CONTENTS 4. JUSTICE for NATIVE LIT: Professor (and author) Daniel Heath Justice talks about his experience with Indigenous literature within the University of Toronto. What he finds may surprise you.
ON THE COVER: Look familiar? This issue’s cover is a rendering of Professor Daniel Justice created out of words. The choices came from a brainstorming session on what words, story and voice can mean and who wields them with power and care. In
ON THE BACK COVER:
When it is said
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Some say. I say it just Begins to live That day.”
VISIT US ON-LINE
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“Where are you from?” by Susan Blight Susan (Anishinaabe, Turtle Clan) is a visual artist and filmmaker from Couchiching First Nation. Susan holds a BA in Film Studies and a BFA (Honours First Class) in Photography from the University of Manitoba. In 2007, Susan received an MFA in Integrated Media (Magna Cum Laude) from the University of Windsor. She currently lives and works in Toronto.
- Emily Dickinson
DIRECTOR’S WELCOME Jonathan Hamilton-Diabo
The impact of one word can fill one with great joy, sadness, or anger. A thoughtful word builds. A careless one destroys. When a word is expressed, regardless of its form, it lives on. And by living on, it can make the person who states it foolish or wise. Words carry a deep meaning in the expression of an idea. It is finding the right words that will effectively communicate one’s perspective.
In education, words are used to pass on knowledge; however learning does not just come from words being directed to a listener. Instead, it is the engagement and examination of articulated thoughts that fosters learning. Written or spoken, the interaction between two or more parties occurs, often leading to a dialogue and/or debate. The method of how one does this is crucial. In a circle, it is usually requested that only “good” words are to be used. They not only are affirming, they also welcome positive energy, aiding in the sharing of thoughts, whether or not there is agreement. Should the opposite occur the reaction could be filled with bitterness and create a tense and disrespectful situation. In a classroom, an essay or textbook, indecent words distort and hurt. A constructive word teaches and invites.
Volume 1, Issue 7 ADVISORY COUNCIL: Lee Maracle Daniel Heath Justice DIRECTOR: Jonathan Hamilton-Diabo EDITOR: Cherie Dimaline
Visiting professor Alice Te Punga Somerville compares and contrasts our words and stories
“A word is dead
A 2011 World Music Visiting Artist in Residence at the University of Toronto, Pura Fe continues to inspire and create with her unique approach, unwavering enthusiasm and a musically rich upbringing behind Daniel are quotes from authors, community members and great communicators. They include gems like this Maya Angelou quote: “Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning.” -Photo/Design: Robin Sutherland
11. MAORI PROF TALKS STORYTELLING:
U of T alumni take control of the way First Nations stories are written and heard with a new online magazine
6. MUSICALLY SPEAKING:
FNH MAGAZINE Published by First Nations House, University of Toronto, 563 Spadina Avenue, Toronto ON, M5S 2J7
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DESIGN & ART DIRECTION: David Shilling MAAIINGAN Productions www.maaiingan.com CONTRIBUTORS: Christine McFarlane Daniel Heath Justice Jamie Jacques
Jamaias DeCosta Giles Benaway Susan Blight Lee Maracle Kirk Beaver Lindy Kinoshameg PHOTOGRAPHY: Robin Sutherland David Shilling
EDITORIAL: Jessicka Loduca Brendan Martyn Natalie Clark WEBMASTER: MAAIINGAN Productions www.maaiingan.com
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The QS World University Rankings recently named the U of T Department of English as the seventh best English program in the world. We have hundreds of exceptionally accomplished, impressively prolific, and internationally recognized scholars and teachers, who explore the storied significance of numerous fields that span the globe, cover vast periods of time, and include the representation of many diverse communities, nations, and traditions. In the midst of this wealth of world writings, and among these many generous and enthusiastic scholars, Indigenous literatures have a place of regard and serious attention.
REFLECTING ON INDIGENOUS LITERARY STUDIES AT Uof T
Is U of T a good place to study Indigenous literature? A professor makes the case. By Daniel Heath Justice
The reputation of the University of Toronto is a mixed blessing. To some, the institution is seen as an international leader in cutting-edge scholarship, research, and teaching, where the best and brightest go to study; to others, it stands as a symbol of selfregarding elitism and myopic insularity, not unlike the reputation of the city itself. (My husband and I have long teased one another on this point: he went to university and med school at McMaster 4
and Western, and his own view of the “Harvard of the North” runs firmly in this critical camp. So, for about a year I gave him his morning coffee in a bold blue and white U of T mug, just to nettle him!) Rightly or wrongly, both ideas about U of T are entangled together in the public consciousness, and they shape the expectations that students, parents, faculty, policy makers, and community members have of this institution, its significance, and its potential.
