Tuesday, 27 December 2011

jo's journeys

18: persuaded norman boulet of portage la prairie that life was not complete until he had seen the ocean. once he was duly amazed by the tides, we decided to go check out the great lakes, and visit my ma. once there, we separated, and both went back to school.

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19: summer studies at University of Windsor (geology + yoga)

20: persuaded nick zenthoefer that life was not complete until i had seen the other ocean: he was game. he sold a painting for our start-up money. once we were duly amazed by the swift chocolate milk tides of the bay of fundy, we carried on to the coast, where we ran out of money. his parents sent us some cash, and we carried on inland again to portage la prairie, where we worked at the husky truck stop for a month, and stayed with my dad. carried on from there to the pacific again-- there's a lot of time in a summer, if you keep to task-- took a bus back to windsor in time for school start-up.

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21: after spending the summer in vancouver, i took the bus back to windsor, but fell in with a fellow who said he was from the north, and invited me to travel there, with him. i carried on to windsor, and alas, the professors went out on strike. bill budd arrived in town, invited me again, and i closed up my house and left. this was my third and final major hitch-hiking journey.

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That was also my first and only trip that ended in violence, and a stay at the Edmonton Women's Shelter.

One thing that I did a lot of, besides waiting alongside the roads, was sing. I decided to post this song, and was a bit startled by one of the images: decided to share it anyway, with this caution.

Wishing all a safe journey, and a long and fruitful life.

Friday, 23 December 2011

scrooge + the ecology of publishing

there are a lot of unhappy people who have shared information about the books put out by these Germany-based publishers. Sling together a waft of Wikipedia pages, incoherently associated with one another, and voila: sell the cut & paste for top dollar, and flood the market with the words of writers who shared what they knew for free.


Each writer who responds to the ideals-- "information wants to be free" as Harold Rhenisch put it somewhere-- must understand that the market can be a predatory place. If poets and artists as individuals can claim "found art" under their own names, then why not have publishing houses that soak up the gifts of the web, and sell them for dollars?

Just as my blog brings together my original work 
with the work of others circulating online,
there is nothing criminal in businesses set up to feed
on the work of others distributed freely. 

But the intent is rather different: 
a widescale collaborative worldshaping activity,
versus money-making based in the questionable ethics 
of taking from all parties, and paying only the self.

Rather than feeding these moneymaking ventures, 
I suggest you support writers directly
+ the publishing houses that take pride 
in showcasing their work
including providing livelihood to the writers they support
in the real world, as well as online.


I agree that information wants to be free,
vision it along the lines of Chinese medical concepts
circulation of qi.

To illustrate the role of writers
i often use the image of the hunter, trapper, fisherfolk, loggers, miners, farmers:
writers and artists are primary producers.
Teachers, librarians, publishers, booksellers, critics,
are the secondary producers, whose livelihoods depend upon our productivity.

If you think that artists cannot help but produce, 
that taking their work as a natural fruit of the landscape
should be done without thought 
on human impact
 direct economic consequence 
for small children, elders, as well as
the craftspeople themselves
producing content
on your behalf

i encourage you to think the ecology through a bit further.

Fair trade for cultural producers:
before buying, ask yourself
who benefits?

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Repatriation of Kateri Tekahkwi:tha

collage on black, wampum chronicles
by Darren Bonaparte

Káteri Tekahkwí:tha is universally known as the “Lily of the Mohawks.”  A Mohawk elder told me that she is called this because after her death, lilies grew on her grave.  That may be so, but there is a more mundane explanation.

The fleur-de-lys, or “lily flower,” is a heraldic symbol of the French monarchy.  Four are depicted in the flag of Quebec.  The stylized lily represents the Holy Trinity and the Virgin Mary.  Associating Káteri with the lily was the French stamp of approval.

