Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Beatrice Mosionier + Christi Belcourt

As I read about the vicious assault on an indigenous woman of Thunder Bay, last December, associated by her assailants' own words with the Idle No More movement, I thought of the sequence of words in Beatrice Mosionier's memoir, Come Walk With Me, in which she describes a virtually identical attack. Much more famous is her fictive treatment of the lives of two Métis girls and women, In Search of April Raintree. This gentle autobiography/memoir is undoubtedly the best of Beatrice's books, however, the expression of her mature and accomplished voice.

There is no book that has been more often recommended to me, than the tale of the Raintree girls. Not only because I am also Manitoban and Métis, but specifically because of the assault sequence in the story, as I have also written of the consequences of assault on the young woman psyche. I put off reading it, however, left the book laying around the house, gave it away, received it again as another well-intended gift. 

When Come Walk With Me came out, I spent a quiet turn of the year reading both books, one after the other. 

First I read the autobiography, because what is real is of utmost importance to me. I was gentled by the voice of this lovely family of women and men, inspired by the confidence that, however harsh the circumstances created and imposed upon us, we can and do survive. Except, of course, when we don't.

Thus strengthened by what is true and for sure, I delved into the fictional treatment, twenty-five years after it was first published and recommended to me. I read it from cover to cover, taking it all in, setting the stories and perspectives in with all that I myself have experienced, witnessed, described, and written, as well as all that I have left as yet un-articulated.

Beatrice' magnanimous decision, to provide a space for her mother's voice within the pages of her own memoir, enriches the tale and strengthens it, by revealing the contrasting experiences of the two women, and through them their testaments on the impacts of Canadian history, in a first-person, multi-generational context. The two stories of the women unfold, in their own voices. The impact of the state is omnipresent.  The wider society's ignorance, ambivalence, dissociation and downright hate, bobs in and out of view, a contradictory inheritance, an ongoing obstacle.

My own worst experience of assault was not like that suffered by the woman of Thunder Bay recently, nor that by Beatrice in Winnipeg, many years ago. My own experience was much more along the lines of what has been presented in the recent warrant executed against Patrick Brazeau.  A man I was spending time with, who had been kind and welcoming, became enraged at the contradictions within himself, exposed through the process of a conversation.  Unable to face the weaknesses and discrepancies in his own arguments, he shifted modalities from speech to physical assault. 

Unfortunately for me, we were not in a mansion on the Hill, but travelling on a highway north of Edmonton. This was long before the days of cell phones, and it took a few days and some full-blown survival savvy, to get myself back again. It took the help of strangers, in fact.

While I have no taste for the media's feast upon the bones of failed senators, none of them, I do think that it is high time that the communities of Canada face up to the realities of Canada. I do not think there is a single indigenous woman author of prominence in Canada who has not suffered from the social agreement that indigenous girls and woman may be assaulted with impunity. As girls, as young women, as young mothers, trying to get from one place to another without the intervention of some entitled other who thinks that whatever we chose for ourselves, whatever they choose is better for all. The police and the state, the doctors and social workers, the teachers and the media, have all to varying degrees shared these criminal prejudices, and have behaved accordingly.

This is not intended to split our communities, most of the indigenous men that I know have also suffered from the same social contract, that affords no protection and no dignity to indigenous boys and men. This is not intended to freeze the hearts of our allies, who have been working within the same warped and warping set of interacting circumstance. This is only to invite a movement into reality, where all the segregated bits of information are held simultaneously, within the heart and within the head, and in both hands.

Forsaken may well describe the circumstances of the victims of one of the many serial killers who prey upon impoverished and/or indigenous women, but an examination of the circumstances of a single case study, by the culpable solicitor general, celebrated as useful to police forces, is not the full answer. Perhaps it will help to appeal to any vestigal and residual chivalry the relevant generations of men may have, in the police forces, but the facts of racism as an endemic and the facts of sexism as an endemic and the facts of contempt for the poor, as an endemic problem in the country and widespread among it's citizens, and spilling far beyond our specific borders, will not be resolved by the decisions of the state, refusing to effectively support the voices of those who have survived. 

