Thomas Doty – Storyteller


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"Thomas Doty's play is a remarkable performance of sacred theatre. The interweaving of myth and history with the elegance, conviction and masterful pacing is impressive."

– Ashland Daily Tidings

About the Play

I directed the world premiere of my native play, Two Sisters, Two Brothers, and a Journey. It opened on November 15, 2001 at The Rose Street Theatre in Phoenix, Oregon. The play weaves traditional myths with my own writing, and draws freely from the writing of John Beeson, an advocate for native rights during the Rogue River War of the 1850s, and throughout the latter 1800s. Over twenty-five masks were created for that first production. Pictured above are Coyote, Jackrabbit, Owl, Mudcat Woman, and Daldal (Dragonfly).

Auditions had been held on 9/11. Having just heard the news of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, actors arrived filled with emotion ... some sad, some angry, some simply stunned....

One of the required audition pieces was a native prophecy about the arrival of Europeans with this ending: "If we are all not very, very careful, then the world will fall to pieces." Hearing this line over and over on that day was startling and moving. It sparked an energy and a focus that guided the company through rehearsals and performances. It felt like we were not only telling the historic story of the Takelmas, but also a story emotionally and culturally appropriate for our time ... perhaps for all time.

I had originally scheduled auditions for 9/11 to honor Takelma elder Agnes Baker-Pilgrim on her birthday. But as often happens in the world, particularly in the world of theatre, everything changed in a heartbeat!

Opening night included a blessing by Grandma Aggie and these words: "I feel honored to be here tonight to honor Tom Doty and his portrayal of my great aunt's myths. I pray that Tom lives for a long, long time so that generations ahead can hear these stories."

Thank you, Grandma. Between each telling, we gather more seeds. Baybit lep'lap.


Two Sisters, Two Brothers, and a Journey

One day in a distant time, along the Rogue River in southwest Oregon.

Act 1:
Along the river, in the pre-dawn shadows.

Act 2:
An upriver journey through the day and into the evening.

Act 3:
At home, the people celebrate stories late into the night.

Act 4:
Deep in the heart of darkness, nightmares arrive.

Act 5:
Just before dawn, the myth of a new day.

* * * * *

Cast of Characters:

Elder Sister
Younger Sister
Elder Brother
Younger Brother

The Watchers,
an ensemble of three women and two men.
Watchers 1, 2 and 3 are female. Watchers 4 and 5 are male.

* * * * *

Act 1, Scene 1

(WATCHER 1, ELDER SISTER and YOUNGER SISTER enter. WATCHER 1 sits mid-stage, ELDER SISTER downstage left and YOUNGER SISTER downstage right. In the forest along the river, it is just before daybreak. Upstage, there is a sunrise wash of red and peach and orange, mixed with blue. Everywhere else, shadows speckle the woods. There is the silhouette of WATCHER 1. She begins to sing. WATCHERS 2, 3, 4 and 5 enter and dance the rhythm of the song through the morning shadows.)

Watcher 1 (singing): Wa-ya-we-ne lo-wa-na.
Wa-ya-we-ne lo-wa-na.
Wa-ya-we-ne lo-wa-na.

Who creeps there about the shadows?
Who creeps there about the shadows?
Who creeps there about the shadows?

(softer, slowly fading)

Watcher 1 (singing): Wa-ya-we-ne lo-wa-na.


(WATCHERS 2, 3, 4, and 5 collapse downstage on the lip of the stage and freeze. WATCHER 1 exits.)

* * * * *

Act 1, Scene 2

(WATCHER 1 enters in owl mask and lurks near the house. COYOTE enters as an old man, wearing a mask and blanket, and carrying a walking stick. COYOTE sees the owl. He stops and turns toward the owl, and then toward the audience.)

Coyote: News? Did you come to tell me? Upriver along the earth's rib. Look! Who has been killed? Far away, many people. There? Did you see them? Are they dying? That? For news did you come to tell me?

(COYOTE steps into a splash of light at the lip of the stage and speaks to the audience, at times looking expectantly beyond them into the darkness.)

Coyote: All night my shadow has been wandering up and down the rivers, through the woods, visiting friends and having a wonderful time, messing around and causing mischief, and, well, sometimes doing good deeds for folks. In the morning I call my shadow home. I am his home. He must come home to me. I can't live without my shadow....

Shadow, come home.
The sun is nearly here.
Come over the mountains,
come home through the valleys,
come home through the morning mist.
Cross over the rivers and creeks.
Come spend the day with me.
I want to live a long time.
Shadow, come home.

(COYOTE walks upstage, stops and turns back to the audience.)

Coyote: I hear there are big doings downriver. That two-headed dragonfly fellow is just crawling out of bed, and I suspect he'll have more than his shadow to search for.

(COYOTE chuckles to himself as he disappears into the shadows, and exits. WATCHER 1 exits.)

* * * * *

Act 2, Scene 1

(There is a morning-light silhouette of a native plank house upstage, and nothing beyond but blue sky mixed with blue ocean. ELDER BROTHER and YOUNGER BROTHER emerge from the house in a single, double-faced mask, wrapped in a blanket. They gesture, move and sometimes speak in unison, as one person. They walk a little ways from the house and look down, as if gazing from a hilltop to the river below. They stiffen, startled.)

Both Brothers: Murder! They have been killed!

Elder Brother: Bodies float down the river!

Younger Brother: People with limbs all lopped off!

Elder Brother: Heads bob to the river's mouth!

Younger Brother: Eyes loll and ride the riffles!

Elder Brother: Fingers reach for rocks!

Younger Brother (to Elder Brother): Where do they come from?

Elder Brother (to Younger Brother): What is the matter?

Both Brothers: For a long time they float with their legs cut right through!

(ELDER BROTHER and YOUNGER BROTHER move closer to the edge.)

Both Brothers (looking down and then at each other in amazement): They have been murdered!

(ELDER BROTHER and YOUNGER BROTHER freeze their action.)

* * * * *

Act 2, Scene 2

(Morning light spreads through the woods and falls on ELDER SISTER sitting downstage, wrapped in a blanket. WATCHERS 2, 3, 4 and 5 circle ELDER BROTHER and YOUNGER BROTHER. Each WATCHER slowly dances an act of creation as it is described by ELDER SISTER.)

Elder Sister: We live in the midst of creation, mid-stride at the heart of chaos. We live in the mist of Mythtime where there is always something to make the world out of. Sometimes it is Koomookumpts reaching into Tule Lake to bring up mud to shape the world, or Cocoon Man drifting on a cloud of white foam for ten times ten times ten years before the world was made. Sometimes it is Coyote Old Man walking along the river and thinking about how to improve on things, or Mudcat Woman weaving a basket out of sunrays. Some speck of what has been before survives each earthly destruction to give us the raw material to continually create.

(WATCHERS 2, 3, 4 and 5 freeze their dances. Light fades on ELDER SISTER and comes up on YOUNGER SISTER, also sitting downstage, wrapped in a blanket. As YOUNGER SISTER speaks, WATCHER 1 enters, circles the other WATCHERS who one by one begin to move. All five WATCHERS dance along the river and into the shadows where they freeze their action.)

Younger Sister: Hapkemnas the Children Maker made this river, and it is the lifeblood of our world. He says that we will soon make a journey upriver. Others will join us, and together we will build our homes along the river. Those of us here at the beginning must make things ready. We must try to make a new world out of what we have. Everything is in pieces, and screams to become whole. This is the Great Mystery, the struggle, the splendid striving of the spirit. And this is our journey.

(Lights come up on the entire scene. ELDER SISTER and YOUNGER SISTER stand and walk upstage, toward the house.)

Younger Sister: Here in the midst of chaos is where the story of our world begins.

Elder Sister: There is a house at the place the river flows wide and quiet, then mixes with the ocean, at the river's mouth where waves crash over sand bars.

Younger Sister: In that house lives Daldal, the Great Dragonfly, the one with giant blue wings and two heads.

(ELDER SISTER and YOUNGER SISTER pause in the shadows beneath a tree.)

Elder Sister: Daldal stands on a hill overlooking the river's mouth. He has seen bodies floating down the river.

Younger Sister: And both of his heads have been talking it over.

(ELDER BROTHER and YOUNGER BROTHER unfreeze, and their action continues. COYOTE enters masked, dressed in a tweed jacket, a Sherlock Holmes style cap, and carrying a large magnifying glass. He swaggers toward the brothers.)

Elder Brother (to Younger Brother): We must find out who has done this.

Younger Brother (to Elder Brother): Yes, let us....

Both Brothers (noticing Coyote): Oh, oh....

Coyote: Hello, friends. This is your lucky day. I will help you solve this mystery. I am Sleuth Hound Coyote, Detective Extraordinaire, and Champion of Justice. Providing you are able to pay, I'll take on this case.

(COYOTE pauses and looks around.)

Coyote (sheepishly): There will be blood and guts, right?

Elder Brother (sighing with resignation): Undoubtedly.

Coyote: And lust and love?

Younger Brother (with excitement): Of course!

Coyote: And plenty of demented, fur-raising adventure?

(Both brothers gesture their moods, ELDER BROTHER slowly, with contemplation, and YOUNGER BROTHER with enthusiasm.)