It was Father Claude who first evoked the lily metaphor when he wrote,

I have up to the present written of Katharine as a lily among thorns, but now I shall relate how God transplanted this beautiful lily and placed it in a garden full of flowers, that is to say, in the Mission of the Sault, where there have been, are, and always will be holy people renowned for virtue. 8

He was borrowing from the Song of Solomon (2:2) for his analogy: “As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters.”  By his hand, another Jesuit’s words were fulfilled as prophecy: a lily was planted on the grave of an Iroquois.

Traditional Mohawks, by default, are the thorns in this metaphor, and it’s not surprising that they don’t go anywhere near this story, having served as the contrast to Káteri’s goodness all these years.  But there are other thorns to consider.  There is the crown of thorns that Káteri chose to share when she consecrated herself to Jesus Christ.  There is the bed of thorns that hastened her demise. 

This brings me to why I believe there was something much more than a simple conversion going on with Káteri Tekahkwí:tha.

The Jesuits had to learn Mohawk.  They didn’t force us to learn French.  They borrowed names and concepts from our creation story to teach us their story.  Karonhià:ke, the Mohawk name for Sky World, became the Mohawk word for heaven in the Lord’s Prayer.  This was not just a linguistic shortcut, but a conceptual bridge from one cosmology to another.

We had something else in common: the belief that it was possible for a human female to unite with a powerful, unseen spirit, and to produce children with mystical powers from this union.  This is found not only in our creation epic, but in the story of the Peacemaker and the legend of Thunder Boy.  Hearing the story in Mohawk, Mary and her “fatherless boy” must have sounded like one of our own tales. 

Did Káteri Tekahkwí:tha see herself in that light, as an earthly woman uniting with a Sky Dweller? 

Or had she been a Sky Dweller all along?

 excerpt from a talk, which begins:
A Lily AmongThorns
The Mohawk Repatriation of KáteriTekahkwí:tha

by Darren Bonaparte

Presented at the 30th Conference on New York State History,
June 5, 2009, in Plattsburgh, New York


Blessed Káteri Tekahkwí:tha, the Lily of the Mohawks, was a Kanien’kehá:ka woman of the 17th century whose extraordinary life and reputation for holiness have made her an icon to Roman Catholics throughout the world.

She was declared venerable by Pope Pius XII in 1943, and beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1980.  In 2008, the Cause for the Canonization of Blessed Káteri Tekahkwí:tha was formally submitted to Pope Benedict XVI.  She is memorialized at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan and the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.  Throughout North America, she is depicted in statues and stained glass windows that adorn chapels named in her honor. 

A recent biographer declared that no aboriginal person’s life has been more fully documented than that of Káteri Tekahkwí:tha.  The writings of Jesuit priests who knew her personally became the basis for at least three hundred books published in more than twenty languages. 1  

Reverence of Káteri Tekahkwí:tha transcends tribal differences.  Indigenous Catholics identify with her story, and have taken her to heart.  They have made her so much their own that they depict her in their art wearing their own traditional clothing.

The only negative in all of this is that she looks less Mohawk with each new depiction, as though her cultural background is irrelevant.  The opposite is true: Káteri Tekahkwí:tha was raised with—and defined by—traditional Mohawk beliefs, and it was her understanding of them that led her to embrace a new faith, not so much as a rejection of her traditional beliefs, but as the fulfillment of them.

In recent decades, scholars like David Blanchard, K. I. Koppedreyer, Daniel Richter, Nancy Shoemaker, and Allan Greer, among others, have wrestled this subject away from the domain of more devotional writers, bringing a more critical insight into the cultural world of Káteri Tekahkwí:tha and the Rotinonhsión:ni converts of Kahnawà:ke. 

The time has come for the Rotinonhsión:ni to take it to the next step by repatriating the story of the Mohawk maiden and liberating it from the “saint among savages” theme that was attached to it so long ago. 

