Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Ontology of The parrot paradox

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Ontology of The parrot paradox

The story that North America was some kind of Eden started with Columbus, that idea is where the dehumanization of Indians (North American Natives) and this is where a lot of Aboriginal literature begins, here we begin to find our humanness. This is where White/colonial Canada begins discourse with/about Native Americans.
Our discourse is built on myths and misunderstandings and there cannot be any real communication on this continent until this one issue is resolved. Perhaps my poetry is a post, no a colonial point of view, an aboriginal meaning, struggling in English, a foreign language, but it was either English or remain silent. I could not have chosen silence.
The idea of a subjective aboriginal poet, an aboriginal poet can be objective, perhaps even more than a Whites as an aboriginal person would probably have more cultural tools with which, therefore treating with an equality not easily available to mainstream academics.. That’s not to say that White colonial academics couldn’t do it, but what might be missing is a cultural context, namely a aboriginal cultural context. Western/Christian thought, interpreting aboriginal text would have so much historical baggage with it. Everything from Hobbes Leviathan ideas about the state to Locke’s ideas of property, that were used to justify taking North America away from the Aboriginal peoples. Native Authors also have their burdens to bare, writing beneath this huge dead white thing, Western literature. I find, as an aboriginal person Western literature does not speak to me, there is nothing about me in it. From the Western/Christian ideas of God(s), to its views on the land. From standing here these ideas are totalitarian.
When you are brought up in Canada, as a an Aboriginal person; you are treated as if you don’t belong. I remember grade school where white children wanted to tell me to go back where I came from, like they did other, distinctly brown immigrant children, but couldn’t because they weren’t sure of where that was. The dominant society believes Indians shouldn’t be here, because we are not mentioned in the bible and science hasn’t convinced me. That feeling comes from a history of social Darwinism, Writers like Frank Baum, Joseph Conrad and even Samuel Clemens believed it. Growing up, Native in Canada, you get the distinct feeling that you don’t belong here and archaic. As an aboriginal person you begin to believe that you don’t belong here, was Frank Baum and his belief about the destruction of the noble red man right? In the Western tradition, Indians were either tree hugging environmentalists or blood thirsty savages slaughtering every woolly mammoth and mastodon in sight, anything but human.
To understand literature, any instructor will tell you to read, read, read. For Indigenous people there is a caveat to that instruction, let’s call it the parrot paradox bookstores, universities, libraries, radio programs are saturated with White literature, why would an Indigenous person saturate themselves in the language of the oppressor’s literature? To find their own voice? Really? I know Aboriginal people find very little literature in this country that says anything to them. We have to write our own, it is urgent, there is an urgency to Indigenous literature. Otherwise would, to be defined by the settler.
I believe native/aboriginal/indigenous writers have more in common with writings of Ho Chi Minh and Frantz Fanon than Canadian writers. Writers like Anita Heiss (Australia), Achebe, Chinua (Nigeria) Wole Soyinka (Nigeria), Palestinian poet Mamoud Darwish.. There really is no place for Aboriginal writers in Canadian literature. Canada is the 1st world, Aboriginal people in this country live in what George Manuel called the 4th world. For me Aboriginal people in this country have more in common with Palestinians, who have to struggle goods into the Westbank and Gaza, now look at Cornwall Island and Kanesetake, the economies of these places are the same! If you look at publishing in Canada, year after year, you’ll find a few slim volumes by Aboriginal people and about a hundred by non-Aboriginal people about Aboriginal people. Penny Petrone mentioned that twenty years ago, and you know what, it hasn’t changed one bit.

Bibliography
Weaver, Womack, Warrior; American Indian Literary Nationalism; 2005
Marx, The Idea of a Colony: Cross-Culturalism in Modern Poetry; 2004
Eigenbrod. Travelling Knowledges: Positioning the Im/Migrant Reader of Aboriginal Literatures in Canada; 2005
Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth; 1963

2 comments

You are correct , the number of books being published by aboriginal people in Canada is miniscule. I would love to recommend Vera Wabegijig, her first book of poetry will be out next year, I believe its called, Wild rice Dreams. Two other aboriginal poets I admire, that stirred me are Marilyn Dumont and Gregory Scofield. For playwights Daniel David Moses and a novel by Thomson Highway, Kiss Of The Fur Queen. Hope this helps, sorry for the delayed response.

David,
There are few books published in Canada by Aboriginal peoples but, of those that there are, could you please suggest some titles that you'd recommend ie ones you particularly enjoyed?
Thanks,
Susan

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David Groulx

Award-winning poet David Groulx's most recent poetry collection, Rising with a Distant Dawn, is published by BookLand Press. David’s poetry has also appeared in over a hundred periodicals in Canada, England, Australia, Germany, Austria, Turkey and the USA. He lives in Ottawa.

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