Coyote: Then I am your man! Let's get going. I love a mystery!

(COYOTE, ELDER BROTHER and YOUNGER BROTHER exit, led by COYOTE snooping for clues. ELDER SISTER exits.)

Younger Sister: Perhaps Coyote loves a muddle more than a mystery, but to humor him, and for the sake of our story, we'll follow along.

* * * * *

Act 2, Scene 3

(ELDER BROTHER, YOUNGER BROTHER and COYOTE enter and walk along the river, miming the action described by YOUNGER SISTER who narrates from the morning shadows. ELDER BROTHER and YOUNGER BROTHER continue under a single mask.)

Younger Sister: Daldal packs his things and he and Sleuth Hound Coyote start walking up the river to find out who is killing people. A little ways up the trail Daldal spots a lark. He pulls out his bow, fits an arrow and shoots. The arrow whizzes up and up and up, flies through the lark's nose and pierces his nose through the middle.

(COYOTE dances with excitement, pointing to the sky, laughing, waving his magnifying glass and grabbing his long nose in imitation of the lark. He looms over the brothers.)

Coyote (mockingly): Thank you, Nephew! I am glad you made this nice hole in my nose. But you'd better watch that arrow!

Younger Sister: The arrow whizzes down and down and down, comes straight down THUNK! between Daldal's two heads, goes all the way through his body and splits him in half.

(COYOTE trots into the shadows, crouches next to YOUNGER SISTER and watches the transformation. WATCHERS 1 and 2 dance slow-motion toward the brothers and remove the large mask from the stage. WATCHERS 1 and 2 exit. In slow-motion, ELDER BROTHER and YOUNGER BROTHER split into two people, each wearing a smaller mask.)

Younger Sister: Now there are two of them, Elder Daldal and Younger Daldal, the dragonfly brothers. And they travel upriver looking for who is cutting up people.

(ELDER BROTHER, YOUNGER BROTHER and COYOTE exit. YOUNGER SISTER steps out of the shadows, and with comic exaggeration, mimes her own narration.)

Younger Sister: While they walk, Younger Daldal talks all the time. His feet go clunk! on this rock, clack! on that rock, and the only time you can't hear him half a forest away is when they pass a thundering rapids!

(ELDER SISTER enters and mimes her own narration.)

Elder Sister: Elder Daldal is quiet. He seldom says a word, and as they pass the slow, wide places in the river, his footsteps are as quiet as the flowing.

(ELDER SISTER and YOUNGER SISTER continue to mime their own as well as each other's narration.)

Younger Sister: On their way they wrestle with all kinds of beings, each in his own way.

Elder Sister: They wrestle oaks bearing white acorns, oaks bearing black acorns, firs and pines and bushes and rocks. They wrestle all sorts of beings to make them strong.

Younger Sister: Younger Daldal leaps full-bodied onto a tree and with a great lot of grunting and shouting, he pulls the tree, roots and all, from the ground and tosses it into the river. He yells, "Hey, Big-nosed Daldal! Let's see you top that!"

Elder Sister: Elder Daldal, looking amused, walks up to a tree and with sudden, intense eyes, holds the tree so tight in his stare, the tree finally says, "Enough!"

Younger Sister: In this way they travel upriver.


* * * * *

Act 2, Scene 4

(Lights come up on WATCHERS 4 and 5 crouched a few feet apart downstage. WATCHER 3 watches from the shadows. COYOTE enters as Sleuth Hound, snout to the ground, gazing through his magnifying glass as he snoops and sniffs along the river for clues. He stops between WATCHERS 4 and 5, stands up, and looks deeply into the glass at his own reflection. WATCHERS 4 and 5 speak for COYOTE.)

Watcher 4 (self-absorbed): I am the lifeblood of myth, the dramatist of truth, the most....

Watcher 5: You are a silly fool!

Watcher 4: ...the most handsome, intelligent fellow ever put into words....

Watcher 5: Dog of a dog with no brain!

Watcher 4: unkillable, enduring bringer of good fortune....

Watcher 5: Put your eternal Sleuth Hound nose to the trail, man!

Watcher 4: ...a well-groomed charmer of wit....

Watcher 5: Can't you see there's work to be done?

Watcher 4: ...the life of the eternal party of wisdom....

Watcher 5: Look, party pooch, there's trouble upriver and here you are admiring your doggie self.

Watcher 4 (with exaltation): ...I am me. Mister Coyote, myself!

Watcher 5: No doubt about that. (pause) Now pay attention. We work together, you and I, we solve this mystery, and life goes on, the river keeps flowing, the people show up and have a home, and you can content yourself that you have done your little bit to make the world a better place.

Watcher 4: What else do I get out of this?

Watcher 5: Fame and fortune for all time....

Watcher 4: And?

Watcher 5: Glamour and glitz for millennia....

Watcher 4: What else?

Watcher 5: Centuries of coyote-swooning women?

Watcher 4: Now you're talking. Well, what are you waiting for? Let's be off!

Watcher 5 (sighing): Right. I'm with you all the way.

(COYOTE and WATCHERS 3, 4 and 5 exit.)

* * * * *

Act 2, Scene 5

(WATCHER 1 enters and sits mid-stage. ELDER SISTER and YOUNGER SISTER enter, wrapped in blankets.)

Younger Sister: Where, oh where can Sleuth Hound Coyote be?

Elder Sister: That one? Who knows? Distracted, no doubt. Little does he know that this story can go on without him. But he'll be back. That one is hard to get rid of.

Younger Sister: Elder Daldal and Younger Daldal continue upriver, looking for who has been murdering people....

(ELDER SISTER and YOUNGER SISTER sit together downstage. Lights come up on WATCHER 1 sitting in flickering red and orange firelight, her back to the fire.)

Watcher 1 (in an eerie whisper): Warrrrrm your back.... Warrrrrm your back....

(ELDER BROTHER and YOUNGER BROTHER enter through the trees. They stop when they hear the voice.)

Watcher 1: Warrrrrm your back....

Younger Brother: Big-nosed Daldal, put on style. Stay out here in the cold if you want to, I'm going to get warm.

(YOUNGER BROTHER approaches WATCHER 1 and lies down by the fire.)

Watcher 1: Warrrrrm your back....

(YOUNGER BROTHER scoots closer to the flames. WATCHER 1 leaps up and rolls him into the fire and sits on him. YOUNGER BROTHER squirms, unable to move.)

Younger Brother (shouting): Oh, elder brother, come and help me! I have blistered my back!

(ELDER BROTHER walks up to the fire and calmly kicks WATCHER 1 off his brother.)

Elder Brother (in a quiet voice): Do you think you will be a woman? People will call you camas. You will grow and bloom in the meadows along the river. You will not be a woman. You will be good food for the people.

(ELDER BROTHER and YOUNGER BROTHER exit. WATCHER 1 walks to the house, and singing to herself, opens the house to reveal the interior, and exits.)

* * * * *

Act 2, Scene 6

(Lights come up on WATCHERS 2 and 3. They are sitting around a fire inside the house, pounding acorns. ELDER SISTER and YOUNGER SISTER are sitting together downstage, wrapped in blankets.)

Watcher 2: tut tut tut tut tut....


Younger Brother: Well, Big-nosed Daldal, put on style. I'm going to go see what makes that noise.

(YOUNGER BROTHER walks toward the house, miming the narrations of ELDER SISTER and YOUNGER SISTER.)

Elder Sister: Younger Daldal goes toward the sound until he sees the house. He jumps up on top and looks down the smoke hole.

Younger Sister: He sees two old women, blind, without eyes. They are facing each other, pounding acorns into flour.

Watcher 3: tut tut tut tut tut....

Elder Sister: Younger Daldal reaches down and steals their food, steals it from on top of their house.

Watcher 2: Well, sister, did you eat it all up?

Watcher 3: How so, perhaps it was you who ate it all up?

(They start quarreling. WATCHER 3 pulls WATCHER 2's hair.)

Watcher 2: Now she is fighting me!

(WATCHERS 2 and 3 pull at each other's hair, and finally bang their heads together.)

Watchers 2 and 3: TUT TUT TUT TUT TUT!

Younger Brother (laughing and rolling around on the roof of the house, nearly falling off): Hey, Big-nosed Daldal! This is funny!

(WATCHERS 2 and 3 stop quarreling.)

Watcher 2: So it was him!

Watcher 3: So it was!

Elder Sister: The women grab sharp sticks and start poking at Younger Daldal through the smoke hole.

Younger Sister: They try to poke out his eyes!

Younger Brother: Oh, elder brother!

(ELDER BROTHER walks toward the house.)

Elder Brother (calmly): So my grandmothers are without eyes.

Elder Sister: Elder Daldal takes the sticks from the women and goes inside.

(YOUNGER BROTHER stumbles down the trail and exits.)

Younger Sister: He puts the points of the sticks into the fire until they glow. Then he carefully puts the sharp sticks into each of their eye sockets.

Watcher 2: Fssst! Fssst! ...

Watcher 3: ...Fssst! Fssst!....

Elder Brother: Now I have made you eyes. Look around you. See the trees and the river. Now you can see the world.

