Thursday, 16 August 2012

Salt Baby... A Review

It was all over Facebook. Salt Baby! Salt Baby! Come and see Salt Baby!

I tend to ignore things that are popular on Facebook, but the title of the play intrigued me. I had never heard the term Salt Baby and so I decided to read the tag line. It read as follows:
What's it like to grow up as a contemporary First Nations person who doesn't look like a typical Indian?
I was immediately hooked. I grabbed my friend Sara, who also wrote a blog about the play which you can read here, and we decided at the last minute to see Salt Baby. Written by a young playwright by the name of Falen Johnson, this play explores the problems that an Indian girl from Six Nations runs into as she tries to find her place in the big "city." She questions what it means to be "Native" and whether she should just abandon her cultural roots and go completely white, or whether she should move back to the rez and do what is expected of her. When she enters into a relationship with a non-native, Salt Baby finds herself more confused about her identity than ever. Not only was this play easy to relate to, but it also serves to make the audience think critically about why society puts so much pressure on people to identify as one thing or another.

With a touch of drama, other-worldly psychic realms, and just enough humour to keep you thoroughly entertained, Salt Baby was a success. I have to admit, it started off kind of slow, but by the end I couldn't get enough. The topic that I found hit closest to home, was that we young native girls feel a lot of pressure to be with a native guy and to have native babies. It's all about keeping the native blood lines strong. Even though my parents haven't come out and explicitly said, "You must marry a native man" the pressure is there somehow, hovering over you. It's hard to explain, but I know it's there. In a way, I feel like I've shut myself off from all possible non-native suitors. I have strictly dated native men and I personally feel like I have compromised my self-respect and integrity in the process. At points I was trying so hard to find a native guy, any native guy, that I dated some pretty sketchy characters. It was a learning experience and a mistake that I will never make again, but the pressure is so strong and the resources so limited that it can have the effect of making a girl quite desperate. You see, I myself am only half native. While growing up on a reservation I do not feel half white, I know that if I have children with a white guy, my kids will only be a quarter native and to them I would be doing a disservice because being native is being awesome.

It must seem strange to you, if you are reading this blog post and you had no idea that Canada even had reserves, or that Native American people are not in fact extinct, but that we are much alive and practicing our traditional customs. That was another important issue that Johnson brought up in Salt Baby. The issue of cross-cultural misunderstanding. There is a lack of communication between our cultures. We know so much about Canadian and American culture, and even though we are a huge portion of the population within Canada, you know so little about ours (thanks a lot, Media). Sometimes I feel like an outsider, both within my community and without. Outside of my community, my non-native friends can't fathom what it's like to have grown up on a reservation, or simply don't understand that it's inappropriate to call me Pocahontas, or say "HOW" when they greet me. It's actually kind of infuriating, and this type of frustration was displayed throughout Salt Baby. Within my community, my people don't seem to understand why I want to be friends with white people. They are all under the mindset that we need to stick together and you should only have friends who look, think, and act like they do. So personally I feel like I'm walking a fine line. I want to be true to my people, but at the same time I know that the world is a big place and to just be one way would be wrong.

It's a constant daily compromise. One day I find myself relating more with my friends from University, and the next day I flip flop and feel like they just don't get me and they never will. Ultimately the message that I got from Salt Baby was to just do what makes you happy. If you are happy then you will make the people around you happy and you will make the world a better place. This blog has been kind of rushed as my family is waiting for me to go to a dinner party, so I may come back and make more changes, but I hope you enjoyed reading this. Please share your experiences with me. Do you have any of the same feelings? If so let me know so I don't feel like such an outsider.

Thanks for reading and have a great day,

- ctj


  1. I am intrigued as always by these topics. I'm battling myself with this regarding Gracie's future. I want her to be proud and knowledgeable about our culture however, I know that if I don't give her the proper education at home, she won't get it here (on reserve).
    I want to send her to a school off reserve, more preferably a montessori school. I don't want her to be made fun of or judged for doing things that aren't of the norm around here, such as her starting her piano lessons or girl scouts or what have you. If you don't play lacrosse or hockey, it seems as if you are an "outsider" but if you leave the reserve for school or sports then you are considered "too good" .. it's a vicious cycle within our people.

    1. I agree. I would just say do what you think is in her best interest. I started piano lessons in kindergarten, and none of my friends were doing it. I've done piano all my life and I am grateful that my parents put me in lessons because I have an impeccable sense of rhythm, melody, and I can understand things in music that the average "non-musician" doesn't pick up on. As long as you raise her right, the other kids who may judge her or make fun of her for being "different" (for lack of a better word) won't even bother her. She'll be too strong to care what they think and she will know better. Best of luck and I know you and Grace will be just fine.

  2. I'm finally about to see this play and cannot wait. I so relate to your last paragraph about relating to one group apart from Native culture one day and then not the next. I like the moral of this play to "be happy" because at the end of the day, that's really all we got :).

    1. Hello Lisa,

      Thanks so much for reading my blog and commenting on this post. I hope you enjoy Salt Baby!