Visit source for full text of talk by Darren Bonaparte, including notes, and visit the shrine (source for collage)

Check out the Wampum Chronicles website for a wealth of information about Kateri Tekahkwi:tha, Bonaparte's book, the art, historical quotes, media & book reviews, & ordering information:

Monday, 19 December 2011


~happy birthday isi~

wishing you a wonderful world
+ life flourishing

((18 december technically))

art show photos by Jenn Burrows
hallowe'en portraits by Isi & his sibs

Friday, 16 December 2011

  "To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else."
  —Emily Dickinson

quote & images source, and final image from here

Monday, 12 December 2011

Strength, Struggle, Sing, Speaking True

Strength and Struggle: Perspectives From First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Peoples in Canada

© 2011
by Rachel A. Mishenene, Dr. Pamela Rose Toulouse, Joyce Atcheson, Nichola Batzel, Christi Belcourt, Chris Bose, Joseph Boyden, Gord Bruyere, Lisa Charleyboy, Cherie Dimaline, Elliott Doxtater-Wynn, Jason Eaglespeaker, Ronald Everett Green, Louise B. Halfe-Sky Dancer, Al Hunter, Lucie Idlout, Justice James Igloliorte, Xavier Kataquapit, Wab Kinew, Nadya Kwandibens, John Adrian Mcdonald, Deborah Mcgregor, Nadia Mclaren, Sharron Proulx-Turner, Darryl Sainnawap, Forrest Rain Shapwaykeesic, Justice Murray Sinclair, Niigonwedom James Sinclair, Maurice Switzer, Richard Van Camp, Richard Wagamese, Kai Zyganiuk

Strength and Struggle: Perspectives from First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Peoples in Canada is part of McGraw-Hill Ryerson’s iLit Collection of supplementary student resources for high school English courses. This title is a 149-page, soft-cover book that includes a rich array of short stories, poetry, music lyrics, graphic art, articles, essays, and other pieces that will have students laughing, crying, talking, and thinking. It is a true celebration of First Nations, Inuit and Métis writing and art. This resource is designed to be appropriate for a grade 10 or 11 reader.

Editor and poet Allison Hedge Coke assembles this multilingual collection of Indigenous American poetry, joining voices old and new in songs of witness and reclamation. 
"Many of the poems in this ambitious collection remind us why we read poetry at all—to be returned to the elemental, to relish the beauty of repetition and variation, and to hear the cries of singular voices, here marginalized because of their native culture but also because of the daring announcement of their individuality. "
— Billy Collins
in scope, Sing gathers more than eighty poets from across the Americas, covering territory that stretches from Alaska to Chile, and features familiar names like Sherwin Bitsui, Louise Erdrich, Joy Harjo, Lee Maracle, and Simon Ortiz alongside international poets—both emerging and acclaimed—from regions underrepresented in anthologies.

They write from disparate zones and parallel experience, from lands of mounded earthwork long-since paved, from lands of ancient ball courts and the first great cities on the continents, from places of cold, from places of volcanic loam, from zones of erased history and ongoing armed conflict, where “postcolonial” is not an academic concept but a lived reality. As befits a volume of such geographical inclusivity, many poems here appear in multiple languages, translated by fellow poets and writers like Juan Felipe Herrera and Cristina Eisenberg.

Hedge Coke’s thematic organization of the poems gives them an added resonance and continuity, and readers will appreciate the story of the genesis of this project related in Hedge Coke’s deeply felt introduction, which details her experiences as an invited performer at several international poetry festivals. Sing is a journey compelled by the exploration of kinship and the desire for songs that open “pathways of return.”


W'daub Awae: Speaking True
By Author/edited by: Warren Cariou

A Kegedonce Anthology brings together some of Canada's strongest and best loved voices on the aboriginal writing scene.  It includes new writing by: Gregory Scofield, Richard Van Camp, Marilyn Dumont, Al Hunter, Joanne Arnott, Daniel Heath Justice and all your other favourite Kegedonce Press authors. Introduced and edited by the well-respected Warren Cariou, this anthology will become a classic in no time.