(ELDER BROTHER leaves WATCHERS 2 and 3, continues up the trail and exits. WATCHERS 2 and 3 exit.)

* * * * *

Act 2, Scene 7

(ELDER SISTER and YOUNGER SISTER are sitting together downstage, wrapped in blankets. WATCHERS 4 and 5 enter. As ELDER SISTER and YOUNGER SISTER continue their narration, WATCHERS 4 and 5 dance the action of their story. WATCHER 1 enters in owl mask and watches from the shadows.)

Elder Sister: Elder Daldal and Younger Daldal travel on up the river, sometimes walking alongside the crashing rapids, sometimes along deep pools where the river flows slowly.

Younger Sister: They come to many houses where people have been killed. Sometimes Elder Daldal helps people out of trouble. But those who are causing all the problems he turns into salmon spear shafts, morning and evening stars, echoes that move up the canyons, deer sinew to tie arrows with.

Elder Sister: All things to help the people.

Younger Sister: Each place they go, Younger Daldal says, "Big-nosed Daldal, put on style."

Elder Sister: Then he walks right into trouble and a few minutes later he calls out, "Oh, elder brother, come and help me!"

Younger Sister: In this way they travel upriver, changing things.

(WATCHERS 4 and 5 exit.)

Elder Sister: Now they meet Coyote at the falls called Ti'lomikh, where the river rushes between hills covered with oak trees and pines and cedars.

(COYOTE enters as Sleuth Hound. Suddenly he stops and looks toward the audience. He pulls off his Sleuth Hound garb and with his magnifying glass, tosses them into a heap. He sniffs around in the trees and mimes finding a stick. He sharpens the point.)

Elder Sister: What did I tell you? Distracted.

Younger Sister: What's that he's looking at?

Elder Sister: Let's listen....

(ELDER BROTHER and YOUNGER BROTHER enter upstage and stand in the shadows, watching. COYOTE creeps up to the lip of the stage and peers out into the audience. He sniffs. He listens.)

Coyote: Ahhhhh, just what I thought. Salmon! A juicy tidbit, just for me. I shall spear salmon in the river!

(COYOTE thrusts his spear into the river and pulls it out.)

Coyote: Mice?

(COYOTE thrusts the spear again.)

Coyote: Gophers?

(COYOTE does a little tantrum-like dance on the edge of the stage, and thrusts again.)

Coyote (shouting with frustration): Rabbits?

(ELDER BROTHER and YOUNGER BROTHER walk downstage toward COYOTE.)

Younger Brother (laughing): Some detective you turned out to be. Can't even find a fish in a river filled with fish!

Elder Brother: Say, Coyote. It is not your place to catch salmon. People will spear salmon. Here, in the shadow of cedars, they will spear salmon at the falls where the river runs fast. And you, Coyote, you shall eat mice and gophers and rabbits as long as the world goes on.

(COYOTE gathers up his things.)

Coyote: Humpf! You'll see, someday I'll change all that.

(COYOTE walks along the river, poking his nose into imaginary holes, sniffing for something to eat and muttering to himself. COYOTE exits. ELDER BROTHER and YOUNGER BROTHER walk on upriver and exit.)

Elder Sister: Elder Daldal and his younger brother go a little ways more upriver. Then Younger Daldal stops and Elder Daldal walks ahead. When he gets to his place he whistles like a lark and the two brothers become mesa-like rocks along the river ... the ribs of the great animal that is our world, the center of our universe.

Younger Sister: Younger Daldal is the rock downriver towards the crashing ocean, towards death and the setting sun. Elder Daldal is upriver, towards the beginning of the river, towards creation and the wisdom of the rising sun.

Elder Sister: Some days, if you walk the trail from the river up the slope of either rock, in the twilight of the evening, you walk through buzzing swarms of giant dragonflies, so many that the air turns blue and loud.

Younger Sister: Then you get on top ... and all is quiet.


* * * * *

Act 2, Scene 8

(Lights come up on a house along the river. It is early evening. COYOTE is sitting outside in the sunshine. WATCHER 4 sits to his left, WATCHER 5 to his right. WATCHERS 4 and 5 speak for Coyote.)

Watcher 4: Well, we certainly pulled that off, didn't we?

Watcher 5: Think so?

Watcher 4: Certainly. We'll be stars of that story for centuries.

Watcher 5: I wonder....

Watcher 4: Wonder what?

(From upstage, there is the sound of deer-hoof rattles in a walking rhythm. COYOTE and WATCHERS 4 and 5 look toward the sound.)

Watcher 4: Listen. What's that noise?

Watcher 5: People are walking up the river.

Watcher 4 (excitedly): Oh! Let's go have a look!

(COYOTE and WATCHERS 4 and 5 exit. WATCHER 3 enters, climbs onto the roof of the house, looks out onto the scene for a moment, and exits.)

* * * * *

Act 2, Scene 9

(Dim work lights come up. COYOTE and WATCHERS 4 and 5 enter, all dressed in black. Coyote is masked and carries an old style movie director's megaphone and has his magnifying glass in his pocket. He pushes WATCHER 5 ahead of him, who carries a folding director's chair with "Coyote" stenciled on the back. WATCHER 5 follows behind, dragging a large wooden box filled with masks. This scene is entirely mimed. After positioning the box and chair downstage, and acting as Director, COYOTE "yells" at his stage hands through his megaphone at close range. They cover their ears. And not knowing what else to do, they walk over to the house and start dusting and sweeping. COYOTE jumps up and down, "yells" again, and calls WATCHERS 4 and 5 over for a huddle where COYOTE comically directs his two "stage hands" in how to shift the house from upstage to downstage. WATCHERS 4 and 5 shift the house while COYOTE sits in his chair, every so often gazing at the audience with a self-inflated look. WATCHERS 4 and 5 exit, and Coyote uses his giant magnifying glass to inspect their work. He backs into the box, notices it, and grabs his megaphone and "yells" for WATCHERS 4 and 5. They enter, open the box, and hang several masks on the roof beam of the house, and exit. COYOTE contemplates the hanging masks, and then his own. He slowly removes his mask while facing the audience, hangs it on the beam, and exits.)

* * * * *

Act 3, Scene 1

(Lights come up on the interior of a plank house along the river. Several masks hang from the roof beam. A walking stick leans against a post. It is twilight. A fire flickers in the fire ring. ELDER SISTER, YOUNGER SISTER, ELDER BROTHER, YOUNGER BROTHER, COYOTE and WATCHERS 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5, all wrapped in blankets, sit in various places near the fire. COYOTE stands up, walks across the house, takes the Coyote mask down from the beam and puts it on. He walks as an old man to the fire, using the walking stick to help him along. Standing beside the fire, he speaks to the others.)

Coyote: I was here before the first twilight when critters and people were the same. Nothing much has changed since then. Though we have journeyed far upriver, the world is small and fits inside this house. Our memory begins at this fire, told by tellers moving sacred breath into words. We gather in the firelight of the first night and begin our story with words from home.

Watcher 2: Wili yowo, there is a house along the river....

Elder Sister: Telling after telling, we listeners sit by the fire, surrounded by depths of darkness. We listen carefully to each word spoken, to each silence between each word. The storyteller reveals layers of truth. We open our hearts and allow them to enter.

Watcher 5: No one remembers when Mother Landscape first appears. Perhaps just before the Rock People, the oldest ones we hear stories about.

Watcher 1: Whichever way we look, whatever words we use to tell the myths, no matter how our memory-soaked minds try to make sense of where we come from, nothing seems tidy, as if creation is a reflection of our own lives made shiny by how we desire the world to be.

Elder Brother: There is always something to make the world out of ... some curve of hillside, a scattering of trees, the cloud-reflecting river, a deep sky and stars beyond, and a menagerie of animal people wandering up and down the river....

Watcher 2: Coyote's Mythtime buddies....

Younger Brother: Arrival.

Watcher 4: Hapkemnas the Children Maker shows up and Mother Landscape draws a breath.

Watcher 3: The Daldal brothers journey up the river, fixing up the world and making it ready for the people.

Younger Sister: Centuries flow by.

Watcher 5: Arrival.

Watcher 3: We Takelmas settle along the river. Mother Landscape invites us in. We make a family.

Elder Brother: Centuries and centuries flow by.

Watcher 1: Arrival.

Watcher 4: Miners and pioneers.

Elder Sister: Mother Landscape groans a bit, but smiles and makes room. She adopts them into our family.

Watcher 2: A day blips by.

Younger Sister: Arrival.

Younger Brother: Loggers. Fruit growers. Mall builders. Mother Landscape tries to make the best world for all of her children. Her family is huge. She stretches her arms as far as she can around everyone. There seems to be room, but just barely.

Coyote: Well, well, well, let's not get ahead of ourselves. Let's begin our story at the beginning.

(There is a pause as everyone gets comfortable, draws their blankets tighter, nudges closer to the fire....)

Watcher 4: In our earliest memories of Mythtime, Coyote shows up with his talented troupe of actors.

Coyote: Now that's more like it.

Elder Brother: We build a house along the river, light a fire in the center of the house, and invite Mother Landscape and her children inside. We dance to celebrate new friends. And later, in the dark of night, we gather close to the warmth of the flames.

