Saturday, 25 February 2012

the stars in my firmament

Wab Kinew: Heroes

One thing it's good to be aware of is how far from a monolith indigenous people are, the sheer range of diversity (cultural, historical, regional, individual) is at least equal to the settler society's diversity, and there is a lot of spill over: between the ship and the canoe, the water is brimming with swimmers.

The point for me is that it isn't a lack of heroism, but a skillful systemic deletion of historical fact: David Ahenakew spent a lifetime working on behalf of the people of Saskatchewan, with many successes. The National Post shared an obituary (no longer available on the web) which featured two instances when he was dragged into court on spurious charges, and humiliated, and not a word about his many successes. Did he say an ignorant thing near the end of his life? Should that really be used to invalidate everything else?

And so it goes.

When i consider, who are my heroes, who are the stars in my firmament, there is only one political figure that comes to mind: Elijah Harper. Why? Because he turned the train, at a time when i felt that the train very much needed turning. He did it with dignity, quietly, peacefully. Can i find footage of this on youtube? The actual footage i found embedded in a Quebec history lesson, number 33:

There are also a few of these:

The amnesiac reflex is still at work, even as more and more indigenous people find voice, in all the many possible arenas.
Most of the stars in my firmament are writers, because that is the realm i have grown up in: Maria Campbell, Lee Maracle, Beth Brant, Anthony Thrasher, Jeannette Armstrong, Sarain Stump, Daniel David Moses, to name just a few. Sarain's & Thrasher's books did more to change my life than I can say.

Sarain Stump

Unraveling the knot of acculturation and resistance in Anthony Thrasher's Skid Row Eskimo by Sam McKegney (2006)

 I found them both in second-hand bookstores, in my early years on the coast.

Beatrice Moisioner (Culleton) is one whose books were recommended to me for decades, placed in my hand by well-intended friends and family. I put off reading April Raintree until last year, after I'd read Come Walk With Me.  

What was not apparent to people handing me the book is how deep the pain goes, straight to the roots, and that the very similarities of our stories created a situation of extreme psychic danger for me. So, round about the age of fifty, I picked up Beatrice' memoir. Once I'd read the nonfiction presentation of a life, I could then go back with some confidence to read the earlier, fictionalized offering. 

At the right time, in the right place, I really benefited from reading them both.


I found "Heroes" by a round about route, started off looking for info on the Truth & Rec report, here's Wab with George:

and here's Kinew's "Heroes" on Native HipHop Net

i ended up posting information about the TRCC interim report here, as both Vera Manuel and her father George were among the persons quoted by the commission (& reporters). Vera another of the stars in my firmament... Visit Vera Manuel Tribute:

David Ahenakew's biography/Wikipedia article is similarly distorted (accessed Feb 25 2012), with a smallish portion of his years of service and a whole lot more about the court cases.

(the stars in my firmament)

I found the Elijah Harper material on youtube, which also offers a more recent interview with Mr. Harper on ListenUp
The link to biography leads to a page on Doris Small's thesis website, Elijah Harper: Parliamentarian

The authors named are by no means an exhaustive list.

Sarain Stump link leads to Canadian Encyclopedia entry about Mr Stump

Anthony Thrasher link leads to an analytical essay about Mr Thrasher's book, here it is for pdf download:

Unraveling the Knot of Acculturation and Resistance in Anthony ...
 A more recent essay with the same author and co-writer Keavy Martin: Inuvialuit Critical Autobiography and the Carceral Writing of Anthony Thrasher (p. 65 - 83) (Spring 2011,

 Beatrice Moisioner links all lead to her website,

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