Tuesday, 28 June 2011

xxx ndn ~ aboriginal writers collective of manitoba

Winnipeg Launch

Kate Vermette introduces the collection ~ Rosanna Deerchild interviews Duncan Mercredi

Marie Annharte Baker

Edited by Katherena Vermette

Duncan Mercredi and more here (photo source) 
Marie Annharte Baker and more here (photo source)
Jordan Wheeler
Rosanna Deerchild
Trevor Greyeyes
Elizabeth Denny
Maeengan Linklater: Maeengan's Wolf Den 
Shayla Elizabeth

... performing tonight!

xxx ndn: love & lust in ndn country
 & between the red covers, many more!

"The inspiration behind xxx ndn comes from a recent but powerful tradition in contemporary Canadian Indigenous Literature where authors have taken sexuality to task and reclaimed their sovereign right to get their freak on.

"Traditionally we are a bawdy people, our oral stories are full of the expressions of lovemaking, and all that is funny and beautiful about it. These ideas, like much of our culture, are now being emancipated.

"And political action has never be so much fun!"
~ editor, Katherena Vermette, CBC Manitoba

This is a wholly enjoyable collection of writings, exploring the range of love & lust & libidinal relations: 
highly recommended! 

xxx ndn available through

People's Co-op Books ~ Vancouver
 Collected Works ~  Ottawa

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Signing Ceremony, NAD, FN101 & human rights

Carl Ray, "Communication"
I attended the signing of the Aboriginal Enhancement Agreement for my school district today-- BC School District #38 (Richmond). I was involved at the early stages of the four year process, but pulled out eventually.  It was good to attend the ceremony, see friends and strangers on stage, signing together: touched by the prayers, song, dancing.

Coming to agreement is an accomplishment, and I give thanks to the many who put hours, thought, and heart into the process.

I remember an observation made in "Closing the Loop-holes," the Senate Standing Committee's report on Land Claims Agreements-- that First Nations governments tended to see the agreement as like a marriage-- how shall we live together?-- while the federal and provincial governments tended to see them more like a divorce-- let's just get this over with!

I sincerely hope that this marks a ceremonial beginning to an ever-improving relationship. My thanks to all who have had a hand and voice in guiding and shaping the agreement. 

Hope your day has also been a good one!
Happy human rights, eh?

Image from here/Check it out:  National Aboriginal Day: Indian Group of Seven (daily art fix)

from radio3 CBC blog: credit which artist, please?

"First Nations 101 is an easy to read primer on First Nations issues (First Nations, Inuit, Metis, Aboriginal) which provides readers with a broad overview of the diverse and complex lives of First Nations people. It is packed with info on more than 70 subjects including veterans, youth, child welfare, urbanization, appropriate questions to ask a First Nations person, feminism, the medicine wheel, Two-spirit (LGBTQ), residential schools, the land bridge theory, language preservation, and National Aboriginal History Month. 

"Author Lynda Gray endeavours to leave readers with a better understanding of the shared history of First Nations and non-First Nations people. Ultimately she calls upon all of us - individuals, communities, and governments - to play active roles in bringing about true reconciliation between First Nations and non-First Nations people.

"Lynda is a member of the Tsimshian Nation from Lax Kw'alaams, on the northwest coast of BC. She is the proud mother of two adult children and is the Executive Director of the Urban Native Youth Association.

"Please join us for our launch on Monday June 27 from 5:30-8pm at the Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre at 1607 East Hastings Street"

source/further info: http://www.firstnations101.com/


School District #38 (Richmond) Aboriginal Education Enhancement Agreement can be viewed here:

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Theo Campbell @ The Gallery Gachet

From the Salish Seas readings, Feb 2011

Just Business

A message of oppression
From your modern day messiahs!
First, a thank you for
Your thankless role
As our day time pariahs,

And a condemnation for your reservation
About our observations on the continuation
Of the deterioration of the situation
Regarding interracial relations within big business corporations
And bourgeois organizations;

We shall proceed with our compartmentalization,
Degradation, and relegation of you lesser folk,
So please watch with feelings of disassociation
As we continue our stratification,
And see our regulation and criminalization of
Your protestations against our legislation;

Furthermore, I'm happy to report
That our invitalization of your demonization
Has reached its completion, and our
Capitalization on this position is to proposition
The puppet opposition to come to
A decision ending in your derision
And ultimate eradication.


(c) Theo Campbell

It's always a pleasure to talk poetry with Theo, or to listen to his rippling rhymes that arise from his "contemplating ethics/in my pool of poetics."  His name has appeared on this blog a number of times-- he is my son, seventeen, blossoming as a performing poet this year.

In the last six months, he participated in the Salish Seas readings (first of which is posted above), several World Poetry and Richmond Writers Group events, Richmond Education Week at Lansdowne Mall and the  High School Slam at Cafe du Soleil (McMath team), and yesterday's Car-Free Festival on Denman Street (Vancouver). He participated in the Youth Panel at the recent International Poetry Festival in Richmond, and became a World Poetry Youth Ambassador at that time.