Sisters in Sprit was effectively banned by the same government that appointed Patrick Brazeau, in the same cynical hope that by not listening to the truth, somehow the days will pass without the full truth coming into collective consciousness, and becoming a matter for the media to wake up to, to investigate, to grill those talking heads about, to stir up the whole collective population to demand real and very fundamental, meaningful change. 

It is long past time to change the social contract. We are not willing to stop this conversation, until that goal has been achieved.  Canadian media over the course of my lifetime have many times raised the issues, and many times dropped the issues into the great realms of the unspoken, again and  again. Canada needs an excellent continuity person (or a few) to help keep the stories we know altogether and in view, to permanently disrupt the recurrent amnesia that prevents the fundamental shift.

There is a way to talk about violence against indigenous women specifically, and indigenous people generally, that depletes us. There are also many ways to open up these conversations and support the sharing of truth, in ways that do not further the immolations

Accepting the leadership of indigenous women is one of these ways and means.

Moccasin Vamps, Nathalie Bertin - Métis 

I watched the Academy Awards with two artist friends, and Christi Belcourt's Walking With Our Sisters project came up for discussion. One of my friends brought out the second set of beaded vamps she was creating, the first had gone ahead through the mail already, and she kept no picture of it. She noted some small imperfection, and to my own eyes, those quirks of individuality looked just beautiful. 

I thought not only of Christi's project, but another recent resistance to violence project that involved the feet, and footwear:

Aurora House + My Sister's House fundraisers, 2012

Here are a few excellent interviews about Walking With Our Sisters, and the collective powers of arts & healing:

to listen (7:30 minutes) Superior Morning, CBC
to listen (45 minutes) indigenous waves

to read (however long it takes)  metis ramblings website
+ one contributing artist's statement  

Moccasin Vamps, Florence Moses of Mayo, Yukon

It is now thirty years since the Canadian classic, In Search of April Raintree, was published. Beatrice Mosionier published a second novel, In the Shadow of Evil, which I haven't read yet. It has been reviewed, however, alongside Jeannette Armstrong's Whispering in Shadows.

For those who choose to pick it up, Come Walk With Me will fill out the story from a nonfictional perspective, loving portraits of the artist and her family, their living and working conditions, their aspirations as well as the obstacles, all told in the gentle, human voice, straight-up.

This new Canadian classic, Walking With Our Sisters, is an international art show of eloquence and beauty, engaging and affirming the hands and the feet of the women who are here all around, making memorial stitch by stitch for those who are no longer here to speak, stitch, cook, console, write, walk for ourselves. I trust it  will be equally well received and recalled, again and again. That was the year when we...

Her hands and her feet, what all communities rely upon.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Indigenous Peoples + Democractic Politics

Indigenous Peoples 

and Democratic Politics: 

Strategizing Change 

15 Years After RCAP

Friday, March 1, 2013 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM

UBC Point Grey Campus

It’s been 15 years since the Royal Commission
on Aboriginal Peoples and with media headlines
exposing deficient housing, undrinkable water,
low rates of investment in education, and
high levels of incarceration in Indigenous
communities, it’s time to take another look
at the political relationship between
Indigenous Peoples and the Canadian state.

Join us for a one-day public event with community
and academic experts including:

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip
Glen Coulthard
Beverly Jacobs
Michael Chandler
Malcolm King
Margo Greenwood
Eldon Yellowhorn
Vanda Fleury
Ravi de Costa
Andrew Woolford
Wenona Victor
Sandrina de Finney
Fiona MacDonald
James Tully
Rima Wilkes

For more information visit:

Friday, March 1st, 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM

download poster [pdf]

Steven McCabe, synonymous geography

 another poem appears in painterly translation 

an art-poetry blog magazine by

"I like to explore that space where text and image intersect. 
All images [above, and on poemimage] copyright
 Steven McCabe."

recent entries:


an artist of Tehran:
Shirin Pilehvari, Look


flightpath is a cross-cultural collaboration between poet, painter & filmmaker Steven McCabe (Toronto, Canada) and painter Shirin Pilehvari (Tehran, Iran). 

