Fond du Lac Follies: Shinoob Jep


That sure is some bad news about the earthquake in Haiti. One thought keeps nagging me. When the US sent aid, they sent US Army and US Marine troops. The troops were carrying rifles instead of shovels.


We did the play Shinnob Jep, according to casino management they had 1250 tickets out. I don’t know how many ticket holders actually showed up. The first time I tried counting I lost track at 679, the second time was around 757, I asked the actors from the Northrup Road Players if they had counted, in unison they said “Nah”. I quit counting and went back to thinking about doing the best we could with Shinnob Jep.

We had rehearsed for ten straight days and we knew our lines. We practiced saying the lines in different ways. We rehearsed twice on the day of the performance.

Being good actors we checked our props, everything was ready. I gave a copy of the script so the lights and sound people could follow along. We were each fitted with mobile microphones. We did a sound check and it was good.

The Cedar Creek singers were ready, drum sticks poised, their song would open the play. The actors were in their places. My place was along the wall, in the audience. I wanted to walk through the audience greeting my relatives and friends, and say just a general “Hi, how are ya ” to the ones I didn’t know.

While I was waiting, twenty minutes before I started walking up on the stage, Rocky, he of casino management, asked me if I would change the script. He asked if I could remove the swear word in the play. I told him I gave them the script two years ago and they could have objected to the use of a swear word. But not 20 minutes before I was to start. I said no. I based my answer on artistic freedom and freedom of speech as stated in the Indian Civil Rights Act (1968).

Rocky asked me to think of the children in the audience. I told him some of them were my grandchildren, I further thought this was an Indian casino evening show, we weren’t doing an after-school special or Sunday school. I told him I wouldn’t change the script. Oddly, he didn’t object to the use of the word Wiinag as a character’s name in the script or Boogids wild rice tools in the commercials.

I walked up on stage and began the play. Like any game show host I had to have a lovely assistant. I chose Paniikwe to come help, she marked off the questions on the flip chart and kept track of the winnings. She also was the judge on the powwow questions.

As I looked at the audience I thought it was an equal mix of Chimookomaan and Anishinaabe.

As we came to the offending line, my son Matthew heard them click his microphone off, he said he just spoke louder, much louder. If they had read the script a little deeper they would have seen where I repeat his answer. They didn’t turn my microphone off but I still hate censorship.
The audience liked my show, I heard much laughter. When people are laughing they are not thinking about the Iraq, Afghan, Pakistan War, not thinking about the expected layoff at work, the rising cost of gasoline. They are just laughing. As I waited for the laughter to die down I was thinking…was it something I said? I sure hope so.

The play went on all the way to the end. We bowed and accepted the applause. Then the lights went out and it was over. The Cedar Creek singers sang a traveling song.

As I walked off the stage I was thinking of that famous show business quote, “You’ll never work in this town again.”

As we sat in the casino we talked about the play. Some people walking by said they found it interesting and educational. One other person said we were funny. One old lady, I think she was from Mille Lacs, said she had to tell her friends what Wiinag meant. We basked in the adoration. Those praises made up for all of the hours we spent rehearsing.

For those who missed Shinnob Jep at the Black Bear Casino, not to worry. We are doing it in Sawyer at the Storytelling, Feast, Silent Auction at the Community Center. The event will run from 4 pm until 10 pm, maybe later. It will happen on February 20th.

Everyone is invited to the next performance of Shinnob Jep.

****Question of the Month.
Q. What do you call an Indian with a college degree?
A. Unemployed.
**** Mii iw.