Watcher 3: From inside the memories of our experiences, from sparks of dreams layered with our most vivid imaginings, the stories begin, here in this house, spreading into the wide world.

Elder Sister: Mother Landscape adopts the stories, giving them a sense of place. With people and stories in her family, our place begins to make sense.

Younger Sister: We call the river Gelam, and the word stretches to include our name for ourselves, Takelma, the people of the river.

Watcher 1: As generations of people arrive and depart, for as long as anyone can remember, the stories from the family of Mother Landscape get told and retold.

Watcher 2: Night after night, Coyote makes himself a star of legend and myth.

(COYOTE throws off his blanket, drops his walking stick, and becomes a younger COYOTE. He mimes the narration, moving among the actors, and using them as props and characters.)

Younger Brother: He destroys ghosts that have been taking living people with them to the Land of the Dead.

Watcher 5: He dies and comes back to life.

Elder Brother: He gets stuck to Pitch.

Elder Sister: He gets unstuck.

Younger Sister: He takes himself apart to escape the cedar tree that closed him in.

Watcher 4: He gets put back together.

Watcher 3: He runs upriver looking for women....

Watcher 2: ...Downriver looking for more women...

Watcher 5: ...And as it goes, he ends up with fewer than he would like.

Younger Brother: Frog Woman is his greatest disappointment.

(COYOTE scans the women in the house, eventually focusing on one. He mimes peeking up her skirt, then leaps up and does a little tantrum-like dance.)

Coyote: What's this? I thought you were a woman. But the best part is missing!

(COYOTE continues to mime the narration before collapsing into a huffy heap.)

Elder Sister: Night after night this spindly-legged canine buffoon romps through the stories in pursuit of his various appetites, always a hero in his own eyes, always with just enough humanity to inspire us to search our souls.

Watcher 1: But Coyote is not the only critter in the stories.

* * * * *

Act 3, Scene 2

Watcher 3: Arrival. Love attempts to come to the people.

(WATCHER 5 takes the skunk mask down and puts it on. He leaps across the fire and everyone scatters.)

Watcher 5: I am Skunk Man, and I want a wife!

Elder Sister: See what we women have to look forward to?

Watcher 5: I am a great doctor. I have powerful medicine.

Younger Sister (swooning, on the floor): Oooooo, big boy. I swoon before such great power. I writhe with desire. Show me your medicine.

(WATCHER 5 "sprays" YOUNGER SISTER. Actors exhale loudly. Then they breathe in.)

Everyone: Phew!

Younger Sister: Eeeeew, I don't feel so good.

Coyote: Ahhhhh, the effect of body odor on an intimate relationship. Maybe love should take a breather?

(COYOTE puts his arm around SKUNK in a big brother manner.)

Coyote: Stick with me, Skunky, and I'll teach you thing or two about women.

(COYOTE and SKUNK move to the edge of the fire circle, remove masks, and sit with the others.)

* * * * *

Act 3, Scene 3

Watcher 4: Arrival. Sickness and healing come to the people.

(ELDER SISTER and WATCHERS 1, 2 and 3 put on masks. They sing as they circle YOUNGER SISTER. They move in slow motion, their movements rich with transformative, healing gestures.)

Elder Sister and Watchers 1, 2 and 3:

Wa-ya-we-ne lo-wa-na.
Wa-ya-we-ne lo-wa-na.
Wa-ya-we-ne lo-wa-na.

Who creeps there about the shadows?
Who creeps there about the shadows?
Who creeps there about the shadows?

(softer, slowly fading)

Wa-ya-we-ne lo-wa-na.

(At the end of the song, YOUNGER SISTER gets up, walks slowly to one corner of the house and crouches in the shadows, watching and listening. WATCHER 2 speaks to everyone in the house.)

Watcher 2: I am white-haired Acorn Woman. I am as old as the hills, and I live on the slopes of Wilamxa, "The Floating Mountain." I bring food to the people. My life is a story.

Upon a time my mountain floated through clouds of creation. Then under a boiling fume of ash and steam, she settled onto the earth and became my home. Every snowmelt I hang my swelling skin on the oak trees and grow acorns. And every winter I sleep on my mountain. My white hair is the shape of the snow.

From the heights of clouds, I watch the shadow of the mountain float over forests and lakes. And sleeping here I dream I am floating among stars. From where I sleep, in dreams and shifts of the landscape, the old myths get retold.

In their houses, winter night after winter night, the people listen to stories. In the spring, when the last tale is told, the storyteller says: "Gweldi. Baybit lep'lap" which means, "Finished! Now go collect seeds and eat them."

The storyteller tells us, "You've been listening to stories long enough, so get up and go gather food. Now that you've gathered the seeds of wisdom from the stories, it's time to gather seeds for nourishment. Both kinds of seeds are needed to keep the people healthy. Without food there is no life. Without myths, life has no meaning."

With these words, I wake up. I cover my skin with seeds. I go down the slopes of Wilamxa and bring food to the people. I am Acorn Woman. I am white-haired, as old as the hills, and my life is a story.

(WATCHER 2 sits down with the others. WATCHER 3 speaks to everyone in the house, and as she speaks, she moves lightly through the house, dancing the dance of the wind.)

Watcher 3: I am Medicine Fawn. I am the most powerful medicine woman among the deer. All night, I float through the shadows, light as air, through the woods, up and down the river.... When a breeze shakes the leaves in the trees, I say....

You are the wind, the breath of the earth. You take a deep breath and slowly exhale and imitate creation. You give long life not only to yourself, but to everything around you ... trees and soil, fog and clouds, sun, moon and stars, creeks and rivers that tumble and twist and feel your breeze as you tie the woods together.

You are the wind. You blew when Children Maker breathed fog and made the world, when Coyote, old fool of a thousand myths, walked up and down the rivers and creeks, shaping the landscape.

You are the wind. You blew when the first storyteller moved breath into words and told stories as winter storms screamed through our village. The stories teach us to sing forgiveness to the deer before the hunt, to call trees our relations, to celebrate the aliveness of our world.

You are the wind. You are the breath of the earth, the music of the shaking leaves, the primal teller of all stories. You are the wind. You keep the world going.

(WATCHER 3 bounds lightly to the edge of the fire circle.)

Watcher 3: I am Medicine Fawn. Light as the wind, I bound through the night. In the morning I come home to our village, and I tell the people, "Breathe deeply, my friends, and call your shadows home."

(WATCHER 3 sits down with the others. ELDER SISTER speaks to everyone in the house.)

Elder Sister: I am Mudcat Woman. I make my home across the ocean, in the Village Beyond the Sunset. I sit on the beach in the sunlight, weaving a basket. This is no ordinary basket. I weave this one out of sunrays. As the sun slants across the ocean and shines into the water, I reach out from the beach, grab sunrays and twine them into my basket. As I get close to finishing, my basket glows with the warmth of a spring day.

On this day, after a long journey across the ocean, the White Duck Women arrive at our village. They say, "Our husband, Panther. He is lost. Someone help us! A sea monster has swallowed him up!"

Many people gather on the beach. It is decided that the best thing would be to try diving for Panther where the White Duck Women had last seen him.

They all paddle into the ocean, toward the place where the wind blows the sea wild. Many people dive, looking for a sign of Panther, but no one reaches the bottom. The water is too rough. They get down a certain distance, then float back up. After many dives they give it up. They paddle back to the Village Beyond the Sunset.

The people gather around me and ask, "What kind of a basket is that?" and "Will it help to find Panther?"

"I can get close to him," I say. "All of you just floated up, but I can get close to him."

The people urge me on, telling me to hurry or Panther might be lost forever. But I do not move until I have the basket finished. I keep saying, "I can get close to him."

At sundown, as the last sunlight hits the water, the basket is done.

I stand up and walk into the ocean. I wade through the breakers and disappear under the water, carrying my basket of sunlight. As nighttime floats over our village, the people watch the sun-glow from my basket grow fainter as it gains depth below the waves.

I swim below the waves through the darkness, my basket of sunlight making a torch to light my way. I swim through the wavering seaweed, past huge sea rocks covered with white shells that shine like stars in the darkness, past underwater caves where glowing eyes stare out at me. I swim where the depths of the ocean start rocking, and the underwater currents of wind blow the green and yellow plants into a dance, and huge underwater trees sway, and the water turns cold, as if winter has blown itself to the bottom of the sea.

I swim on until I come to the cave of the sea monster, the one who swallowed up Panther. I see the monster from the entrance, coiled like a serpent, his head on the floor of the cave, sleeping, though his eyes are half open. I swim like the current past those eyes to where Panther's bones are lying in a heap. I put them in my basket, and swim out of the cave, away through the swaying ocean forest, out of the cold depths of winter, away toward the village. And the sea monster sleeps on in his cave.

As I come out of the water, the sun is coming up, sending its warmth across the sand. People are waiting there.

"Look!" someone shouts. "There she is!"

I walk across the beach to the sweat house and go inside. People help to heat the rocks and I drip water on them. The steam rises, and the air inside the sweat house gets hotter and hotter.

