The Woman makes a pile on the ground using red earth from the grave. She tells a story to the audience in the way it was told to her long ago. The Woman warns the audience that the story is complicated—she may get some things wrong but she is going to do her best. The pile of earth, she says, is the land, which is the spirit and the core of everything. She makes a circle around the pile—this circle, she says, represents culture, family, tradition, and song and dance. The story, the Woman warns, is about to get more complicated.
The Woman attempts to explain her people’s history and traditions using the red earth that covers the stage as a visual aid. The red earth functions as a visual metaphor—a stand-in for the lands, cultures, and traditions which have been taken from First Nations people since the arrival of white colonists in 1788.
The Woman makes eight smaller piles around the central pile. Because her people have been told they must marry within their “own skin,” marriage becomes complicated. She cannot marry from her own pile of brothers and sisters, but she can marry from another pile of cousins. The woman admits that her logic is growing complicated and she continues working to explain whom she can and cannot marry within her people’s matrilineal society—but she ends up confusing even herself at times.
The Woman shows how complex systems of family, solidarity, and relationships have been devastated by colonialism. Not only are there far fewer First Nations people due to the ravages of colonialism, but people like the Woman can barely even understand their own history and traditions.
At last, the Woman gathers up the smaller piles and puts them on the white border of the black performance area. She asks the audience to imagine what happens when the children are “taken away from this.” She dashes the remaining large pile of red earth, destroying it.
The Woman uses a violent scattering of red earth to demonstrate what happens to indigenous communities over time as a result of colonization, assimilation, structural inequality, and the willful numbness required to cope with colonialist violence. The breakdown of a common history, set of rules, and a family lineage are all consequences of colonization.