Today at U of T, Indigenous North American writers and texts are represented in many classes across the Department; we have a dedicated, year-long course on Indigenous literatures in Canada and the U.S., and regular upper-level seminars on special topics in Indigenous writing. We have graduate courses as well. There are now two tenure-stream associate professors in the Department who specialize in Indigenous literary studies (myself and Cheryl Suzack), and various colleagues for whom Aboriginal literature and Indigenous concerns are of significant interest. Indigenous writers and artists often speak on campus, and have included Eden Robinson, Richard Van Camp, Drew Hayden Taylor, Marilyn Dumont, LeAnne For some, U of T seems an unlikely location to study Indigenous Howe, Monique Mojica, Joseph Boyden, and others. Well-regarded writing; the shadows of Northrop Frye, Marshall McLuhan, and authors Lee Maracle and Cherie Dimaline are on staff at First NaRobertson Davies loom large (and are often misrepresented or mis- tions House, and have been tireless in mentoring and advocating understood as a result), and they seem to some outsiders to render on behalf of emerging Indigenous writers. Even ABS faculty conU of T a place where the exclusivist canon reigns supreme. This is nected to other departments, such as Sami political scientist Rauna far from the truth, as even a cursory glance at our course offerings Kuokkanen, have extensive familiarity with Indigenous literatures; would demonstrate: while traditional Professor Kuokkanen’s book, ReI was able to focus on actually teaching shaping the University: Responsibility, literary studies continue to be one of our great strengths, with strong and studying Indigenous writers, texts, Indigenous Epistemes, and the Logic emphasis on historicity, period, and of the Gift (2007), cites a number of and contexts, never needing to argue for Indigenous writers as significant inform, we’re also a place where new genres, new areas of inquiry, and tellectuals and contributors to issues their significance or even for their new approaches to older traditions of importance to political, social, basic existence are treated with the same regard as and economic issues in Indigenous more established texts and traditions. It’s not the Department of communities worldwide. And this year we’re enormously privithirty years ago—indeed, it’s changed quite a bit even in the time leged to have as a visiting professor, a distinguished Maori literature I’ve been here. What hasn’t changed is its ongoing commitment to scholar from Aotearoa (New Zealand), Professor Alice Te Punga both excellence and relevance. Somerville. She is shaping the field of Maori literary studies back home and bringing a great deal of insight and energy to Indigenous I arrived at U of T in 2002, and by that time Indigenous literatures scholarship here, too. It’s a global conversation, and U of T is an were already firmly in place in the Department, as both our adminincreasingly important participant. istration (notably then-chair Brian Corman) and our faculty had emphasized Indigenous literatures within both the teaching and re- This isn’t to say that there aren’t challenges. While our classrooms search commitments. The Department then had strong links to the on the undergraduate level are full and vibrant, there’s little deAboriginal Studies Program (ABS) and First Nations House, and it mand on the graduate level; a small number of graduate students continues to affirm those connections today under the leadership have finished and are currently engaged in significant work on of current chair Alan Bewell. Professor Emeritus J. Edward ChamIndigenous literatures, but only a handful have finished English berlin was instrumental in bringing Acoma Pueblo writer Simon J. Ph.D.s in the field, and two of those were completed before I arOrtiz to campus for a five-year visiting professorship, and it was in rived. For all the vibrant energy regarding our field in the scholarSimon’s second year that I first came to the Department. ship, teaching, and local arts community, U of T still doesn’t make it to the consciousness of most graduate students who want to speFrom the beginning, I had the privilege of working among some cialize in Indigenous literary studies. This is where our reputation of the finest literature scholars in the world, and I never once had seems to get in the way; U of T is rightly seen as a site for graduate to justify or explain the significance of Indigenous literature—not study in other areas of literary scholarship—Medieval and Early once. While friends and colleagues in other institutions in Canada Modern among them—but the dense urban surroundings, colonial and elsewhere in the world fought to be recognized as studying Oxbridge architecture, and antiquated (and erroneous) reputation “real” literature—sometimes being denied jobs and tenure in the of hidebound canonicity turn students away from a vibrant and process—I was able to focus on actually teaching and studying supportive intellectual and cultural environment for studying IndigIndigenous writers, texts, and contexts, never needing to argue for enous story and narrative voice. their significance or even for their basic existence. (One acquaintance at an Australian university shared the demoralizing story There are many Indigenous writers out there; there’s more than of being told with absolute confidence by a senior administrator