I set the basket of sunlight near the heated stones. The twining still glows and casts a warm light across Panther's bones. I sit in the sweat house, singing and chanting, for several days.

On the morning of the fifth day, I go outside.

It is just before sunrise. I sit on the beach by myself and sing to the ocean and the sun and the coming spring.

After a while, there is a noise inside the sweat house. The door opens, and Panther stands in the morning light, looking like he has always looked.

I am Mudcat Woman, and this is my story.

(ELDER SISTER sits down with the others. WATCHER 1 speaks to everyone in the house.)

Watcher 1: I am Dan Mologol ... Rock Old Woman. I live high up on the mountain we call Altawayakhwa. Hapkemnas gave me the power to get rid of false medicine people who are twisted in their ways and cause sickness and death. I was given a stone pipe, a rock bucket, several other stone tools and, most importantly, a song.

(ELDER SISTER and WATCHERS 2 and 3 start singing, softly, to themselves. As the song continues to the end of the WATCHER 1's narration, it builds in volume.)

Watcher 1: As I sing my song and my victim smokes the pipe of death, I heat stones and drop them into the bucket, boiling the person's heart, stirring it with a paddle until the one who caused sickness and death in others has died. Then the mountain Altawayakhwa ties his hair into a topknot like he is going to war. He dusts his forehead with white paint. He wrenches loose the medicine person's arm and dances with it, singing his medicine song from the red of sunset to the orange of sunrise. In this way, bad medicine is got rid of and the health of my people ensured.

For centuries, on the slopes of Altawayakhwa, I stand in stone with my tools around me, inspiration to soon-to-be medicine people and a contemplative image to those who live long lives without sickness. My medicine always works. Everyone who passes by leaves gifts on top of the rock. They thank me and whisper my name, Dan Mologol....

Everyone: Rock Old Woman.

(WATCHER 1 sits down with the others. YOUNGER SISTER walks across the floor of the house, takes down a human mask, walks downstage to the lip of the stage, and speaks directly to the audience.)

Younger Sister: I am Gwisgwashan, the keeper of stories. I gather words like others gather herbs for medicine. I listen and try to make sense of the words. I place them in our hearts where we cry, we heal, we laugh....

I have been listening, traveling through the myths. The Old Ones say that I have been wandering the paths of words, restless to hear the great story of our world. Of course, the only story we can truly know is our own story, drawn from our own lives. But it's strange. We start into that story, and the rest of the universe steps in. Every speck of truth jostles for a place in the story. Coyote howls to be heard, Elder Brother lumbers into the plot in his slow and gentle way, and Younger Brother screams to have his say on stage. And then there's Mother Landscape herself, breathing with Rock People, Tree People, River People -- and all the monsters and their dark adventures! -- all crowding themselves into the narrative. And whispers of history and legend, myth and folktale, poem and song.... They echo around every twist of the trail, every bend of the river. And, of course, there's the loudest people of all, impossible to ignore, and we've squeezed ourselves into every nook and cranny. Everywhere I look, there we are: the human people!

Don't let anyone tell you that keeping track of a story is a passion without a price. Look what I have to put up with. What started as a stroll seems to be rolling into a lifelong journey of distractions and discoveries ... a never-ending search for something, an endless quest ... for what? ... a long, long walk through the mystery of words?....

Oh, but it's worth it. Our story is alive with the breathing of all the world's critters, rocks and animals, people and trees, the sun and moon themselves, and someone beyond the shadows who sings in the darkness. We tell our story as we live it, and please forgive us, but it is at best untidy. It meanders like the river we travel along. It hugs the curve of the hill like a good path. It can be as unexpected as a mountain storm or a dream out of nowhere, or something over the next ridge we have never imagined could be there. It can be as sudden and as wonderful as love or a new friend or a song that grows on its own inside our heads.

I am Gwisgwashan, the keeper of stories. I gather words.

* * * * *

Act 3, Scene 4

Elder Sister: Arrival. War comes to the people.

(YOUNGER SISTER looks at the audience, then expectantly at the people in the house, and runs back to the fire circle. She removes her mask and sits down with the others. ELDER BROTHER stands next to the fire and speaks to everyone in the house.)

Elder Brother: In the time we call the Old Time, when animals and people are not so different, the time of myths, of dreams, when the landscape stretches beyond sight, when trees are so plentiful it seems they will last forever -- at such a time as this, we tell a story about Jackrabbit, Coyote, the people, and the people's relations, the trees.

(Everyone looks at each other, anticipating who will play which role. WATCHER 4 quickly leaps up and puts on the Jackrabbit mask. COYOTE follows close behind and puts on the Coyote mask. WATCHERS 1, 3 and 5 each put on Tree masks. WATCHER 2 puts on the mask of Acorn Woman.)

Elder Brother: There is a house along the river and Jackrabbit lives by himself in that house, away from the village.

(WATCHER 4 lies down by the fire and covers himself with a blanket. WATCHER 2 moves into the shadows downstage and crouches down to watch. WATCHERS 1, 3 and 5 move out of the house and pose as trees. COYOTE exits.)

Younger Brother: It is fall. Morning fog presses low on forests of pines and firs and cedars, and oaks and maples blaze yellow and red through the fog, as their leaves fall and fall and fall.

Elder Sister: The people are gone from the village, scattered through fog to the meadows to dig camas roots for the coming winter. As the trees drop their leaves, the forests lose color. Even evergreens seem pale in the gray fog. While the people are digging camas, Jackrabbit is alone in his house, away from the village.

Younger Sister: Jackrabbit wakes with a start and crosses his ears. He looks through the fog toward the village.

(WATCHER 4 mimes the narration.)

Watcher 4: Where has everyone gone now that camas is ripe?

(WATCHER 4 jumps out of the house.)

Watcher 4: So they've gone digging, eh? I'll show them I can be as useful as they are. I can get ready for winter, too. I'll cut firewood.

Elder Brother: Jackrabbit grabs his ax and lays out his ears, hop-hopping into the forest as fast as he can.

Watcher 4: I'll cut enough wood for everyone, enough for a hundred winters!

(WATCHER 2 stares back and forth between WATCHER 4 and the others, and nervously creeps closer to WATCHERS 1, 3 and 5 where she hides among them. As WATCHER 4 gets close to WATCHERS 1, 3 and 5, they come alive and run ahead of him and exit. WATCHER 2 returns downstage and crouches down, listening and watching.)

Elder Sister: Jackrabbit doesn't settle for gathering dead, fallen wood. He cuts down live trees. He cuts pine trees which give the people planks and beams for their houses. He cuts oak trees, the sons and daughters of Acorn Woman who provide food. He even cuts the medicine trees whose bark and sap and leaves keep the people healthy. He cuts every tree in sight. He works in a frenzy, cutting trees still brilliant in their fall colors.

Younger Sister: He hacks and he hacks, and each time he stops to catch his breath, he crosses his ears, and with a fevered look in his eyes, he says to himself....

Watcher 4: I'm so good at this. If it was anyone else the trees would fall on top of him. But not me. I'm a useful Jackrabbit. A talented Jackrabbit. The people's provider! I'm the.... But what am I saying? I should be cutting. These trees are as ripe as camas.

(WATCHER 4 exits.)

Younger Brother: He cuts trees all day. He hacks and he hacks, and the trees fall and fall and fall. And the fog presses lower.

Elder Brother: Day settles into shadows as the people return to the village, their baskets brimming with camas roots. Coyote, his nose tuned to thoughts of a full belly, is padding through fog along the river when he hears Jackrabbit hacking down trees.

(As WATCHER 4 enters, WATCHERS 1, 3 and 5 run ahead of him to a new place where they stop and pose as trees. COYOTE enters and follows behind.)

Coyote: Hmmmmm. Interesting.

Younger Brother: Coyote stops. He puts an ear to the ground and hears Jackrabbit talking to himself.

Watcher 4: I'm the best hacker there is. When I cut them all down I'll dump them in the river and float them to the village. I'll show the people I'm as good as they are! But what am I saying? Time to be cutting!

(WATCHER 4 leaps into the shadows and exits.)

Elder Sister: Coyote turns his nose to the village, carrying his version of the news to the people.

(COYOTE walks into the house and speaks to everyone.)

Coyote: There's a fuzzy bunny upriver killing your relations. He hacks them in two and dumps their bodies in the river. I heard him say so himself.


Younger Sister: Word gets around.

Elder Brother: Thinking that Jackrabbit is killing their human relations, the people tie their hair into topknots.

Younger Brother: They dust their foreheads with white paint. They prepare for the first war there ever was.

Elder Sister: They grab their spears. One by one through the night and the fog, they follow Coyote upriver, into the woods.

(WATCHER 4 enters near WATCHERS 1, 3, and 5 who flee to a new place where they pose as trees. ELDER SISTER, YOUNGER SISTER, ELDER BROTHER, YOUNGER BROTHER and COYOTE continue to mime the action. WATCHER 4 joins the miming.)

Younger Sister: One man finds Jackrabbit.

Coyote: That's the one I told you about.

Elder Brother: That one? You've got to be kidding. He's too small. He'll make a plaything for my child.

Younger Sister: The man scoops Jackrabbit into a basket and falls in at the back of the line.

