“Little Red Warrior”: Satirical Vancouver play talks Indigenous land claims

Mar 3 2022, 7:59 pm

No one gets out of this story unscathed, says award-winning writer and director, Kevin Loring.

Debuting Friday, March 4 at Vancouver’s York Theatre, Little Red Warrior and His Lawyer tells a viciously funny trickster story about Indigenous land claims.

Loring, from the Nlaka’pamux Nation, is a Governor General’s Award-winning playwright. He describes Little Red Warrior as a satire about power, politics, and procreation.

The story follows the last remaining member of the Little Red Warrior First Nation, who discovers construction has begun on his ancestral lands. 

“In a fit of rage, he attacks an engineer, gets arrested, thrown in jail, and assigned a court-appointed lawyer, Larry,” reads the description of the play online.

“Much to the dismay of his wife, Larry invites a displaced Little Red Warrior to stay with them. But when you invite a coyote into your coop, he might just walk away with your chickens.”

When writing, Loring says he wanted to tell a story about land claims “from the perspective of snk̓ y̓ép, Coyote, our sacred profane Trickster, as told in the Nlaka’pamux Story Traditions.”

Loring says he started writing the play over 20 years ago in theatre school at Langara College.

“Part of the program is you do a solo show you have to write and produce and act in yourself, and also there’s a playwriting class, and so my solo show turned into a play called Where the Blood Mixes, which won the Governor General’s Award in 2009,” he says.

“This show, Little Red Warrior and His Lawyer, was actually produced at Studio 58 [at Langara] in 2000 as part of the ‘Foreplay’ series, which is an emerging playwrights’ lab where they presented new plays. This was one of them.” 

Over the last 20 years, other projects took up more bandwidth, and he never got around to staging it until now. 

A few years back at the Talking Stick Festival, he got a great response to Little Red Warrior and decided to finish it and bring it back to the stage. 

Interestingly, he finds the play even more relevant now than it was two decades ago.

“The issues I was writing about 20 years ago are still very present today and have in fact become much more part of public conversation in terms of land claims and Indigenous rights issues,” he says. 

“When I was writing it 20 years ago, it was very uncommon to encounter Canadians who had any understanding of what that reality was like for First Nations people.”

Trickster stories are very common in Nlaka’pamux culture, and they tell some of the most important and moving creation myths, so Loring naturally felt compelled to use them to tell a satirical story about land claims.

“In the play, I’m really taking the piss out of everything,” he says. 

“Because these issues are pretty heavy, people’s eyes kind of glaze over when you talk about Native rights. I just really wanted to have some fun with the idea, play with it, turn it upside-down and inside-out, and to try to provoke thought and discussion around the issues in a much more subversive way.”

He also wants to examine the foundational relationship between Indigenous people and this land and the dynamic between Indigenous people and colonial entities.

And he wants to make you laugh.

“It’s a lot of fun and nobody gets out unscathed,” he says.

Opening night is March 4, but more performances will be available throughout the spring.

Aly LaubeAly Laube

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