one kind of Indigenous literature, more than one kind of Indigthat “Aboriginal people wouldn’t have a literature until they had a enous perspective and voice. Toronto, long the gathering place of Shakespeare.” Her struggle to make a place for the vibrant body of peoples—Native and settler alike—continues to be a site of intelAboriginal literature at her institution continues in the face of such lectual and artistic exchange. And the Department of English at bold and ignorant bigotry.) the University of Toronto continues to be a place where, in alliance with other programs and communities on campus and in the larger A few years ago, we revised the undergraduate curriculum in Engcommunity, Indigenous voices are treated with the respect of belish to include Indigenous literature alongside Canadian literature ing a literature worthy of study, worthy of regard, and worthy of as one of the primary areas of departmental emphasis—and I wasn’t substantive intellectual and ethical engagement. Although I’ll soon even the one who offered the proposal! It was a heartening mobe leaving U of T for an opportunity on the West Coast, I’ve been ment, and one that was evidence of the intellectual generosity and very honoured to have been a part of this journey for the past nine ethical regard given by my colleagues to a field that in other institu- years, and look forward to seeing the development of Indigenous tions is still very much underrepresented, if it appears at all. literary studies at U of T in the years to come, for the future is bright indeed. MAGAZINE FNH
An Endless(and Beautiful) Protocol to Life
wake up and just be exposed to all that music. Also, my mother and her sisters sang together, and they were called the Monk Sisters. And then my mother went on tour for the Sacred Concert Series with Duke Ellington’s Orchestra. I went with Mom on some of her truck and bus tours.
Indigenous Waves producer Jamaias DaCosta spends an afternoon with the inspirational and innovative Pura Fe
JD: Do you remember being on tour? PF: Oh yeah, I remember everything, I remember people’s faces, names, the moles on their faces, the patent leather shoes; the sweat running down their faces on a hot summer’s day in a rehearsal on the top of the New Yorker Theatre, with the windows wide open and all that brass just blowing out the window. And Duke doing the loop de loop with his arms, you know, the way he would conduct. That was a little part of my life, not a huge part but it certainly made an impression.
photo:Parricia de Gorostarzu
JD: What kind of songs were you singing at home with your family?
Pura Fe was born into music. The daughter of a classically trained opera singer, she grew up in New York at a time when music was on an evolutionary path fed by revolution and angst during the civil rights movement. She studied ballet, modern dance and jazz in what she describes as “intensive afterschool programs” starting at the age of about four. She later went on to perform with the American Ballet Theatre Company at Lincoln Centre and several other largescale performance theatres, all of which paved the way for her musical career - first with the internationally renowned trio Ulali, and then as a solo artist. Knowing that she came from a strong matriarchal legacy, I wanted to know a little more about the roots of this force of nature that is Pura Fe. 6
JD: Can you talk about the Matriarchal lineage in your family, the four generations of seven sisters in a row? What was family life like growing up? PF: They were raised up in the city, far away from where their parents came from. The women are just extremely strong in my family, wow. Where our family comes from, the responsibilities in the family and the community would be very large, and that’s carried through…it’s hereditary, it’s genetic. My mother gave us lots of praise, and both my grandparents, they just never saw anything as an obstacle. It was just like, you go out there and you get it, and you do your best at whatever it is that you’ve chosen your path to be.
JD: Your mother was a classically trained opera singer. Can you talk a little about having that influence in your life? PF: [My mother] sang with the John Watley Gospel Choir (All City Concert Choir), which at the time when I was growing up was an all-black gospel choir, though is now open to everybody. Also, my mother was part of a Lutheran Church that was run by Pastor Gensel, and he was called The Jazz Minister. He had a jazz church that I attended growing up. We went to their All Soul Night concerts, which would be like a 38 hour, non-stop concert of jazz music, and people like Miles Davis, Billy Strayhorn and Olatunji would be there…I would be very young, and sleeping in the pews, and