Elder Sister: Jackrabbit coils his legs, makes a great leap out of the basket, and hop-hops back into the woods. But nobody notices. They are all looking ahead, walking in a long line upriver, looking for the one who is killing their relations.

Younger Sister: Another man finds Jackrabbit.

Coyote: That's the one who's been killing people. That's the one!

Younger Brother: No, no. You must have it wrong. That one looks like a toy for my child.

Elder Sister: He stuffs Jackrabbit into a basket and joins the first man at the back of the line.

Younger Sister: Again, without anyone noticing, Jackrabbit leaps out and disappears into the woods.


Elder Sister: How many times do they find Jackrabbit and how many times is Coyote not believed? Through the night, along the river, through the fog, many people find Jackrabbit. But each time he escapes.

Younger Sister: It is only when people get together back at the village that they realize they have been catching the same rabbit.

Elder Brother: What did yours look like?

Younger Brother: Furry, with long ears.

Elder Brother: That's the one I caught. But he got away.

Younger Brother: So did mine.

Coyote: Mine, too.

(Everyone looks at Coyote and shrugs.)

Younger Sister: At this point someone suggests that Coyote might be telling the truth.

Elder Sister: If that little rabbit could escape so many times, I suppose he could kill our relations.

Elder Brother: Everyone agrees to go after Jackrabbit again in the morning.

Younger Brother: They go to bed with thoughts that lead to uncomfortable dreams.

(ELDER SISTER, YOUNGER SISTER, ELDER BROTHER, YOUNGER BROTHER and COYOTE crawl under their blankets near the fire and are soon sleeping. WATCHERS 1, 3 and 5 lie down in the shadows. WATCHER 2 enters the house, slowly circles them, and moves into the shadows where she crouches down to watch. ELDER SISTER, YOUNGER SISTER, ELDER BROTHER, YOUNGER BROTHER and COYOTE crawl out of bed. They continue miming the story as they narrate.)

Elder Brother: Next morning, the people gather and again prepare for war.

Younger Brother: They start upriver toward the last place they had seen Jackrabbit.

Elder Sister: It isn't hard to find him. In the daylight they see the trees cut down and they follow the path of Jackrabbit's cutting.

Younger Sister: Some trees have fallen over others. Some lay half in the river. Nothing is left alive.

Elder Brother: No trees.

Younger Brother: No bushes.

Elder Sister: No plants.

Younger Sister: Jackrabbit has hacked everything to the ground.

(ELDER SISTER, YOUNGER SISTER and YOUNGER BROTHER freeze next to WATCHERS 1, 3 and 5 who are still on the ground. COYOTE crouches down next to WATCHER 2 and watches from the shadows.)

Elder Brother: The people freeze. Eyes widen. Brows lower. Anger fires their eyes.

(WATCHER 4 enters. He sees the people in the shadows among the trees.)

Watcher 4: Ahhhhh, more trees? Just when anyone else would have thought the job was done, Jackrabbit sees more trees.

(WATCHER 4 mimes the narration.)

Elder Brother: Jackrabbit grabs an ax, rushes the people and cuts several through. They fall among the stumps and cut-through trunks of the sons and daughters of Acorn Woman, the pines, the firs, the cedars and all the other trees. They fall and fall and fall.

(YOUNGER BROTHER, ELDER SISTER, YOUNGER SISTER fall to the ground. WATCHER 2 nudges COYOTE. COYOTE mimes the narration.)

Elder Brother: With a swiftness that surprises even himself, Coyote grabs the ax and cuts Jackrabbit to the ground. He hacks him to pieces and tosses him into the river.

(COYOTE exits. ELDER BROTHER walks downstage and speaks directly to the audience.)

Elder Brother: Somewhere a lark starts singing. The morning breeze picks up the song and carries it downriver toward the village. Then there is silence, as filling as night.

(WATCHER 2 walks toward YOUNGER BROTHER, ELDER SISTER, YOUNGER SISTER and WATCHERS 1, 3 and 5. She removes her mask as everyone gets up in the manner of actors who have just finished a scene. They remove their masks. COYOTE enters carrying his mask and joins them. Everyone walks back to the house, hangs up their masks, and sits around the fire, drawing their blankets around them.)

Elder Brother: The few survivors walk back to the village. They spend the winter mourning the dead and telling and retelling the story of Jackrabbit. Snow buries the stumps and logs until they are vivid only in the memories of the people.

Watcher 3: The days are crisp and clear in the spring.

Coyote: Coyote has taken up hunting rabbits.

Watcher 1: Camas blooms in the meadows.

Watcher 2: Wildflowers blaze yellow and red along the river banks, and between stumps and rotting logs, new saplings take root.

Watcher 5: But it takes many years for new trees to smooth the scars of Jackrabbit's work.

Watcher 3: Every winter we gather around a fire in the dance house and tell the story.

Watcher 1: As long as the story lives the trees will live.

Elder Brother: If the story dies, that will be the end of us and the end of our relations, the trees.

* * * * *

Act 3, Scene 5

Watcher 5: Arrival. Death comes to the people.

(YOUNGER BROTHER tells the story to everyone in the house. No one is masked.)

Younger Brother: Wili yowo. It has been cold for a long time. The river is frozen over and the snow falls and falls, making drifts all through the valley.

Coyote and Roasting Dead People live along the river, each in his own house, each with a child. They are neighbors.

Snow drifts over the tops of their houses. They haven't been able to go outside for days. They are running out of food, and Roasting Dead People's child is nearly dead from hunger.

Days go by, days go by, days go by....

The cold doesn't let up. The entire world is snow and ice, and there is no food anywhere. And one morning, just as the weather breaks, the child of Roasting Dead People dies.

Roasting Dead People pushes on the door to his house, but it won't open. He pushes hard to break open the door through the shell of ice that covers the outside of the house. He goes next door and says to Coyote, "Say, Coyote, my friend. My child has died. Will you lend me a blanket so I can bury him properly?"

Coyote is annoyed. He yells from inside his house, "Don't bother me! Don't you know that if you bury your child with a blanket he'll come back around this place? What's going to happen if dead people come back around here?"

So Roasting Dead People goes home and buries his child, without a blanket.

Days go by, days go by....

Winter turns into spring, which moves into summer, and fall brings the cold days again. When winter comes it is the coldest anyone can remember. The river freezes over again. Snow piles high, and food is running short. And one morning, as clouds pull apart and the sun starts shining, Coyote's child gets sick and dies.

Coyote goes next door and says to Roasting Dead People, "Give me a blanket. My child's kicked off, and I've got to bury the kid."

Roasting Dead People can't believe what he is hearing. "What's that you're saying? A year ago, when I asked you the same thing, all you could say was, 'What's going to happen if dead people come back?' Now my child is rotting!"

Coyote goes home and buries his child.

Days go by....

Coyote sits in the doorway to his house and watches winter turn into spring. Ice in the river melts away. Wildflowers bloom along the river banks. And Coyote keeps saying to himself, "People are never coming back after they die. Not ever, my child, not ever."

(COYOTE stands up, puts on his mask, and walks with his walking stick as an old man. He stands next to the fire.)

Coyote: Night after night, huddled close to the fire, we journey through the landscape of myth. And each morning, as the sun rises over the river and the stories pause for a day, we emerge from the house and see Mother Landscape in a new light. We feel as if we have traveled far and come home again, not quite the same as when we left. We call for our shadows in the morning light.

* * * * *

Act 3, Scene 6

Younger Sister: Arrival. After death, love returns.

Younger Brother: Wili yowo....

Watcher 1: Now there are many houses along the river.

Elder Brother: In these houses live Panther and Wildcat, Coyote and Jackrabbit and the Daldal brothers....

Elder Sister: In many more houses live Mudcat Woman, Grizzly Bear Woman, Black Bear Woman, Medicine Fawn, the White Duck Women, Acorn Woman and Rock Old Woman, and her great grandmother and her grandmother and her mother and her daughters and her many, many, many sisters....

Coyote: Oooooo.... That's a lot of women!

Watchers 1, 2 and 3 (together): Yes! We are in charge!

Younger Brother, Elder Brother and Watchers 4 and 5 (together, mockingly): Oooooo....

(Except for COYOTE, everyone divides into two groups, one female group and one male group. The two groups face each other across the fire. COYOTE throws off his blanket, drops his walking stick, and becomes a younger COYOTE. He runs back and forth between the groups, mocking their taunts.)

Elder Sister: Just because you rattle around the house, don't think you are anything to us!

Younger Sister: Why would we want boys for husbands?

Younger Brother: We are rich! We have blankets. We have horses.

Elder Brother: We have canoes. We give these as wedding gifts.

Watcher 1: That one borrows a blanket and trails it on the ground!

Watcher 2: That one offers a slow horse for a wife.

Watcher 3: And that one brings a canoe half full of water!

Watcher 4: My, my my, that lady loon calls loud while skimming the water.

Watcher 5: And that one pats her horse before she grabs it.

Watcher 2: Little boys, we will not love you.

Watcher 3: You run around the house with no blankets on.

Elder Sister: We do not desire such husbands.

Watcher 4: And we do not want frog-shaped women.

Watcher 5: With big mouths and swollen eyes!

