Celebrating Indigenous pride and culture through theatre

Kamloopa highlights oppression while showing that healing can happen through laughter

Kaitlyn Kott, Samantha Brown and Yolanda Bonnell. (Mariella Avila/The Omega)

“Our culture is out there, let’s go find it!”

This phrase encapsulates perfectly the journey you will embark upon when you watch Kamloopa. Expect only the best from this super dynamic, energy-filled play about two Indigenous women in a quest to be “real Indians,” as they say.

After all, Kamloops holds the biggest Powwow west of the Rockies. Despite this evoking synopsis, Kamloopa is not an entirely happy story. It highlights the deep oppression that an entire culture suffered and how it continues to affect Indigenous people everywhere. Through her fantastic storytelling, Kim Senklip, the writer and director, explains how in spite of the colonial systemic abuse, healing can still happen through laughter.

This theatrical production follows the story of two young and vibrant sisters of Indigenous descent, both trying to rediscover themselves. They attempt to reconcile the strong heritage that defines them with the North American culture in which they live.

Kilawna (Samantha Brown), the eldest, is a sarcastic yet caring young woman trying to fit into Canadian society as best as she can. However, her younger sister Mikaya (Kaitlyn Yott) is less interested in adapting and more focused in discovering what it means to be Indigenous. When an eccentric, outrageous and hilarious character; played by Yolanda Bonnel, abruptly enters their lives, the sisters will find themselves in the thought-evoking, quest of recovering their heritage.

The characters in this play will engage you, heart and soul. The talented actresses of Kamloopa, give life to a powerful script that touches essential subject matter and still manages to pack heavy comedy. The women in this play will have you laughing off your seat and reaching for the tissues in a matter of minutes.

When you ask yourself during the play “how come I haven’t seen them before?” That’s because there is a substantial lack of representation of this rich and mesmerizing culture in the media. Not enough stories are shared that celebrate the joy and pride of Indigenous women. Hopefully, plays like Kamloopa will be an important factor in changing this unfortunate truth.

Throughout the play, you can see the complex emotions that the characters have to deal with in regards to their cultural identity. They are women that are constantly fighting to rescue their heritage in a country that has forgotten the many cultural practices that are of vital importance to all North American First Nations.

By the end of the show, the entire audience was visibly moved. The resolution of the play left many in tears. Kim Senklip did a memorable job reclaiming what Indigenous theatre is. Bringing Indigenous matriarchy to the spotlight as she did was both emotional and empowering. It is a story that has the characteristic of being unique in essence and theme. Ultimately, Kamloopa is a remarkable play for anyone ready for a daring, political and feminist performance that explores race and culture.