PF: Well, at Christmas time the whole family would get together, and they would do a whole bunch of Christmas carol singing, cousins, aunts, uncles, everybody, it was like a massive harmony. But in terms of traditional music, that wasn’t until the cousins would come together, and we would do that. One time my Grandmother over heard one of the songs that my cousin and I were singing, that we recorded for Ulali, and Grandma came running up the stairs and she said, ‘God, that sounds so good, that sounds just like we used to sing back in the day only we didn’t use drums, we used rattles!’ So we put down the drums and picked up some rattles, and we started creating these rattle songs, and we started getting more and more familiar with the whole sound and tradition of the songs from our area. JD: It sounds like music has been a real tool for cultural revitalization. I’ve heard you mention on several different occasions, in particular before performing Mahk Jchi, something that sounds similar to the Great Law of Peace, and that is when you speak of having a good mind and an open, full heart – how important is spirituality and tradition in the music? In other words, is it intentional or something that happens naturally, as a result of connecting to that creative energy? PF: At the time of writing [Mahk Jchi] that definitely came out naturally. I really believe in that, I mean, I know it. You’ll say things, or write things, and suddenly some confirmation gets back to you, just like you’re saying now. My whole thing is just trying to
bring back as much [tradition and culture] as possible, specifically so that we don’t get completely lost, and we can have a cultural permanence that is connected to our land base. JD: Can you talk about Ulali, and how you began that part of your career? PF: At the age of 15 I left home, and had my own crazy life, and eventually connected with the Native community urban scene in New York City, and that’s when everything changed. I met Soni in the community house, and that’s how Ulali happened. At first it was a different name, and we had men and women in the group, and whatever it was that we were doing, it just took off and had a demand in any country that we were in. And then it went through several changes, but the one that stuck is what became Ulali, with my cousin Jennifer. We were together for twenty something years, and now we’re all doing our own stuff. Although, Jennifer and I are singing together again, we’re calling ourselves TU-lali! We’ve got new music, we do have our drum songs, but we’re also concentrating on a lot of music that is from our own region. We’ll be recording our album in January. JD: I heard you say once that you picked up the guitar after hearing Kelly Joe Phelps play. What was it about his playing that inspired you to go to the guitar; and was that what inspired you to become a solo artist? PF: Yes it did. I was in awe, and didn’t know how to approach him. But he was sitting right next to me at the Edmonton Folk Festival. Canadian Folk festivals seem to pair people together, and there was a group of us that they had put together….Kelly was sitting next to me and had his guitar on his lap, and I’d heard slide like that back home and I’ve always loved it, but Kelly has a particular tuning, and I was like, wow that tuning works with everything that we sing, and it just called to me. So I immediately went out and bought some guitars. JD: Had you played before? PF: No. I just watched, and it was like I had done it before, and I thought I can do this, and I did. I started playing, immediately. JD: Did the songwriting process change at all with the guitar and as a solo artist? PF: Only that I had a guitar… I used to write and play with the piano, before Ulali, I find there are more possibilities with the piano than a lap guitar, and I am actually getting tired of it and ready to go back
to the piano…but the process is not that different, it’s like having Soni and Jennifer on my lap [laughing]. But it freed me from having to be with the group, I could go on my own and create. I mean, I live far away from them, I live in North Carolina, so we couldn’t rehearse, and it was hard for us to keep going in the way we were. So I started branching off on my own, and that guitar helped me free myself and do something else. JD: You mentioned you enjoy working with youth, what are your thoughts on this whole Occupy movement that is taking place? PF: You can’t have one body being the power of so many people. That’s exactly why we always had tribes, if one thing got too large, you had to break off and form another, because it’s just too big, and not that many people can agree. And now, there are too few playing the role of power over too many, and it just doesn’t work. Our people had it right, and they tried to copy from it, but they left some major things out. JD: Like the Clan Mothers... PF: Right, and family. And they left people of colour out, and there’s so much more… but somewhere between that and something that is based more in community. They’re going to have to set a completely different value system. The whole capitalist value system is the destruction of everything, so that is going to have to change. It has to turn into value system of life. JD: Do you feel a sense of responsibility for making a contribution in that way? PF: Oh yes, we all have a responsibility, an endless protocol to life. We really do, I feel if we can make that sacrifice, and we have to take it seriously, we have to return to a certain amount of communal, green living. We can’t just talk about it, we have to do it. And there is a community back home, when I finish this semester, I will be moving back there, where they’re having a hard time because they are trying to live green, but they don’t have enough people so I decided I am going to go back and do it. My whole purpose is to help find a way that we can have youth live on their land, and have a real life, be self-sustaining and to live in a better way. Pura Fe is at the University of Toronto until December as a “World Music Visitor” and is teaching the “World Music Ensemble: Song Catching” course at the Faculty of Music.