Younger Sister: That one has the voice of a mockingbird.

Watcher 1: That one dresses in the feathers of the Bluejay.

Younger Brother: Oooooo, little bird. I'll fly into your nest and tickle you with my feathers.

(COYOTE makes a magical gesture that freezes everyone. He moves among them, miming a sculptor creating new people. With another gesture, he gestures everyone back awake as he speaks.)

Coyote: This way, follow me, before it is daylight. Woman beyond your home, man beyond your lodge, run up the river wrapped in fog, run into the heart of your story. Meet in silence. Meet in moonlight and mist. Become friends. Become lovers. You have tossed eggs at each other long enough.

(COYOTE removes his mask and joins the others in a dance of courtship and love. Everyone exits, except WATCHER 1. She walks to the house, puts on the owl mask, walks downstage and stares at the audience. ELDER SISTER enters. She sees WATCHER 1.)

Elder Sister: News? Did you come to tell me? Who has been killed?


* * * * *

Act 4, Scene 1

(ELDER BROTHER, YOUNGER BROTHER, COYOTE and WATCHERS 4 and 5 enter the house section of the theatre in darkness, and block the exits. They are dressed entirely in black, and wear black hoods. House lights come up abruptly. The actors mime the raising of rifles, aiming them directly at the audience.)

Everyone (shouting): Halt! Nobody move!

Coyote: Time for you savages to be gone!

Younger Brother: You are ignorant, abject, and debased by nature!

Elder Brother: Your minds are as incapable of instruction as your bodies are of labor!

Watcher 4: You are heroes only when women and children are to be murdered!

Watcher 5: You have nothing in common with Humanity but the form!

Coyote: God has sent us to destroy you, as he did the Israelites of old to similar tribes!

Younger Brother: There is no evidence of sympathy or favor for you Indians in the people or authorities of Oregon!

Elder brother: Pack your things!

Watcher 4: One basket each!

Watcher 5: Get going!

Coyote: Don't look back!

Younger Brother: Hey, you! This is no time to go visiting!

Elder Brother: You there, forget those goodbyes!

Watcher 4: Get on, will you?!

Watcher 5: Time to be gone!

Coyote: It's a long walk to the coast!

(Blackout of house lights. ELDER BROTHER, YOUNGER BROTHER, COYOTE and WATCHERS 4 and 5 exit.)

* * * * *

Act 4, Scene 2

(ELDER SISTER and YOUNGER SISTER enter and sit downstage, away from the house. They are wrapped in blankets. A pale-blue ghostly light comes up on them.)

Elder Sister: At this time of night, there is an opening, a path into the depths. This is the traditional time of myth telling. From twilight to the first flicker of morning sunlight, the spirit world reveals herself. Sometimes a story feels deeply unsettling, and we yearn for a new day. But often, a story that lives in darkness is the story we most need to hear, over and over, until the truth becomes clear, and we find a way out.

(WATCHERS 1, 2 and 3 enter and dance the words of ELDER SISTER and YOUNGER SISTER in slow-motion under an eerie pale-blue light. Bit by bit they turn the house around and reveal that it is now burned almost beyond recognition. Smoke begins to drift across the stage, and the lights slowly shift from blue to red.)

Younger Sister: At the mouth of the Siletz River on the Oregon coast, there are islands in the bay, stumps and logs carved by harsh coastal weather. From a distance, the islands rise through fog. They resemble Old Time Indian burials. They haunt us. They are a grim reminder of thousands of our people who were shipped and force-marched hundreds of miles to a skeletal cluster of shacks and shelters. This was the Siletz Indian Reservation of 1856.

(ELDER BROTHER, YOUNGER BROTHER and WATCHERS 4 and 5 enter. They are still wearing their black hoods. They join the dance as executioners. WATCHERS 1, 2 and 3 play the parts of native people.)

Elder Sister: Government troops executed those of us who refused to leave our homeland. We were shot in front of friends and relations to graphically illustrate that the U.S. Government was serious about relocating Indians. Many of us died along the way of various diseases, and many more died during the first winter from starvation, exposure and sadness.

Younger Sister: Ten years later, the dying had hardly slowed. We said over and over: "Many of our people have died since we came here. Many are still dying. There will soon be none left of us. We are sick at heart. We are sad when we look on the graves of our families."

Elder Sister: Leaving our homes of thousands of years behind us, with only a basket of food each and the clothes on our backs, and leaving behind the tragedies of war, the trip to the reservation was long and sad. As we were being removed from our homeland, one army captain said: "It almost makes me shed tears to listen to their wailing as they totter along."

Younger Sister: At the reservation, housing was nearly nonexistent. We became sick from food unsuited to our usual diets. We were fed flour normally sold as cattle feed, swept from the floors of Willamette Valley mills. Nightly bed checks kept track of who was where. Forts were built along the boundaries to prevent escapes. Family members were located in different areas.

Elder Sister: Early reservation life resembled life in a prison, rather than in a community. Within a few years, an alarming number of us had died from a depression of spirits.

(ELDER BROTHER, YOUNGER BROTHER and WATCHERS 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 exit.)

Younger Sister: As the damp coastal weather continues to shape the islands at the mouth of the Siletz River, our lives continue to change.

Elder Sister: We tell our story night after night. We listen carefully, and we continue to look for a way out.

(ELDER SISTER and YOUNGER SISTER stand and slowly walk upstage. They disappear into the shadows and exit. There is the sound of deer-roof rattles.)

* * * * *

Act 4, Scene 3

(ELDER SISTER, YOUNGER SISTER, ELDER BROTHER, YOUNGER BROTHER and WATCHERS 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 enter and stand in front of the burned house. They are dressed entirely in black, and wear black hoods. In one hand, they each carry a bundle of deer-hoof rattles, shaking them, not in a rhythm, but as a continual hissing sound. Each actor also carries a mask. Red lights come up and silhouette the actors. Smoke continues to drift across the scene. As they speak, actors hold their masks in front of them.)

Watcher 1: In 1840, the Reverend Gustavus Hines speaks....

Elder Brother: The doom of extinction is suspended over this wretched race, and the hand of providence is removing them to give place to a people more worthy of this beautiful and fertile country.

Watcher 2: In 1847, Charles G. Pickett speaks....

Younger Brother: Treat the Indians along the road kindly, but trust them not. Use your pleasure in spilling blood. Were I traveling with you, self-preservation here dictates these savages being killed off as soon as possible.

(COYOTE enters. He is masked. He appears as an old man, with his blanket and his walking stick. He lurks in the shadows, and watches.)

Watcher 3: In 1857, John Beeson speaks differently. He tells his story....

Watcher 4: Among the thousands who cross the plains, there are many who have never been refined by either mental or moral culture. The sum total of their religious and political faith consists in the right to do as they choose, regardless of all but selfish interests.

Watcher 5: At first they find excitement in shooting bears and buffaloes. They grow ambitious, and begin to think it would be a great achievement to kill an Indian. The desire becomes strong to slay one of those whom their own savageness has converted to an enemy.

Elder Sister: Among them it is customary to speak of the Indian man as a Buck; of the woman as a Squaw. From being spoken of as brutes, the Indians come to be thought of as game to be shot, or as vermin to be destroyed.

Elder Brother: On coming to a lake, an Indian man, with two women, was discovered catching fish. Rifles were leveled; but the Indian, with only a bow and arrow, nobly stood his ground until he fell, riddled through and through by bullets of his assailants.

Younger Sister: The terrified females were caught and made to witness the cutting and slashing of the gory body of their murdered husband, by those who thus added brutal insult to their previous crime.

Younger Brother: A White Man being found dead, was supposed to have been killed by Indians. A company was made up forthwith, an Indian Ranch was surrounded, and all the inmates were put to death -- about forty souls -- including men, women, and children.

Watcher 1: The domineering spirit grew by what it fed on, until excited to madness by these oft-recurring scenes of blood, men became utterly regardless of justice.

Younger Sister: An Indian girl in the act of fetching water for her employers, was shot, and her body thrown into the creek.

Watcher 2: An Indian boy, scarce in his teens, who was in the habit of visiting the shanty of some miners, with whom he was a great favorite, and always welcome, was taken and hung upon the limb of a tree.

Watcher 3: Another was caught and had his throat cut.

Elder Sister: Two women and a man who had taken refuge upon Table Rock, which is high and very precipitous were pursued; and it was reported that they had killed themselves by jumping down its steep and craggy sides. They fell because they were shot and could not avoid it.

Watcher 5: Their mangled, but yet living forms, as they lay on the loose rocks below, were so revolting a sight, that many began to declaim against such proceedings.

Watcher 4: Few listened, and this state of things continued until people got into a perfect frenzy, and they found sufficient authority to condemn to death all Indians in the Valley.

(The hissing sound of deer-hoof rattles stops suddenly.)

Elder Sister: On Sunday, July 25, 1852, in a victory dinner at Table Rock, J.W. Davenport, toasts Captain Lamerick and his volunteers for their heroic campaign....

(ELDER BROTHER steps forward and raises his mask as if making a toast.)

Elder Brother: May your generous acts on this occasion, be honored throughout this Valley; may its emblematical influence excite the independence of our Union, and may you live to see the time when the Indians of the Rogue Valley are extinct.