This anthology is a celebration of those extraordinary successes that Kegedonce has had since 1993, and of the pivotal role it has played in the recent history of Canada's Aboriginal literature. But for me, W'daub Awae is equally a pointer toward the future, a sign of the incredible diversity and vividness and powerful language that we can look forward to from Kegedonce in the years to come. Each piece represented here is only one small part of the extraordinary work that all of these writers will continue to produce in the future. (excerpt from Warren Cariou's intro to the collection)

Poetry, fiction, nonfiction together
from the source: Kegedonce Press

Thanks to Al Hunter for providing the links to the first two anthologies featured above.

Honouring Chief Theresa Spence

I have been looking for footage of that moment, when Stephen Harper responded to questions in the House about the state of emergency in Attawapiskat: his body language, how he turned, the words he chose. These are precisely the same moves that so disturbed me during the election, his apparently rather effective divide and conquer strategy: responding to questions about the current outcomes of complex longstanding inequities by unabashedly turning and blaming the victims of those inequities. This time, he made the value-added move of punishing the whistleblowers.

There is a certain sort of Canadian who simply laps this up: feed us racism, guide us with self-serving over-simplification, reality is too complex and it makes our heads hurt. We would much rather eat Stephen Harper's garbage, and drink the poisons he brews, than visit our neighbours, listen to our cousins, learn a bit of history, inform ourselves a bit about the mechanics of state... and thus overcome the systemic ignorance imposed by far too many years of a distorted/distorting vision of O Canada.

"Perhaps you have heard the story of how Rosa Parks helped start the civil rights movement. Well, we are the children who have been riding at the back of the school bus our whole lives. And we don't want to stay there any more." 
 ~ Source:

read more:


While the Prime Minister may be too savvy to attack the schoolchildren directly, knowing his chances of deluding the bleeding hearts of the world and the nation are less likely to gain even a modicum of the groundswell of support he needs to continue his regime, he has no such compunction in relation to their elders, the adults of the Attawapiskat First Nation. Or any other First Nation, for that matter.

Apparently his concern for transparency does not extend to the colonialist structures hamstringing First Nations, and his protective impulse toward whistle-blowers was not intended to succour the women, children, or men of Attawapiskat First Nation. His vision of leadership is not to leave a lasting improvement in the lives of all Canadians, but to continue to repress some communities so that other communities (and multinational corporations) can enjoy their wealth, and the fictions that support those ill-gotten gains. He will not ask all Canadians the real questions: how do we feel about the racist elements of our country? do we want to change? 

Failed colonial policies plague First Nations to this day and are the biggest obstacle to progress, National Chief Shawn Atleo said Tuesday as he called for a "reset" of their relationship with the federal government.

"We must move beyond the Indian Act and we must affirm our Crown-First Nation relationship," he said during a speech on the first day of the Special Chiefs Assembly in Ottawa. "This 19th-century relic continues to hold us back in delivering better lives for our peoples." 
~   Source: Huffington Post/CBC

As is generally the case, we will have to lead our governments, and not follow them. Not blame one another for the systemic ignorance, but simply continue to communicate the several sides of history and reality to one another, and continue building solidarity and cohesion in spite of Stephen Harper and his spiritual kin. 

context: deflecting censure from FedGov + DeBeers 


dealing with comments about attawapiskat
As the person on the ground, the elected leader, Chief Theresa Spence has come under personal attack by many in the media, and this was, I humbly suggest, Stephen Harper's intent. Effective diversion, creating noise and confusion to dissipate the very direct and palpable truths confronting him, that for whatever reasons, he chooses not to respond to in a human-to-human way.

I further suggest that the leadership that the voices of Attawapiskat First Nation women, children, and men have been providing, whistle-blowers on behalf of the entire country, have the resonance of truth that is both direct and intuitive, and will stand under scrutiny far better than the ill-intended approach of the current Prime Minister.  

