The Stories We Tell

Stories from Palestine, Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee lands, and the Afro-Carribean disaspora

In his book Why Indigenous Literatures Matter, which is a kind of guidepost for this entire project, Daniel Heath Justice writes about how our stories help us learn how to be human, how to be good people, good relatives, good ancestors.  The stories we tell, how fiction teaches us to be human.

For July and August I chose fiction, because these are often the months when we find time to get away and sit somewhere with a good book. There’s a long list of Indigenous fiction on the ambe webpage, and I did start going through the authors to see who I might want to talk with but there’s just so many. And what kind of fiction? I could do a whole year just on the different genres of fiction written by Black and Indigenous writers. 

I recently read The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones which is horror, and I read it shortly after reading As We Have Always Done by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson. The title comes from a phrase attributed to Theodore Roosevelt and quoted by Laura Ingalls Wilder in Little Huuse on the Prairie: the only good Indian is a dead Indian. 

In Leanne’s book she tells the story of the time that hoof clan had retreated from the Anishinaabeg because we were not treating them respectfully, we were being wasteful and greedy and so despite their promise to the Creator that they would help us they retreated. It must have been bad if they retreated from a promise made to the Creator. We looked for them, sent out runners and searched and eventually found a small deer. That deer told the runner what hoof clan had decided. Chastened and humbled, the people met with the hoof clan and after days, weeks maybe, of listening another agreement was made and hoof clan returned.  Balance and respect were restored. 

In Jones’ book that balance is broken, and the elk take a different approach. 

I don’t read enough fiction. It always feels like there is too much to learn and not enough time to learn it in and maybe you are like this too. But I learned a lot from Jones’ book. And it made me think about the story of hoof clan that Simpson wrote about in her book.  It challenged me in different ways. So I want to make time for fiction. 

This conversation will be a little different than what we have done before. I have four storytellers for you. They will share stories and poetry and we will talk about the ways these threads weave our peoples together and what they teach us about ourselves and the world around us.

Join us live on July 21 at 7pm edt. You’ll be able to ask questions, participate in the chat, and just soak in the stories. We’re taking August off.  I’m going home to Lac Seul for a few days!  Going to drive for 25 hours and still be in Ontario … 

The panel:

Waubgeshig Rice is an author and journalist from Wasauksing First Nation. He has written three fiction titles, and his short stories and essays have been published in numerous anthologies. His most recent novel, Moon of the Crusted Snow, was published in 2018 and became a national bestseller. He graduated from X University’s journalism program in 2002, and spent most of his journalism career with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation as a video journalist and radio host. He left CBC in 2020 to focus on his literary career. He lives in Sudbury, Ontario with his wife and two sons. 

Janet Marie Rogers is a Mohawk/Tuscarora writer from Six Nations. She was born in Vancouver, British Columbia; lived in Stoney Creek, Hamilton, and Toronto, Ontario; and has lived as a guest on the traditional lands of the Coast Salish people (Victoria, British Columbia) since 1994. Janet works in the genres of poetry, spoken-word performance poetry, video poetry, and recorded poetry with music. Janet is also a radio broadcaster, documentary producer, and media and sound artist.

Sonia Sulaiman is an artist and writer currently working on two books featuring Palestinian folktales, disability, and diaspora poetry. Her work has appeared in Lackington’s Magazine, and also in Whisky Sour City, and Uppercuts by Black Moss Press, in Write Magazine, at OurWindsor and WindsoriteDOTca. She is a recipient of an Ontario Arts Council Recommender Grant for Writers for A Personal Paradise, a collection of poetry about the wounds of colonialism and the Palestinian diaspora.

Kesha Christie is an Afro-Caribbean Storyteller who tells Caribbean and African folklore, Aesop fables and original works.  As an animated edutainer for all ages, Kesha ignites the imagination and carries her audience on an amazing journey from tale to tale.  Through her stories and workshops she interweaves history and motivational speaking.  With an emphasis on youth, her workshops teach communication and leadership skills.

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