This is a deep and wondrous road
Full of jailhouse junkies
And dead heads desperate for
Death and destruction.

The dead ends are endless,
The pitfalls perilous and ever present.
And always, hanging over my head
Like another nightmare fueled disease

Is an ongoing melancholy
A sorrow and sadness that presses down
But on this deep and wondrous road
Lies hope and love

Heroes and poets
Star filled nights and moon filled skies.
The dreams of a dream that never dies.

(c) Theo Campbell

Monty Benton photo, Nov 11 2010

 Theo describes himself this way:
“Theo Campbell is an awkward yet unabashed anatopism who has spent much of his 17 years acting in an ill advised and intellectually dubious manner, making a habit of barefoot vagabonding with bohemians and hooligans whenever the opportunity presents itself.  Being born and raised in Richmond BC, he is happy to call it his home and a major influence on his writing; having recentlygotten two poems published in the Salish Seas Anthology, he’d like to think of his forays into poetry as an early late start to something he’s wanted to do for some time.”
from Featured Poets, World Poetry

I was interested in the word "anatopism" ~ like an anachronism, but out of place, rather than out of time.

Making himself at home in the world may be a path of much beauty, balancing perspicacity with empathic absorption, ranging wide and delving deep.

September 2011 update:
Saint Rasselas' Channel 

Images by me, original photo taken at Iona Beach
Poems by Theo

The video was posted to youtube by thegallerygachet, and I'm hoping to find the names of videographer/editor before posting the full & lovely sequence of opening night Salish Seas artists: thanks for the beautiful work!

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

that fish (fly fishing)

Man in Fish Weir, Pudlo Pudlat

year after year and season after season
i weave wood to wood through water
a few fresh branches
i pull out
when the time is right
i rely upon the power of my weir

that fish that fish that fish
that maddening glint in the far stream sunlit waters
i pull out my heart in a mad moment thrown
all across the continent
that which was one is now two, and separate

that fish that fish that fish that fish
give it back! i seethe, pacing the banks of the rush river impatiently
pass! pass! pass it back, damn it, pass
worry about heartless behaviour, and how
to re-unite the whole two sides of what
should not have ever been broken.

that fish, that damn fish

twelve seasons have passed
he is three years older, two
thousand miles closer
than he was.
am i satisfied? not
by a long shot~

that heart is mine.

(c) joanne arnott

image:  Pudlo Pudlat, Man in Fish Weir    1961  60.9 x 36.6 cm   stonecut on laid japan paper link to National Gallery of Canada
Pudlo Pudlat (Pudlo), (February 4, 1916 at Kamadjuak Camp, Baffin Island, Canada, - December 28, 1992 at Cape Dorset More about the artist: here

"Weir Fishing"

In the weir method of fishing, rigid poles are driven into the mud bottom in a heart-shaped configuration. A straight line of poles is then placed from the shoreline to the weir. This line acts as a barrier to the fish, which follow it into the weir. Once inside, they become disoriented and swim in circles...   link to word & image source

Ohotaq works on his drawing of a fish weir
Ann's drawing of Ohotaq Mikkigak.
 Images from The Guild Shop blog,  "Ann and Blandina in Kinngait (Cape Dorset)

MOVIE Fishing at the Stone Weir  NFB

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Chanda Mama

At a community supper in Yellowknife, a young man expressed his pleasure in The Wausnoedeh Collective's reading-- he's not a mum, he's not indigenous, so he didn't expect to find the event as involving as he did. The key here is, i think, that mother's stories are human stories, and indigenous stories are human stories, and when we come together for storytelling, the vital connections spark up, and the separations crumble away.

I feel a lot of gratitude for all of the people that came together last week, the cascade of visiting and storyswaps: I am feeling very tender! With thanks for sharing life,


Sunday, 5 June 2011

Mothers Journey: Quesnel River to Yellowknife

Photo by Cherie Dimaline
 In 2006 I received some funding to write a second book of essays, and I have been working on it ever since. One of my bright ideas was, I'd like to hear/read more about indigenous women's experiences of childbirth, breastfeeding, mothering-- I was writing a lot about these things, from a personal perspective, and wanting to call in other words, voices, stories, to learn, too, from the experiences of others.

I had a bit of a crisis, funding in hand, when I tried to square who I am-- a shy, nervous, quirky, opinionated person-- with the idea of asking probing personal questions of some of Canada's top matriarchs of indigenous lit.  As is often a good idea, in times of crisis, I turned to my friends, and through discussions came upon a plan... I piled all the kids & husband into my husband's van, and we used the money to do a road trip, allowing many of my children to meet their grandfather and uncles and great-uncles in Manitoba for the first time.  En route, we stopped by to visit Marie-Micheline Hamelin and Art Hamelin in Penticton, Sharron Proulx-Turner and her family in Calgary, some of my aunties and cousins in Saskatchewan, having long conversations about writing, birthing, mothering wounds & mothering gifts, culminating in a visit with Maria Campbell. I also consulted a lot with Connie Fife, and Lee Maracle, both before and after setting out on this journey.