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Mothers in Community

2007 AMCS Benefit

Back in 1995, I had a book of essays & nonfiction stories published, and the fall-out was so extreme, I didn't attempt to write or publish another nonfiction piece for a full ten years. Of course, I didn't notice that i was not writing essays and stories, only flinched away from the prospect, without any awareness that i was doing so, in a systemic way. This allowed me to not notice the pain that was associated with the fall-out: preserving the peace, as it were.

In 2005, a younger writer approached me to write something for a book of essays by and about mother writers, a collection that she would be co-editing with two other literary writer mums. She re-invited me a few times, often enough that I finally began to take the possibility of my participating in the project seriously. (Oh, you mean me?) Writing the essay took a few months, and was quite a joy to do: it turns out that I had a whole lot to say on this topic! I was reminded how much I enjoyed writing nonfiction, weaving my anecdotal wealth into a larger something more

After I sent off my unwieldly draft essay for editorial comment, I came across a call for essays for an anthology, by/for/about indigenous mothers. This was a high interest area for me, and although I had a lot of work that might fit, I wanted to write to the theme, another new essay, for this audience. I wrote up my pitch and sent it off. The proposal was soon accepted, and I wrote my first draft, from a very intimate place, then sent it off to my friend Micheline for comments.  Mich came back with many interesting questions, and so the essay grew, and filled out in detail. It was soon submitted, and published in the intended collection.

One of the things that I discovered, in researching my paper-- finding out "what happened" to the various service organizations hosting Traditional Mothering or Parenting programs back in 1995-1998-- was how the funding interest had shifted, fewer and fewer organizations were providing these courses, and many of the organizations that had helped me and my family through our times of crisis, had closed their doors. I found this quite distressful. 

The following year I visited the Aboriginal Mothers Centre, on Dundas Street, inheritor of the archives of the Indian Homemakers Association, and daughter-in-spirit of the IHA.  I spoke with the Homelessness co-ordinator and some of the other staff, volunteers, and mother-participants. The feeling in the place, particularly among the staff, was very difficult: the organization as a whole was facing homelessness, and the effort was underway to develop allies in the community, and to re-organize the financial underpinnings of the organization, so that it would be longterm viable, and the goals that the mothers, volunteers, and staff were all united around, which spoke very loudly to me and to many other people, would be accomplished in our community longterm.

In a sense, this was one of my many attempts to connect with community on a non-crisis basis.  The idea that the AMCS might go the way of the IHA, and close down for lack of funding and community investment, bothered me a great deal. I cast about for fundraising possibilities, followed one project/possible thread that in the end didn't pan out. Perhaps I should say, it hasn't panned out so far: the idea is still there, and not impossible.

In 2007, i received an invitation to attend a fundraiser for the AMCS, the one pictured at the top of this post: spearheaded by Murray Porter and other local musicians, it was $150 a plate benefit, with many shining stars contributing their performances.  This was something that I could ill-afford: the organization needed big money, and I had little. 

I wondered: what can i do? Me and my wee field of influence/bag of tricks?

I'd just had an excerpt of that essay about Traditional Mothering programs accepted for publication in a literary journal, and I was very motivated to help. I had time, and internet access.

This was my brainstorm: I shaped the article excerpt into a two page flyer format, I wrote a short grumpy letter about the funding problems for urban indigenous organizations, and I e-mailed the invitation to the fundraiser, the letter-to-friends and my quick-pitch "why," to every single Member of the Legislative Assembly in British Columbia. I reminded them of the relationship between the big urban centre's support organizations and the famillies in every single region of the province. I addressed the MLAs not only as elected politicians, and thus empowered, but: as employed people. 

There is no way I can tell if my effort influenced a single person to buy a ticket to the fundraiser, to vote a little more thoughtfully in matters of budget or priorities, to think or be any different than they had been before I launched my appeal. However, it felt very positive to me: rather than allowing that desire to contribute to be frustrated by my lack of cash or political power, i found a way to express my desire in a potentially helping way. Preparing the ground, as it were, for good outcomes. Communicating: expressing my self.