It was through these interviews and by being active in the community that the duo began formulating the structure and goals of MUSKRAT. “For MUSKRAT being Indigenous has everything to do with our mindset: our individual and collective perceptions of who we are, which impact our way of knowing and living.”
photo: Keesic Douglas
When asked about the main objective for MUSKRAT, Rebeka references U of T Professor Deborah McGregor and her understanding of Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK). “TEK encompasses all aspects of the environment and sees humans as an intimate part of it, rather than as external observers or as the controlling entity.” She explains, “The main objective for MUSKRAT Magazine is to honour the connection between humans and our traditional ecological knowledge by profiling Indigenous arts, culture and life through exhibiting original works and critical commentary. MUSKRAT embraces both rural and urban settings and uses media arts, the Internet, and wireless technology to investigate and disseminate traditional knowledges in ways that inspire their reclamation on an accessible, day-to-day basis.”
rofiled everywhere from CBC to APTN and with 3000 views in just a few weeks of launching the second issue, MUSKRAT Magazine is becoming an internet media phenomenon. And though its success seems sudden, it’s been years in the making with the project morphing into a proposal for the Ontario Arts Council in February 2010. The idea had been brewing in the Shilling-Tabobondung household for years. “We were big supporters of SPIRIT Magazine both as advisors, writers, and designers and when they closed up shop, we saw the void of independent Indigenous media grow bigger than it already was,” relates U of T alumni Rebeka Tabobondung. “As activists, media artists, Indigenous knowledge researchers, and community builders with a lot to say and contribute we decided to combine our skills and articulate the kind of media we wanted to see, read, produce, and profile.” At first, Tabobondung was compelled to share Indigenous perspectives through documentary filmmaking, which eventually led to her role as Festival Director of the imagineNATIVE Aboriginal Film
and Media Arts Festival in Toronto. While attending the Aboriginal studies program at U of T and then completing a Masters in Sociology and Equity Studies in Education at OISE, she recognized the value of producing ‘new’ knowledge within society and the academy through writing, publishing and then combining media arts. In the winter of 2009, Rebeka and her partner David Shilling were invited to attend the second annual Defenders of the Land gathering in Vancouver, BC. They asked the organizers if they could bring in cameras and interview front-line community leaders actively protecting their lands from growing settler encroachment and development. The initial idea was to produce a series of video vignettes and media exhibitions that would profile modern day warriors. “Most of these leaders are Elders and youth with little access to any kind of infrastructural support for the work they do let alone positive media coverage,” Tabobondung said. “Defending the land is usually deemed too radical or controversial, especially for many would be funders who realize that funding Indigenous people defending their traditional ways of life is actually not in their interests.”
If we don’t tell our stories someone else with a different lens will, or worse; they won’t be told at all. Rebeka recalls her time at U of T as laying the groundwork for her future projects, along with extensive travel throughout North and Central America. “The Aboriginal community at U of T inspired me in countless ways to move forward with many personal career goals. While studying as an undergrad, I was elected President of the Native Students Association and I have also been actively organizing and volunteering at the grass roots level for over fifteen years which has enriched my life and prepared me for developing and executing MUSKRAT.” Shilling and Tabobondung, who also run Maaiingan Productionsan accomplished Indigenous design and production company, have plans to continue growing the magazine, mentioning the prospect of doing an in-print edition along with the next online issue. “There is a void in the Indigenous media landscape and a huge need to unearth our traditional knowledge systems and share our valuable approaches to life and living with the broader society. In the age of the Internet, the possibilities are endless.” For Rebeka, an activist, poet, filmmaker and mother, it is imperative that we remain in control of our own media. “If we don’t tell our stories someone else with a different lens will, or worse; they won’t be told at all. We need all of our stories to piece together much of what was silenced -but not lost- by the impacts of colonization; this knowledge will inform us how to move forward today.” Sites to visit: muskratmagazine.com maaiingan.com
Visiting Māori Professor Examines Storytelling and the Importance of Words Second year student Jamie Jacques talks to Professor Alice Te Punga Somerville
anguage plays an integral role within the Aboriginal Studies Program at the University of Toronto. Dawn Antone, the Oneida language course instructor explains, “It is important that we have Native language courses offered at the university level,” Antone said. “Through the language programs offered, it gives our students a better sense of community and culture.”
Aboriginal language alive and thriving at the University of Toronto
The language courses offered at U of T include Introductory Anishinaabemowin, (ABS 210Y1), Intermediate Anishinaabemowin (ABS310Y1), taught by Alex McKay, and Antone’s Oneida language course (ABS220Y1). The Oneida course began in 2005 under the direction of First Nations House’s recently retired Elder-in Residence, Dr. Grafton Antone. Though this is Dawn’s first year teaching the course, she has an enthusiasm for the language that rivals her father’s.