(Everyone circles around the speaker, and there are shouts of "Hooray!" and "Here, here!" Using their hand-held masks to mime the raising of glasses in the manner of a toast, they break into a drinking-song style chant, except for COYOTE, who continues to watch from the shadows.)

Watcher 1: Columbia's sons and adopted daughters
Shriek aloud o'er land and waters.
The Indians have come to quarters.

Everyone: Rise, rise ye Oregon rise,
Rise, rise ye Oregon rise,
Hark, hark, hark, how the eagle cries.
Rise, rise, ye Oregon rise on the Indians.

Younger Brother: Chief Sam was a great warrior.
He was corralled between two waters.
Captain Lamerick brought him to quarters.

Everyone: Rise, rise ye Oregon rise,
Rise, rise ye Oregon rise,
Hark, hark, hark, how the eagle cries.
Rise, rise, ye Oregon rise on the Indians.

Elder Sister: Table Rock is a pretty elevation,
A splendid view o'er the Indian nation,
The place where the chieftain took his station.

Everyone: Rise, rise ye Oregon rise,
Rise, rise ye Oregon rise,
Hark, hark, hark, how the eagle cries.
Rise, rise, ye Oregon rise on the Indians.

Watcher 4: The Indians are now in subjection.
Old Sammy made a bad selection.
His chaparral was no protection.

Everyone: Rise, rise ye Oregon rise,
Rise, rise ye Oregon rise,
Hark, hark, hark, how the eagle cries.
Rise, rise, ye Oregon rise on the Indians.

(All actors fall into the debris of the house, except for COYOTE. He steps forward, leans on his walking stick, and speaks directly to the audience.)

Coyote: Let us listen to a voice from fallen victims, from bereaved families and blackened ruins, and be warned! All these things are significant.

(COYOTE exits.)

* * * * *

Act 4, Scene 4

(Lights come up on the ruins of the house. ELDER BROTHER, YOUNGER BROTHER, ELDER SISTER, YOUNGER SISTER and WATCHERS 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 are sleeping among the debris. One by one they awake and get up, removing their black hoods As they begin looking around them, they speak in whispers to each other. YOUNGER SISTER finds the human mask and puts it on. COYOTE enters masked, dressed as an early 20th century Smithsonian anthropologist and linguist. He wears a tweed jacket, a wool hat, dress shoes, and he carries an old style microphone on a stand. He stops, looks around him, scratches his head, and then briskly walks up to the others.)

Coyote: Hello, friends, I'm from the Government -- the highly regarded Bureau of American Ethnology of the Smithsonian Institution, to be precise -- and I'm here to help you. I'll assist you in the preservation of your culture. Does anyone know any stories?

(YOUNGER SISTER stands up, walks to the microphone, and speaks into it. The others crowd around her and listen.)

Younger Sister: I am Gwisgwashan. I am the keeper of stories. This is what we know. A long time ago, is it said, there was Daldal, his house, it was, by the sea he was dwelling.

(One by one, ELDER BROTHER, YOUNGER BROTHER, ELDER SISTER and WATCHERS 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 begin reciting episodes of the story, each beginning their narration one sentence after the one previous, until everyone is speaking at the same time. COYOTE tries to follow along, running back and forth with his microphone. ELDER BROTHER, YOUNGER BROTHER, ELDER SISTER and WATCHERS 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 exit one by one, still reciting their episodes. With everyone speaking at once, COYOTE gets confused and frustrated, and finally exits.)

Younger Brother: People with bodies all cut through, with limbs all lopped off, people they came floating down river. He got tired of it, it is said. "Whence come they? How there is doing? Whence come they people with bodies cut through? Whence come they?" So in appearance they came with bodies all cut through. "Whence come they?"

Watcher 2: Now again they arose and continued traveling. Now what they heard it, "Tut tut tut tut tut." "Ah, Daldal big-nosed!" On top of the house he went. Now he looked down. Old women, two eyes without, blind, seeds they pounded them. Now, it is said, Daldal his younger brother, he stole it, their food, old women he stole it from on top of the house.

Watcher 3: Now Coyote, salmon spear he snatched it up. "In the water salmon I'll catch them," he said. Mice just he caught them. Again he threw it forth into water, gophers just he caught them. "Eeeee!" Rabbits just he caught them. "You not salmon you will catch them," he was told. "In the earth you will hunt for them, gophers, mice, rabbits," Daldal said, it is said.

Watcher 4: Then, it is said, how long it became. "Well, I'll go." He made ready to go. Then he went, upriver he went. Not yet that he knew it where from that they came, people with bodies all cut through, not he knew it. "What for people with bodies all cut through? Whence come they? he said, it is said. Then he went. River he traveled up along it.

Elder Sister: Then they went, upriver they went. Then, it is said, a lark he shot at it, just its nose, he pierced, "My nephew, I am glad of it you pierced my nose." Arrow way up he shot it, it returned down. Coming to a standstill he did, his younger brother. "My younger brother," he said, it is said. Now two they became, he and his younger brother.

Watcher 5: I do not know who told him, "People they are annihilated at Ti'lomikh, they are always cut through. Now then, it is said, he and his younger brother, that they did. These firs they wrestled with them, oaks with black acorns they wrestled with them, oaks with white acorns they wrestled with them, many things they wrestled with them. Then strong they became.

Watcher 1: Then they continued traveling. Now house they found it. Woman, "Warm your back! Warm your back! Warm your back!" she said. "Daldal, big-nosed, putting on style become! I'll warm my back." Now he went to lie down. "Warm your back!" Into the fire she pushed him. "Keep away. I feel hot." Now fire it had blistered his back.

Elder Brother: "Oh yes, my grandmothers, eyes without they seem to be." Then he went inside. Then in their eyes he placed a stick, point foremost. "Now having eyes I have made you," Daldal said, it is said. Then, it is said, how long it became. "Well, I'll go. Whence come they people with bodies all cut through, well, there I'll go," he said, it is said.

Younger Sister: Then, it is said, they continued traveling, they went. Then, it is said, there they arrived, they accompanied each other, now his elder brother ahead he did. Now his elder brother he whistled to him. Now his elder brother he shrunk, the younger just long he became. Now these there they stand, mountains they became.

(YOUNGER SISTER is alone on stage. She walks downstage and speaks to the audience.)

Younger Sister: Thus this far have we finished it, just there to the ribs of the animal, going so far, I, for my part, I know it. I am Gwisgwashan. I am the keeper of stories.


* * * * *

Act 5, Scene 1

(WATCHER 1 enters. In the forest along the river, it is just before daybreak. Upstage, there is a sunrise wash of red and peach and orange, mixed with blue. Everywhere else, shadows speckle the woods. Near the charred ruins of the plank house, there is the silhouette of WATCHER 1. She picks up a mask. She begins to sing.)

Watcher 1 (singing): Wa-ya-we-ne lo-wa-na.
Wa-ya-we-ne lo-wa-na.
Wa-ya-we-ne lo-wa-na.

Who creeps there about the shadows?
Who creeps there about the shadows?
Who creeps there about the shadows?

Wa-ya-we-ne lo-wa-na.
Wa-ya-we-ne lo-wa-na.
Wa-ya-we-ne lo-wa-na.

Who creeps there about the shadows?
Who creeps there about the shadows?
Who creeps there about the shadows?

(softer, slowly fading)

Watcher 1 (singing): Wa-ya-we-ne lo-wa-na.

(ELDER SISTER, YOUNGER SISTER, ELDER BROTHER, YOUNGER BROTHER and WATCHERS 2, 3, 4 and 5 enter and dance the rhythm of the song around the house. Still singing, WATCHER 1 joins the dance. They rummage through the debris, and one by one they find the hand-held masks. They hold them up into a pattern that forms a coyote face, and then they dance along the river, into the morning shadows. Holding the hand-held masks in front of their faces, and shaking the deer-hoof rattles in a walking rhythm, ELDER SISTER, YOUNGER SISTER, ELDER BROTHER, YOUNGER BROTHER and WATCHERS 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 exit.)

* * * * *

Act 5, Scene 2

(COYOTE enters as an old man, wearing a mask and blanket, and carrying a walking stick. He pauses and gazes for a moment at the burned-out house, then walks downstage. COYOTE steps into a splash of light at the lip of the stage and speaks directly to the audience. As COYOTE speaks his poem, ELDER SISTER, YOUNGER SISTER, ELDER BROTHER, YOUNGER BROTHER and WATCHERS 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 enter and stand in various places around the stage. They are in black and unmasked.)

Coyote: Shadow, come home.
The sun is nearly here.
Come over the mountains,
come home through the valleys,
come home through the morning mist.
Cross over the rivers and creeks.
Come spend the day with me.
I want to....

(he glances to the others)

Coyote: We want to live a long time.
Shadow, come home.

(COYOTE walks upstage, stops and turns back to the audience, gazes beyond them into the darkness, and exits. Lights come up in a semblance of a sunrise. For a few seconds, sunrise colors splash through the woods and along the river. Blackout. COYOTE enters unmasked and joins the others for a curtain call. Blackout.)

-- The End --