Yesterday i had the big pleasure of attending the AMCS re-opening ceremony. I was deeply moved by the many individuals and communities drawn together in support of the project at hand: the powerful affirmation by many different people, in many different voices and gestures, we are putting the needs of indigenous mothers at the very centre, and drawing up around them to make a safe house of us all.

About the books:

Double Lives: Writing and Motherhood (edited by Shannon Cowan, Fiona Tinwei Lam, and Cathy Stonehouse) "In Double Lives, Marni Jackson suggests that mothers who are writers are passionately divided and more amplified than they were before they had children. She is one of 24 writers who tackle this vexed topic in this poignant and searing anthology ... The collection is intensely personal, filled with intimacies and confessions ... In Double Lives, the editors have assembled a remarkable collection." HERIZONS (from publisher's website)

“Until Our Hearts Are On the Ground” Aboriginal Mothering, Oppression, Resistance and Rebirth (edited by D. Memee Lavell-Harvard and Jeannette Corbiere Lavell): The editors of this book brought together a multitude of voices to speak on Aboriginal mothering in contemporary society. Beginning with an examination of the experience of childbirth-the initiation into motherhood-the contributing authors illustrate its potential as a source of empowerment and revitalization for our nations.  Together, these women have worked to reveal not only the connection between the longstanding historical oppression experienced by Aboriginal women and the dire contemporary circumstances of many Aboriginal communities, but also the power of Aboriginal mothers to revitalize and transform our communities. (from phD in parenting with corrected link)

AMCS has received wide community support

Friday, 9 December 2011

Empowering Aboriginal Mothers to Transform Our Lives

Photo Gallery & story, Vancouver Courier (source)

an earlier story in the VC


~ Visit the AMCS ~  

 The totem was carved and introduced by Michael Dangeli, a master carver, and his team of carvers. 
 Dan Toulget photographs, Vancouver Courier.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Manitowapow: A Preview

Book cover. Credit: The Creation of the World by Daphne Odjig (which stands in the Manitoba Museum)

Manitowapow: A Preview

My family holds reunions at the St. Peter’s church virtually every summer, just north of Selkirk and on the banks of the Red River in southern Manitoba. Growing up, I never knew why we did, nor cared really; the homemade pie was far more of a concern.

Last summer, we held races, a candy scramble, and ended in a water fight around the underground well pump – which happily gushes as it has for generations.

Just a few metres from our reunion site is Chief Peguis‘ grave. Just a few more there are headstones, with dozens of names of my relatives. On the other side remains the foundation of the old St. Peter’s Store. Not to be forgotten is the church, a powerful spiritual place that has held up well over the years.

In all this beauty, you would never know what happened here in 1907. After bribing leaders and waiting until much of the community was absent, government agents visited and held a vote for removal. You see, unscrupulous Manitoban citizens and farmers desperately wanted the fertile and rich land the Cree and Anishinaabe residents of St. Peter’s had negotiated through treaty and lived on. The vote – in which anyone who voted “yes” was promised $90 and no voting record was kept – unsurprisingly passed.

The following years were rife with violence as St. Peter’s residents were forcibly removed north, where Peguis First Nation now sits. Those who remained were harassed by police, forced to squat on their own territory, and subjected to ridicule when they entered town looking for work.

Amazingly, and regardless of this violence, my ancestors persevered. Many eventually made homes in Selkirk. Some bought back their family homelands. The Selkirk Friendship Centre became a meeting place for all of us. In fact, that’s where I first learned of the removal.

That’s because, inexplicably, I never heard about St. Peter’s in school, in town, or read about it on any monument.

Surrounded by the very land in which this happened, this history was never mentioned. I grew up surrounded by the erasure and silence created by one of the most violent and unjust acts in Manitoba’s history.

That is until every summer, when my family showed me the complexity of the story of St. Peter’s through laughter, food, and water fights. While I have never forgotten the painful parts, I remember far more the beautiful gifts they give me.