Antone is trying to build and create a community with the language and has a diverse class of twelve. “It’s not only up to me, it’s dependent on the students that are involved also, and I am hoping that if students can commit to one year of the Oneida language, then there can be a second year offered.” The Anishnaabemowin Language Initiative is another program within the Aboriginal Studies Program, housed within the Centre for Aboriginal Initiatives. Running since 2008, it serves as a vehicle for assisting in the growth, revitalization and retention of Anishinaabemowin with Aboriginal communities both urban and reserve. It has fostered projects that include immersion language camps, language socials, an Anishinaabe based ecology project, a language conference, and an Honouring Ceremony for language learners. It holds current partnerships with Mississauga First Nation, the Native Learning Centre (NLC), Toronto District School Board Aboriginal Education (TDSB AE), U of T Faculty of Forestry and the Anishinaabemowin Learning Initiative Committee. Melissa Moshenko and fourth year student Connor Pion are the main staff members for the Anishnaabemowin Language Initiative. This initiative supports students by helping with access to Anishinaabemowin language materials and facilitates language learning and cultural events in the city. They are currently collaborating with the Transitional Year Program to start a homework night that will be open to all Aboriginal Studies students. “My responsibilities as a staff member with the Language Initiative includes the general support and facilitation of language learning within the Aboriginal Studies community. I try to use my ongoing experiences as a second language learner to encourage students and help foster enthusiasm, dedication,” says Pion. “Learning a new language takes a great deal of hard work and commitment and I think it is incredibly beneficial to language learners at all levels to be able to share their experience and create student motivated support networks.” By: Christine McFarlane 10 FNH MAGAZINE
photo: David Shilling
“I took the Oneida language course back in 2006 and continued with the language in as many ways as I could,” Antone said. “I participated in Onkwawenna Kentyokwa- Adult Mohawk Immersion, Kentyokwa Oniwe- Language Nest (Mohawk), and took an Introduction to Mohawk language course at Brock University. I see teaching the language as a progression of the learning I undertook, and I am committed to the language, which makes teaching it a lot of fun.”
Stories keep memories, histories, teachings, and wisdom alive for future generations. Not only do stories provide information, but they also build community and connection. Sometimes that connection comes from the other side of the globe. I caught up with Dr. Alice Te Punga Somerville, who is visiting U of T for the year and is currently teaching ABS300 Oral Traditions with Professor Daniel Justice. Dr. Somerville is Maori; her tribe is Te Ati Awa, located on the west coast of New Zealand. She earned her PhD in English (with a Graduate minor in American Indian Studies) from Cornell University and is a senior lecturer at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand. We are in the midst of a huge resurgence of Indigenous storytelling from First Nations, Metis, and Inuit communities. This is important for our education since storytelling is a learning vehicle that provides social, cultural, and historical perspectives. We need to let the world hear our stories, and we need to hear the stories of other Indigenous
peoples from around the globe. Dr. Somerville says, “It’s important that Indigenous people can read what other Indigenous people have written. We enjoy reading each other’s work because we can see all these connections but it’s also really nice to see the differences as well.” Dr. Somerville is using part of her time in Canada to write. “I am on sabbatical right now where I’m able to just write. One of the reasons I’m here is to fill up my basket.” Alice is working on her new book: Ghostwriters: The Maori Books You Haven’t Read. The book focuses on Maori texts that have received very little attention even though the writers have helped to shape the history and development of Maori writings. Dr. Somerville has a passion for stories and the methods of knowledge transfer contained in the telling. “We really limit the stories that we tell about ourselves, because we have forgotten some of the experiences…, but also we have forgotten the ways in which we understand ourselves.”
Many of the stories we end up telling relate to the injustice and colonization of our people, a phenomenon that links Indigenous peoples worldwide. “Indigenous people have been forced to spend so much time focusing on the results of past hurts,” Somerville explains. “Because you need to create space to live, so much so, that we actually forget to tell all the other stories about ourselves.” The short-term move to North America is proving to be an educational experience for Dr. Somerville in itself. “I have definitely found that when you move somewhere, that’s when you actually get to find out about a place and that’s why I came. I think that you get to hear different kinds of stories that you don’t get from books. Books are important, but relationships allow different types of things to be told.” Our stories clearly define us. The words that we choose, tell the story of who we are. What words are we allowing into our stories? MAGAZINE FNH 11
WHAT’S IT TO YOU?
ments were arrived at. In a word we were flooded with settlers, made ill by their arrival and died by the thousands [some of our ancestors say millions], either way, there were no conciliatory agreements between us. Given that at confederation, white men were given grants of land which did not belong to the Crown, space, our space, and by that act, our access to land was abrogated, I am not at all certain of what we are being asked to reconcile ourselves to.