The film juxtaposes McCabe's poetry with Pilehvari's artwork, enveloped within the imagery of the Canadian Niagara Escarpment, creating a synonymous geography of word and image. 

12 minutes


a film by Steven McCabe
cinematography Eric Gerard
paintings Shirin Pilehvari
poetry Steven McCabe
music William Beauvais & Barry Prophet
editor Konrad Skręta
English narration Steven McCabe & Tanya Nanavati
Persian translation & narration Abdolreza Moghadam
storyboard Steven McCabe & Tanya Nanavati
poetry editor Tanya Nanavati
artwork photography Shirin Pilehvari
Turkish Delight performed and co-composed by William Beauvais and Barry Prophet (Available on William Beauvais CD Invisible Cities)

flightpath c 2010 Steven McCabe

Monday, 25 February 2013

Janet Marie Rogers

Kanienke:ha Artist’s Album “Got Your Back” Up For Awards 

Janet Rogers has been doubly nominated for best spoken word, NAMA Awards: visit the site and listen to all the spoken word nominees, and then all the nominees in all of the categories.



6 Directions – Janet Rogers (Mohawk)
Got Your Back - Janet Rogers and Alex Jacobs (Mohawk)
I Am Woman, Kwe – Lena Recollect (Odawa/Ojibway/Pottawatami)
I Know This Man - The Sampson Bros (Seneca)
Long Long Ago - The Story Tellers (Abenaki)
Preserving The Hertiage: Insights & Songs – Kevin Locke (Lakota/Anishinabe)

This is important-- to listen-- because you will be tempted to vote, and in order to vote in one category, you will be asked for opinions in all the categories. There are a number of indigenous artists based in Canada, among the nominees, including Haida artist Terri-Lynne (in the Best Historical Linguistic category, for "New Journeys").

Album Cover
Something For The Tongue (1.5M)
follow this link to listen to the title track: this 2010 spoken word cd was previously nominated (cover art by chris bose)

Upcoming events:
TSF 2013, with Alex Jacobs (this week):

Gather @ Zawa

Feb 25th, 2013 @ 9:30 pm
Zawa Restaurant
920 Commercial Drive (Venables Street), Vancouver BC
Presenting: Alex A. Jacobs / KaroniaktahkeJanet RogersKristi Lane Sinclair

Ab-Original SpokenWord-Scapes

Feb 27th, 2013 @ 8:00 pm - Get tickets online
Roundhouse Community Arts & Recreation Centre
181 Roundhouse Mews (Davie & Pacific), Vancouver 
Presenting: Alex A. Jacobs / KaroniaktahkeCris Derksen,David LarocqueJanet Rogers

The Word and Resistance
Feb 26th 2013 3:30pm-5:00pm 
First Nations House of Learning @ UBC, 1985 West Mall
Alex Jacobs and Janet Rogers talk about creative ways 
to resist and affect change. They will present a literary array 
of politically inspired poetry from many movements throughout 
their careers. Discussion around activist inspired performances 
will be shared as well the important role (Indigenous) Artists 
play in social movements. 