Later, as a researcher and writer, I discovered the most amazing thing of all: this story is not unique. It continues to be, however, one that few know. Like it, there are many more. Stories of relationships, resisting violence, and resilience are everywhere; our province is filled with powerful visions and experiences told through the eyes of Aboriginal peoples.

All of Manitoba should hear these stories in order to get a full understanding of all that has happened in this place; the beauty, the struggles, and everything in between.  This is what my co-editor Warren Cariou and I hoped to do while assembling the anthology Manitowapow: Aboriginal Writings from the Land of Water.
Manitowapow: Aboriginal Writings from the Land of Water is a anthology of Indigenous storytelling and writing, available Feb. 3, 2012.
For a sample piece of the anthology, click here.

Note: Manitowapow or “the narrows of the Great Spirit” is the original Saulteaux and Cree name for the lands and waters in and around what is now known as Manitoba. This name honours the sacred sounds when waves hit the loose surface rocks on the north shore in the narrows of Lake Manitoba – sounds that traditional peoples believed came from the drum beats by Gichi Manitou (The Great Spirit).


 CBC Manitoba Scene: 
Listen to Niigaanwewidam read from one of his writings from Manitowapow.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

prairie & coast: Errol Kinistino, Cathy Wheaton, Larry Nicholson

Erroll Kinistino contemplates the natural beauty in the prairie landscape through his words and where his surrounding evoke memories of the past of this place
Sagebrush (source)

Nipaw is a short film that depicts a surreal relationship with the prairie landscape through song. We observe Chimiskwew as she heeds the wind's lullaby, inviting her to journey to the hills in the distance. Chimiskwew succumbs to the wind's potent chant as his song sweeps through the grass and carries her to where he was born.
Nipaw is the first collaborative multi-media project by Erroll Kinistino and Cathy Wheaton (the same creative team brought us Sagebrush).
Credits: Photography by Erroll Kinistino
Cathy Wheaton plays Chimiskwew
Music composed and sung by Erroll Kinistino Erroll Kinistino on Sugar Bowl Drum
Editing by Cathy Wheaton
Co-producers Erroll Kinistino and Cathy Wheaton
Film location: Claybank National Historic Park 2007

Nipaw (source)
More from Chimiskwew's Channel (First Languages Speaking Project)

The Distance
Words and music by Larry Nicholson
Guitar and vocal: Larry Nicholson
Guitar: Brett Richards
Recorded by: Jean Ardilla @ Co-op Radio Vancouver BC
© 2010 Champsteen Publishing
More from Champsteen's Channel (source)

For poetry, song, poetics & aesthetics, visit Larry Nicholson's blog:
Bottom Lines & Wet Noodles

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Beth Brant: Writing As Witness (Part One)

One of my early teachers and a person who had a profound effect on my life
Beth Brant, portrait by Robert Girard (1990)


When i was a young mum, mother of one, i gathered up my wits and made an application to spend a bit of time among the women, at Westword Summer Writing School for Women. Of all the women teaching that year, the person i most needed to meet was Beth Brant, who was teaching fiction: as a poet, i had to dig far and deep through my sheaves of writing, to come up with enough fiction-like material to complete the application. That is one of my strongest memories: sitting with the application package and the pile of hand-written pages, trying to make a persuasive submission. I was living in the downtown eastside of Vancouver, at the Four Sisters Housing Co-op.

I remember the sun coming in through the window-- we'd just moved from the renovated warehouse to the hi-rise, and i was basking in sunlight, the view of the garden below, life's possibilities. I cannot begin to express what a traumatized person i was, but, this was a hopeful moment, a positive direction. My son was in daycare, i remember, and i was just beginning to grapple with the meaning of sending him out, into a wider world. One evening at supper, he had a very pleased look on his face. He waited til we were all seated, his papa, his mama, food on our plates and beginning the meal. "So, dad," he began. "You and me are better than her, right?"