COMMUNITY Kirk Beaver
Lee Maracle Colonialism is an imposition of one nation on another, not simply settling, but rather, taking up the space and entitling itself to that space and disentitling the colonized to the very space they once had unlimited access to. Conciliation is about a fairly reciprocal relationship, in which both parties agree to the sharing of space. Re-conciliation, means the restoration of the sharing, or fair relations. I am a tad suspicious of reconciliation as a process insofar as the Sto:lo have not experienced a conciliatory relationship with either the British or Canada. Canada had defeated Riel and expanded into our territory before any agree12 FNH MAGAZINE
TRADITION Lindy Kinoshameg My name is Lindy Kinoshameg, I am an Ojibway from the Unceeded Reserve of Wikwemikong on Manitoulin Island. I am enrolled in the Faculty of Physical Education and Health at the University of Toronto. Some people have traditions, and some people just have habits that are defined as traditions. Usually I only do something if I believe in it, if it’s important to me, or know the reason why I’m doing it
Susan Blight Culture is a live, dynamic, connective entity. Rather than a fixed structure--uniform and solely of the past--culture is a complex synthesis of the history and the present state of a people. It encompasses the language, beliefs, laws of governance, art, and customs of a group and is learned, shared, and developed through the interactions of its members. Culture is deeply connected to a sense of identity and helps us to understand our place in the world as an individual and as part of a group.
As a subject that may come easy to many people, the concept of what community means to me has been a hard fought notion to understand. I spent my life struggling to grasp what it meant to belong to something, and perhaps even more so, I wondered what the relevance was of feeling like I needed to belong to anything at all? I never really wanted to be a part of anything. I just wanted to live as I felt comfortable, which was to be out of sight and out of mind. That part of me never really changed, but I did eventually need to understand that to do anything in this world, I would have to become a part of some type of community to move forward. So, what does the word, community, mean to me? Community to me is this: a place within myself where I can feel confident and comfortable at any time; a place where I am in good spirits with my surroundings, in a state of personal well-being with all people and things around me. What I hope to have with this understanding is that others can feel the same
photos: Robin Sutherland & David Shilling
Four of the Biggest Words you’ll ever come across in the Aboriginal community as interpreted by FNH Traditional Teacher in Residence Lee Maracle, Student Lindy Kinoshameg, Special Projects Coordinator Susan Blight, and Native Students’ Association member Kirk Beaver
in the first place; my traditions reflected through my introduction.
As a child, I spent a lot of time at my grandparents’ home which was always filled with at least some of my nine aunts and Doing something because uncles, their spouses, and my everyone else is doing it or just too-numerous-to-count first, because it is what has been done second, and third cousins. It by many people before you was important to my parents isn’t my definition of tradition. that I spend time with my Traditions come from within, extended family and looking something personal, tied closely back now I realize what a gift with your own beliefs, the idea it was. My cousins and I always of why you are doing somefound time to play but it was thing, not necessarily what, not a vacation. The children when or where you do somehelped my grandparents when thing. I go to school four days we could. I picked wild blueberMany years ago, a white man a week and it is not a tradition ries with my Grandmother and said: “We stole your land fair because I get up and go every helped her make jam and banand square, so get over it.” day; but rather that my family nock. I watched as my GrandFor sure, I am not in favour believes in education and build- father carefully cleaned duck of reconciling myself to that. ing a better community. and filleted fish and listened as In South Africa, reconciliation he told me how one does this is between the perpetrators of Kinoshameg; it represents my respectfully. I remember the hurt and the hurt. Many crimes family, all the members in it smell of the wild rice as it was were committed by white offrom the past and present, being parched when my family ficials against black individuals and represents my cultural did their ricing in the autumn during the apartheid era, and heritage. Kinoshameg is how months and the familiar sound in order for them to escape it is spelt now, but came from of Anishinaabemowin being charges, they were required to ‘Ginoozhe’ (which means ‘Pike’ spoken. disclose their crimes to those in Ojibway), which is what clan who were victimized. Both the my family comes from. As a The knowledge that is passed in perpetrators and the victims member of the Pike clan we are these kinds of moments along were required to come together. considered to be deep thinkers, with ceremonial practices and In Canada, Indigenous people the teachers, and the healers social gatherings is what diswho attended residential school of the community. My great tinguishes a distinct culture; a are required to state what grandfather was the last heredi- blending of what our people did their suffering was/is withtary chief of my community. My then and what we do now. It is out naming the perpetrators; mother was a registered nurse less about the tangible compowhich means that no one will and former President of the nents and more about how we be charged and we will not be Aboriginal Nurses Association interpret the meaning behind allowed to face those who hurt of Canada. My sister is currently these things. us. It is as if, those who hurt studying to become a nurse and us will be presumed innocent, I am going into a field of both So, what does this all have to do regardless of our testimony. teaching and healing. with autonomy? Quite simply, This is neither truth, nor conthat it is essential that Indigeciliatory toward us. Further, My name isn’t just a name, nous self-organization continue access to space in our territories not something for the governto progress. Culture is valuable is not part of the reconciliation. ment or institutions to identify because it augments the interAgain, not conciliatory toward me, not just something that is connectedness between people; us. In that case, it is an empty tough for some people to prowe know this innately, which is word -- a meaningless phrase nounce, but it is MY ‘tradition’. why we protect it so fiercely. It for the Sto:lo. Kinoshameg is my name, it is was only through the strength, my family, it is what helps guide tenacity, and ingenuity of our my life based on the traditions ancestors that our cultures of my culture and my family. survived the systemic attempt to Do you know what your name eradicate them. Our language, means? Do you know your our territories, and our cultural traditions? identity need not only to be preserved, but to strengthen and thrive, because with that the people will strengthen and thrive.