By the time I got to Maria's place in Saskatchewan, I had an idea of how we might move forward with encouraging many more stories into the world. Maria liked the idea of doing a retreat for aboriginal mothers and grandmothers, no cost to participants, and refined the ideas for the gathering. "You organize it, I'll lead it," she said. Christi Belcourt was visiting at the same time, and Maria put us together, and thus began my straight-up learning curve for project development for events involving more than one or two authors.
Louise Profeit-Leblanc, in Ottawa, and Cathi Charles Wherri, in Victoria, were very patient and kind informants, assisting us in the formation of an organizing group-- The Aunties Collective.  We put out a call for artists interested in participating in a week-long writing master class. The idea was, in part, to present a course of a caliber expected in the finest universities, and to present it without cost, without prerequisite, to include all of those gifted people who may not fit into an academic environment-- like me, for instance. To present something very fine, to a group of women who would make the most of the opportunity, whether or not they had the means to buy such things.


Of course, we could not accommodate all of the applicants. A jury of three volunteers was formed to create as diverse a shortlist as possible from the total submissions, and the shortlisted applicants' works were passed on to Maria for final selection.

We rented a funky house alongside the Quesnel River, and we had a beautiful-- life altering, transformative, very productive-- week together.

Bren Kolson, Sharron Proulx-Turner, Kelly Benning, Joanne Arnott
That first gathering happened in 2007. Our writings from that gathering have been the focus of an anthology project, Notokwematchiwin: Old Lady Hunting. Although it is not yet published, I had the pleasure of reading from it this week.

I am writing from Yellowknife NWT, where seven of the original twelve writers have gathered under the name, Wausnodeh Collective, to re-focus and refine an independent ongoing collective of Mothers Journey graduates/participants. Bren Kolson, author of Myth of the Barrens, is our host in Yellowknife, and we have together presented our first formal public presentation, as part of the very well-attended North Words Festival.

Many of us-- Jane Marston, Cherie Dimaline, Sharron Proulx-Turner, Bren Kolson, Renee Abram, Kelly Benning, and myself-- read work that we had written while together with Maria, Kim Anderson, Christi Belcourt, Catherine Richards, and Harmony Rice, by the Quesnel River. I shared two birth poems that will be in the anthology, very different in mood, and my usual song, Rock.  Here are the two poems that I shared:

a story of birth

through the course of time
woman has been impregnated
by swallowing stones
by speaking with fish
by becoming intimate
with winds, forests, rivers
in this story
a woman becomes impregnated
by fucking a man

& in this story
the child will not be born
from her forehead
nor from the side of father's head
the child will be formed
right there in her belly
between her breasts and her vulva
between her laughter-shaken bellyskin
and the stack of bones that holds
her head
so high

when the new life
is fully gathered
has collected itself
& ripened through the course
of time
the child will choose
in this story
to escape through
her vulva

the child will stop halfway out
head and shoulders born
arms free
to reflect a little while
to consider

the mother, a little crass, will say
what's going on back there? are you having 
a tea party?

and Mary, the midwife this time, will say
baby is taking a rest, just checking us out, 
baby is looking around

as the new child considers whether he/she
is really prepared for the new life she/he
is taking on

the mother will be wondering
when she can sit on her own bottom
once more

the luxury of it

& how long she will need to wait
before settling this intense craving
for a cigarette

this combination
of his hesitation
and her impatience

will mark the dance that unfolds
between them
for many years


tender is the day

tender is the day i am weeping, a newborn child beside me
my ignorance long and wide and deep, i am all unburdened
by the wild ride of giving birth to you

as my tears fall across my hot breasts that burgeon with a flood
of milk, blood, each in their individual passages, my breasts
are an unfamilliar land upon my chest

i do not know what to do, my dreams of violence are undoing
all the strength built up so far, i am alone with an aching bottom
a cascade of visitors swirling by

the mattress on the floor below the wide expanse of window
the curtains are pulled wide on the advice of my midwife and
caregiver, a hand on my pillow

i weep the hot tears of loss and the profound confusion of living
inhabiting my body like a child in the early days of freedom
shaking grief like salt until the shaker empties

each time a song croons from my chest and belly
each time you open your eyes and in full trust you
gaze upon me, tender

is the day, is the night, is the woman
allowing her perceptions of life
to open to bliss, birthing, healing, nursing, you

More about the Wausnodeh Collective Project, Old Lady Hunting anthology, and participating artists can be found over time at our new blog site, Old Lady Hunting Aboriginal Writers Group

With thanks to our funders, the Canada Council Aboriginal Peoples Collaborative Exchange for both The Aunties Collective & The Wausnodeh Collective projects, and to First Peoples Heritage, Language & Culture Council (BC) for support of the germinating Mothers Journey project.

Thanks to Cherie Dimaline for use of her beautiful photographs taken in NWT Yellowknife.