drew Hayden Taylor, which left many of the audience members replaying the script over in their minds, trying to figure out the motives of the people they saw before them and what the message they were trying to send them was. Having a performance brings the words to life and the characters become as real as the people you smile at every single day.


I Remember

Stage is black. A bell rings and there is the sound of shifting desks and shuffling feet. A friendly teacher's voice speaks above the noise.


Mrs. Leroy: Everyone please remember to choose a presentation date!


Lights turn on. There are several desks in small groups. Natalie is quickly gathering her supplies and flute case then tries to slip out of the classroom.


Mrs.Leroy: Natalie! Could I see you for a moment?


Natalie joins Mrs. Leroy at one of the desks.


Mrs.Leroy: You didn't hand in your research for your topic.


Natalie: I know! I'm sorry, but I just can't think of a topic.


Mrs.Leroy: You can choose anything in the history of knowledge. I wanted the class to have fun with this project.


Natalie: That's why it's so difficult. I can't find something that really... strikes me. I've found a few that are good, but I don't want to just settle.


Mrs.Leroy: What about your music? (indicating Natalie's flute) I'm sure you could give us a very informative presentation.


Natalie: No one wants to listen to that! I need to find something that's cool.


Mrs.Leroy sighs.


Mrs.Leroy: Talk to people. There are amazing stories just waiting to be told. (Mrs.Leroy looks at Natalie, who seems unconvinced) Natalie, please have a topic chosen as soon as possible. No later than Thursday.


Natalie: Yes, thank you, Mrs. Leroy.


Natalie exits. Lights turn off. Scene change. The desks are removed and lockers or put on backstage. Lights turn back on. A boy and a girl are talking. They  turn and wave when they see Natalie entering.


Rachael: Natalie! What took you so long?


Natalie: It was just about the assignment.


Jonathan: What about it?


Natalie: I can't think of a topic.


Jonathan: I thought you came up with a list? Wait, here. It's in my locker.


Jonathan opens his locker and loose papers spill out.


Rachael: I thought you organized your locker, Jonathan!


Jonathan: I did, but it got messy again.


Rachael begins to stack the papers and picks up a booklet of paper. It's crinkled and water has clearly been spilled onto it.


Rachael: Wasn't this due last week?


Jonathan shrugs.

Natalie picks up a piece of sheet music in the same terrible condition.


Natalie: Jonathan! How could you treat music this terribly?


Another item catches Natalie's eye and she picks up a book from the mess.


Natalie: What's this? Jonathan could I borrow this?


Jonathan: Sure. I don't even remember having it. It's probably safer with you.


Stage turns black. Scene change to Natalie's house. A table, multiple chairs and a music stand are placed around the stage. The book is placed on one of the tables. Lights turn on. Natalie is center stage playing her flute, looking off of her sheet music. Natalie's grandmother enters behind her and listens. There is a pause in her playing and her grandmother speaks up.


Kanti: Your playing is beautiful.


Natalie: Grandmother Kanti!


Natalie runs to give her grandmother a hug.


Natalie: It was just some music I found in Jonathan's locker.


Kanti: It's been completely destroyed! How can Jonathan treat music that way?


Natalie: I know! That's what I said!


Kanti laughs.


Kanti: Jonathan almost reminds me of…


Grandmother Kanti trails off and seems to get lost in thought. Natalie is curious for a second but quickly recovers as it is a regular occurrence.


Natalie: Grandmother! This book was also in the mess. Have you ever heard of the Thunderbirds? Or... (squinting at the cover) Ma...shusha...megini...?


Kanti: (amused) Yes, I have heard of Mishiginebig and the Thunderbirds.


Kanti takes the book and leafs through the pages.


Kanti: Yes, I remember…


Kanti looks up at Natalie's flute.


Kanti: May I try?


Natalie nods and hands Kanti the flute. Kanti closes her eyes and turns away from the stand, then plays a short melody using the C major harmonic key.


Natalie: That was (slight pause) haunting. I didn't know you could do that.


Kanti sits down and for the first time seems to open up.


