Kevin Loring Interview

By Alexander Varty at Georgia Straight


In an oral culture, tales handed down from time immemorial are more than just myths and legends: they’re also maps for living.

“Traditional stories contain our laws and our moralities,” explains N’lakap’amux actor and playwright Kevin Loring, on the line from the Fraser Canyon community of Lytton. “They’re all parables, right?”

Uncovering the truths embedded in those parables is part of the mandate of his Savage Society theatre company’s Songs of the Land project, which looks at First Nations language and culture through the prism of the wax-cylinder recordings made by ethnologist James Alexander Teit almost exactly a century ago. And it was during one of those sessions that Loring first heard the story that has since become the centrepiece of Savage Society’s new production, Battle of the Birds.

It wasn’t on the Teit recordings, but listening to those artifacts led N’lakap’amux elder Jimmy Toodlican to recall the tale, as it was told to him by his own forebears.

“That was pretty remarkable,” Loring says, pointing out that some researchers consider “The Battle of the Birds” to be one of the four core narratives of the Interior Salish.

“It deals with power abuse and domestic violence and how the community deals with that—at least traditionally,” he explains. “And it’s set in the Bird Nation, in this mythical time, this legendary time, when animals were like people. And so in the Bird Nation, Eagle is hosting a slahal game, a gambling game which is also known as the bone game. He’s being really abusive to his wife in front of everybody, and so Golden Eagle gets all the other birds together to rescue Eagle’s wife, and they steal her away to Golden Eagle’s house.”

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