IWD 2013, in honour of E. Pauline Johnson 

Celebrate International Women’s Day/Week 
at TWO E. Pauline Johnson/Tekahionwake events 
with Mohawk writer and poet Janet Rogers.
more info:
Event #1:   The Inspiration of E. Pauline
Saturday March 9th, 2013
Rhizome Cafe
317 East Broadway
Free admission
E. Pauline Johnson was the most celebrated female poet in Canadian history. Janet Rogers will present over 10 years of research through performance poetry, audio recordings, video and power-point presentation. Pauline’s poetry drew inspiration from her love of the North American landscape, love of her native heritage and love of word-smithing. Her poetry and life will be celebrated on this evening and inspiration will be sparked.
Come early & join us for dinner. Food & beverages for purchase. Limited seating.
Event #2:  Poetry in the Park for Pauline
Sunday March 10th, 2013
Stanley Park at Ferguson Point,outdoors at her memorial monument, by the Teahouse Restaurant
Free admission
Poetry Offerings by Mohawk poet Janet Rogers, Victoria’s Poet Laureate. Janet Rogers will present a poetic performance and poetry reading at her literary predecessor, E. Pauline Johnson’s memorial monument. Janet has researched Pauline’s life and work extensively and will share her cultural, professional and geographical connections to the 19th century poet. The audience will have the opportunity to offer their birthday wishes in writing to mark the Mohawk Poetess’ birthday on this day
.for more/source


Leaf Press

Ojistah Press

Ekstatsis Editions (book & cd)

Friday, 22 February 2013

bird talk: state of the nation

Spruce Grouse SOCB 2012 May Haga

Greater Sage Grouse SOCB 2012 May Haga
 Maps and photos are reproduced from 
State of Canada's Birds 2012 website, 
see notes & a link to pdf download below

excerpt from canadian geographic

The state of the avian nation

with illustrations by 


1. Southern Shield and Maritimes
The Southern Shield and Maritimes region covers southern Ontario, skimming over the north shore of Lake Superior, as well southern Quebec (the shores of the St-Lawrence River excepted) into the Gaspé peninsula, and New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island in their entirety.
Populations across all bird species in this region have decreased by 13 percent.

Thriving: American black duck
This is one of a number of waterfowl whose numbers have increased, due in part to careful management of hunting in Canada and the United States and habitat conservation.
Struggling: Olive-sided flycatcher
Aerial insectivores, including this threatened species, have decreased by almost 70 percent, possibly as a result of habitat change or a decline in insect prey because of pesticide use.

2. Lower Great Lakes-St.Lawrence
The Lower Great Lakes / St. Lawrence region encompasses Lakes Huron, Erie and Ontario, extending up the St. Lawrence Valley to cover the north and south shores of the St. Lawrence River to the river's mouth.
On average, all species in this region are up by 20 percent, but some groups are of great concern, such as aerial insectivores.

Thriving: Hooded merganser
Habitat conservation and improved nesting in urban areas have been a benefit to the species, which has increased by more than 50 percent.

Struggling: Chimney swift
The number of these aerial insectivores has declined by 95 percent. Factors in their decline may include a reduced insect population and loss of nesting habitat.

3. Eastern Boreal
The Eastern Boreal region extends east from the Manitoba-Ontario border through central Ontario and Quebec to Newfoundland and Labrador.
Billions of nesting birds call this region’s forests, bogs and wetlands home, but it’s under threat, largely from industrial development.

Thriving: Sandhill crane
Thanks to the protection provided by the Migratory Birds Convention Act, this species’ numbers have increased by as much as 100 percent.

Struggling: Blackpoll warbler
A migrant forest species, this bird has decreased in population because of the loss of habitat from encroaching industrial development.

4. Western Boreal
The Western Boreal extends west from the Ontario-Manitoba border, skirting north of the Prairies, and includes most of the Northwest Territories and Yukon (most northern sections excluded).
Billions of birds use this massive region, the focus of some intense industrial development, as a breeding ground.
Thriving: Green-winged teal
This “generalist” species of duck has doubled its population over the past 22 years.

Struggling: Lesser scaup
This “specialist” species of diving duck has declined by more than 50 percent since 1990, possibly because of shifts in the aquatic food web caused by climate change.