Kanti: When I was young, everyone knew me as the music maker. There was nothing I loved more than creating a new story through my song, but then…


Stage turns black. When lights turn back on, a young Kanti, a boy and girl are playing together carefree, frozen. Lights turn off and then on again. The three children watch in fear as one of the parents pleads with government officials. Lights off then on again. Now the children are being forcefully taken from their parents. Lights turn off then on one final time and Kanti and Natalie are sitting together again.


Kanti: (voice trembling) They took us…(pause) Natalie, I'm going to help your mother.


Kanti quickly exits, leaving Natalie alone, thinking.


Stage becomes black. Scene change to school classroom.


Natalie, Rachael and Jonathan are working in a group together. Natalie is miming whispering about the book and its stories.


Rachael: (whispering) If you like this topic, you should do it for your assignment.


Natalie: Nobody's doing something like this though. Also, who wants to listen to that?


Jonathan: (loudly) So? Sometimes you just gotta be a rebel!


Rachael: Jonathan!


Mrs.Leroy and multiple students look over.


Jonathan: Nobody's done something like this. That's what will get people talking. That's the point, right?


Rachael: That's actually really-


Mrs. Leroy walks over.


Mrs.Leroy: -Working hard? Hardly working?(to Natalie) Have a topic?


Natalie: I... I don't... (Looks at Jonathan, smiles) Actually, I think so.


Lights turn to black. Scene change to Natalie's House.


Natalie enters and quickly catches up to her grandmother.


Natalie: Please tell me more! I want to know.


Kanti: Natalie, there are things the world is better not knowing.


Natalie: No! Why should your story be hidden away? Why is your story not important?


Kanti pauses. She begins to have flashbacks again. Stage goes black. Scene change to Residential school classroom. Like classroom but desks are in rows instead of groups. Lights on. First snapshot shows two teachers shoving the young three children forward. Lights off, then on. The teachers are beating the boy, collapsed on the ground while Kanti hides tears and the girl pulls her forward. Lights off then on. Kanti is crying over the two collapsed bodies of her friends while a teacher pulls her backwards.


Stage goes black.


Kanti: I can't. I'm sorry Natalie... I can't…


Natalie: Grandmother, I know this is as important to you as it is to me. Please, storyteller.


Kanti: (pause, deep breath) I had two friends. Nuttah, or, “My Heart”. She followed the rules and was our leader, much like Rachael.


Stageright spotlight turns on over Rachael, now playing Nuttah.


Kanti: And Ahanu, meaning "He Laughs". Never followed the rules. Always had his own way... Jonathan.


Stageleft light over Jonathan, playing Ahanu.


Kanti: And me. I loved music, creation and stories more than anything. My name, Kanti, meaning "Sings". You always reminded me of myself.


Stagecentre light over Natalie, playing Kanti.


The three come together stagecentre and talk briefly when Mrs.Leroy, as headmistress, dressed in dark greys instead of usual bright colours, enters. Her demeanor is much more hostile and aggressive.


Headmistress: What are you three doing? Did I tell you to be over here? Get to work!


She takes out a ruler and points towards the desks and walls. She forcefully throws three dirty rags in their faces and then exits.


The three begin to clean without saying a word. Nuttah accidentally bumps a desk and it makes a slight sound. She and Ahanu exchange alarmed looks. The teacher comes marching back in.


Headmistress: Did I tell you to make any noise?!


She comes to Ahanu, stageright, scrubbing the floor and scuffs her shoe on the floor surface.


Headmistress: Does this floor look properly washed?


She pulls Ahanu up by his collar and throws him crashing into the desks, knocking him unconscious.


Natalie, breaking character, gasps and jumps up. Nuttah pulls her down but the teacher notices and travels swiftly to Nuttah and Kanti.


Nuttah: (standing up) It was me.


The teacher grabs Nuttah by her collar as well.


Natalie jumps up again, trembling.


Natalie: Stop! (all freeze) No more...please...


Lights fade out.


Scene change to modern school classroom.


Lights on.


Jonathan, Natalie and Rachael and talking together with booklets of information. Mrs.Leroy joins them.


Mrs.Leroy: (still hopeful, but exasperated) Did you find a topic?


Natalie: Yes. I chose the history of the first people to walk this land.


A girl overhears the conversation.


Girl: History of what? Nobody wants to listen to that!


Natalie: You’re right. Everybody needs to hear about this.