thing as I do. I think that this shared perspective can be spiritually uniting, and can develop open minded attitudes towards external ideas and influences. Even though people have the right to seek individuality, community is vital to the survival and endurance of any society. I am a First Nations Cree from Edmonton and in my solitude while growing up I learned nothing of community, of society, of allegiance to one another. My self-imposed segregation from those and all that I knew throughout my adolescence eventually led me to head east in my early twenties. It was during my experience of living in Toronto that I began to learn of what being in a community meant. I spent my first two and a half years in Toronto living in the homeless shelters where on average there were forty or more people per night. Along with that, I struggled with addictions for over a decade, and in turn I was lead to another community of people who helped me out. The empowering sensations I experienced in my personal recovery lead me to school, another community where I had to learn to get along in and even excel. I learned to help others in a meaningful way. Fortunately, I also got in touch with my Aboriginal heritage, and the people, which is something I had never done before coming to Toronto. I was no longer in my own endless solitude. Learning to understand what community means to me has made an enormous difference in my life. I know that without it, I would not be where I am today. In fact, I would not be in this world any longer if it were not for the connection to others I sought out and acquired. I am here in this world to make a difference, and I hope throughout my life my brothers and sisters will stand with me in allegiance to help make that difference.
MAGAZINE FNH 13
Those words caress my thinking Iâ€™ve heard those words spoken before in a vision They stirred ancient memories sent from the ancient part of the brain referred Away from most unconscious believers who spend their time Being herded by the deceivers and fake dream weavers
(s)Peak Into My Spirit, (s)Peak into my Soul by Jamaias DaCosta
The smell of fire, sharp and deep like the first time you let a boy hover between your legs, cut into your flesh with their desire.
Ancient knowledge transcending into the follicles like receivers Blocked only in those paper pushing, line towing over achievers And those girls who take on the role of ho and those boys who act like skeezers
Pines needles underfoot, broken pins of forest spines flowing around you, cernuous offerings of the still light.
Frozen in motion their idol devotion to liquid gain cannot sustain forward thinking Instead they remain treading in shark-infested waters missing the point While they were blinking Eventually the weight of their unknowing will have them sinking
Rustles of heavy bodies, shuffling through the spaces between shadowed brush, sounding like the staggered march of fur covered, snout sniffing armies.
In the words of unwritten scripture Delivered to the chosen ones who seek out divine rapture Metaphysic meditation contemplating to capture the points and connect the dots Mystic messages decoding the Haves and Have Nots, The seemingly senseless meant simply for us to just untie the knots Of Indigenous Knowledge Where sense and sensibility no longer impose lack of credibility Logic and perception no longer in question Mysteries unfold, grey areas vibrant with light Panoramic vision, blind spots unblocked and in plain sight Wrong and right take flight like yin and yang Black and white
Here you are free enough to count the span of years, measure your body against the length of the trap line, the lines of your thighs running parallel to the river. How far you have come
Stalking the Trapline by Giles Benaway
from the steps of ancestors, how far you have left to go before you can bury them with the discarded bones of rabbit, fox, and crane. There you are where they have been, is it enough to remember the boundaries of what you have inherited or do you long for the cool touch of grief to wipe away the threads of land which hold you fast, the trap they set for you so many years ago.
Knowledge that ties everything together to write Like hieroglyphic matter splattered on the skin of the night Decolonize your mind Let out your good vibes Watch as I sprinkle mine Love right I woke up from sleep and stepped into the light Wiped the hate from my eyes Rinsed the spite from between my thighs Quieted the fight between my mind and my inner eye Made peace with my wrongs which strengthened my sight As I become One Step closer To the Sublime Life
photo: Aaron Mason
14 FNH MAGAZINE
MAGAZINE FNH 15