5. Prairies
The Prairie region occupies a roughly semi-circular area that has its base on the Canada-U.S. border and arcs from the western edge of Alberta to the eastern edge of Manitoba.
Grassland birds have declined by almost 40 percent, and the Prairie Pothole Region — an important waterfowl nesting area that stretches across parts of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia and five U.S. states — is under threat of being drained.

Thriving: Western meadowlark
This is one of many species to benefit from bird-friendly farming practices, such as planting cover crops to provide shelter for nesting and reducing the amount of pesticides used.

Struggling: McCown’s longspur
The population has plummeted by 90 percent, and the loss of its native grassland habitat to agriculture could be one of the biggest factors in its decline.

6. West Coast and Mountains
The West Coast and Mountains region includes the southern two-thirds of British Columbia, coast included, and a southwestern section of Alberta.
Characteristic species have declined overall by 10 percent, but along the Pacific coast, they’ve declined by 35 percent.

Thriving: Trumpeter swan
This species has been brought back from the brink of extinction through habitat restoration and legal protection in Canada and the United States.

Struggling: Red crossbill
The number of these birds has declined by 10 percent, mostly due to the logging of mature forests, which provide their main food source: cones.

7. Arctic
The Arctic region includes the top of Canada by covering the arctic islands, mainland Nunavut and the northern tip of the Northwest Territories. A smaller eastern segment bridges the top of Quebec and Labrador.
Climate change may be the biggest contributor affecting bird populations in this region.

Thriving: Snow goose
This population has increased by more than 300 percent — but at a cost to coastal salt marshes, where the birds engage in intense foraging.

Struggling: Whimbrel
Habitat loss, environmental pollutants and climate change have seen the numbers of Arctic shorebirds such as the whimbrel decline by 60 percent.

8. Oceans
The Oceans region encompasses the Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic oceans, including Hudson and James Bays.
The number of seabirds has increased, but the Pacific region has seen a minor decline due to introduced predators, such as rats and raccoons.

Thriving: Northern gannet
Almost 60,000 pairs of this species nest on Île Bonaventure in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, up from 16,000 in 1976. Reduced exposure to pesticides is one of the reasons the population has increased.

Struggling: Ancient murrelet
Fifty percent of the world population is found off the coast of British Columbia, and introduced predators — namely rats and raccoons — have significantly reduced their numbers.

Read the full article by Anne Watson in the CG Dec 2012 issue (end of excerpt)


Only 22% of Canadian bird species spend the whole year in Canada. Most others migrate to the United States (33%), to Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean (23%) or to South America (15%). Some travel to Europe or Asia or spend long periods of time at sea (7%). 
source/SOCB 2012 website


full colour, 36 pages


Maps by: Andrew Couturier, Sandra Marquez, Eva Jenkins, Adam C. Smith 

Illustrations by: Ksenia Nigmanova

Photographs by: May Haga 

more about the grouse:
birds, maps, languages 1
birds, maps, languages 2
The maps of grouse territories in my previous discussion do not reflect the regional divisions of SOCB study. In my discussion, Blue Grouse and Ruffed Grouse are the focus; in the national report, only three of the Family of Grouse are specifically noted (see May Haga photos above), Greater Sage Grouse on p 4 and 14, and Spruce Grouse of p 12, with the accompanying text (emphasis/links added):

The endangered Greater Sage-Grouse, highly
susceptible to disturbance, occurs in habitats 
increasingly subject to oil and gas development.
Preservation and restoration of its prairie and 
sagebrush habitat will benefit many other
grassland species.

Spruce Grouse are year-round residents of boreal
forests across Canada, found mainly in spruce, 
regenerating pine and other conifers. Little is
known of their population status as they are 
difficult to survey.

AND the White-tailed Ptarmigan, p 17:

The White-tailed Ptarmigan is one of few species
that nest in rocky areas above the treeline. Climate 
change may affect their habitat, but little is known 
of their population trends.

also see: