indigenous

Category: indigenous

Deep Water Dream Blog

Having just completed my second book, Deep Water Dream, as well as a second edition of my first book, A Doctor’s Quest, I am reflecting on the process of creating a book. It feels a bit like the Indigenous carvers, who take a piece of wood or soapstone, and listen to it to slowly understand what they are to create. Writing is a craft like that, the ongoing refinement, reordering, restructuring, and adding of sudden new insights that change the shape of what you are writing.

I started school in 1956 in a one-room schoolhouse west of Wilton, Ontario, in a tiny community called Thorpe, which encompassed about five or six farms. From that moment on, my teachings about Native Studies encompassed, to my recollection, a few pages on the Iroquois and pictures of teepees and longhouses. To be a Native at that time was definitely not cool. Being designated a Native would have brought beatings, stares, and a path towards poverty because no one would hire you.

Unless you’ve spent the past few weeks living in an internet-free cave in Afghanistan, you are probably aware of the “cultural appropriation prize” fiasco. In short, attempting to explain the expansive creativity of contemporary indigenous writers, Write magazine editor Hal Niedzviecki suggested a learned ability to appropriate. “Buffeted by history and circumstance,” he wrote, indigenous writers must borrow and engage with cultures not their own, and “so often must write from what they don’t know.” As a joke, he suggested a “cultural appropriation prize.”

So the Chicago Cubs beat the Cleveland Indians to win the World Series. When we think about it, “Indians” is a strange nickname for a sports team. Sports teams generally use animals, symbols, or mythical figures as nicknames: the Toronto Blue Jays, the Calgary Stampeders, B.C. Lions, Winnipeg Jets, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Expos, etc.