His dad looked at me, deeply shocked. I felt a flush of rage, shame, sorrow. "You handle this," was all i could come up with, and he did.

I had decided to continue my self-education, by reading all of the books by indigenous authors i could find in the library. I began, as many do, with Maria Campbell, Halfbreed, which disturbed me to such a degree that i threw it across the room. I moved from reno to hi-rise, returned to the library: The Jailing of Cecelia Capture, by Janet Campbell Hale, and Winter in the Blood, by James Welch, had me reeling with an excellent one-two punch. There were others, by Louise Ehrdich, Michael Dorris, Chief Dan George, Pauline Johnson, but these were the first.

My first compensating move was to locate a psychiatrist who, in our single meeting, accused me of being a tourist-- not truly a person with problems to solve, just there because i wanted to see what a psychiatrist looked like. She told me to go home and meditate. I went home, began a meditation, and was quickly overwhelmed by the flashbacks of violence, leapt away from the very dangerous position of sitting quietly, alone, with my eyes closed. Who can defend me from the predations of the past, the attacks from within?

Attending the writing summer school, away from the solitude of my flashbacks and the challenges of my ordinary life, was step two.

I'm not sure if i'd ever heard of Beth Brant, before reading the application package. I'm not sure if i'd read any of her works at that point. What was important to me was, she looked like a kind woman. She was a lesbian, and at that point five of my close family members were lesbian, and thus, most of my extended social group were lesbian women, reading discussing and recommending lesbian authors, and the most important bit of writing i'd read, to date, was a slim chapbook containing an early draft of Audre Lorde's essay-talk, Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power.

It was not important to me that Beth was a fiction writer. It was important to me that she was Mohawk. What was really, really important to me, what made her an essential resource for me in that period, was that she was a mum, she was a teacher who might soon be made available to me, and she was a mixed-blood writer.

[end of part one]

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Randy Fred, Theytus Celebrations & More

Accompanied by Penticton Indian Band Chief Jonathan Kruger and Sarah Dickie, Randy Fred receives a hand-made blanket for his contribution to Aboriginal literature/Q&Q
 Congratulations to Theytus and thanks to all 
who have assisted in the flourishing!
Theytus was founded by Randy Fred in Nanaimo, B.C., in 1980, the same year Winnipeg’s Pemmican Publications debuted. Fred sold the company a few years later to the Okanagan Indian Education Resources Society and the Nicola Valley Indian Administration in Penticton.
“In the early 1980s, aboriginal communications was just coming into its own,” Fred recalls. “I always had this desire to … educate general society about aboriginal matters. The buzzword in those days was ‘cross-cultural understanding.’”

Fred adds that the most significant barriers he encountered at the time were the intolerant and exclusive attitudes of government agencies toward an aboriginal man.

“At times, I was being looked at as an inferior person,” he says. “One of the purposes of Theytus in the beginning was to break down those racial barriers. Canada’s not blatantly racist, but the subtleties in racism make life quite difficult at times.… Having attended an Indian residential school for nine years and made to feel ashamed for being Indian, I was trying to battle out of that cultural sphere.”
To read the full article: Quill & Quire article (source)
Q&Q slideshow (image source) Photo courtesy of Theytus
Visit Theytus Press online

Randy Fred more recently launched a print and online arts magazine, FACE-Siem: first issue is online, with a second edition expected in June 2012.

Kogawa House Sunday Salon with Shirley Bear
December 4th — Shirley Bear
2pm – 4pm
Shirley Bear returns to Vancouver to read from her 2006 collection Virgin Bones – Belayak Kcikug’nas’ikn’ug at Kogawa House. A visual artist, writer, and activist, she was honored last week at Rideau Hall with the Order of Canada.

Place: 1450 West 64th Avenue, east of Granville St., Vancouver BC Canada
To reserve a seat, email kogawahouse (at) yahoo (dot) ca

En'owkin Update: