Archive for the ‘(Re)Memory’ Category

my mother was a refugee

Posted: November 20, 2015 in (Re)Memory, Media

Stains mark the place,
so I won’t lose my way
to the greenblack twists in her linoleum floor. She follows the crack

with her bare feet
as her kitchen sways to Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass
and rice steamed stories
of boats crossing over, waves crossing over, over to the other side of over there where they call
other

Then, a snake
fangs bury sharp beneath her skin (grazing bone)
“I still see his eyes,” she said, “green like mine.”

Water boils.
She rests her wooden spoon.
Still from stirring.

I trace her shores across the line of her neck bent now dark hair falling windowpanes fog
with bruised lemongrass

trassie sambal apple scars: a compass she left behind

that maybe I could find her.kommer

selamat makan

 

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Justine knows this wrought iron bridge well enough.  As she looks up at it from the riverbank, she can see the full length of it. She knows the exact place where her name was carved on its bowstring truss one night a hundred years ago by someone who thought he loved her. A car passes across it, jostling its iron body, and stops her from thinking about how she watched his hand etch the letters deeply into the layers of thick green paint.  Something moves below the bridge and catches her attention.  A young boy crouches beside the dark river on the other side.  He’s not looking at her as he touches the surface of the water with his open hands. Testing the temperature, she guesses. Trying to see his reflection, maybe. Justine considers the slow way the river moves between them.  The skin of a beast flashing a thousand brilliant points of breaking light. Further along an overturned shopping cart is caught in flowing brown-green reeds of river-hair. A Dominion grocery store artifact stuck fast. A rusting discard. Its edges glinting as if new in the morning sun after a midnight joy ride down Blackfriar’s Hill.  On this side of the river, her two children have fallen under the shoreline spell of finding green bits of seaglass.

“Not too close to the water, okay.” Her two young girls in oversized black rain boots and unzipped spring jackets, take one, then two steps back before sitting on the pebbled shore, racking grey gravel for colour with tiny pink fingers.  Small handfuls at a time.

“Mommy, look at this!”

“That’s pretty, honey. See if you can find ten pieces each.”

Her children’s heads bow without question into the task. Justine’s attention wades back across the river. “He can’t be more than fifteen,” she whispers to herself.  The boy stretches his frame and peels off his torn parka.

She watches the boy disappear inside an oversized refrigerator box and re-emerge with a large green knapsack.

“Mommy, we’re hungry!”

From across the river the boy looks up at her, as if the words came from him.  She sees his eyes squint from the white path of sunlight that unfurls across the water.  Reaching.

“Yes, I know.  I can see that,” she says quietly, not taking her eyes away from the boy.

She watches as he turns away, as if he saw her but didn’t see her. He begins to climb using his hands and feet a-quarter-of-the-way-up the breakwater’s inclined grey cement wall.

“Elizabeth, watch your sister.  I’ll be right back.”

“Okay,” her daughter says quietly as she peers up briefly before resuming her search, examines her kneecap where a small pile of sea glass has been sorted – three green one brown one pink stone

Justine makes her way up the embankment carrying a white plastic grocery bag.  The bridge reverberates with the thump-thump of passing cars, crossing from road to bridge to road.  From here, in the middle of the bridge, she can see a long way:  her girls on one side of the river looking for shiny broken pieces and on the other side, a boy.

“Hey!” Justine shouts, a bit surprised to hear her own voice.

Butch looks up.

“I’ve left something for you.”  She holds the bag up against the blue sky like a flag.  And without knowing it, her fingertips briefly touch letters from another time.

The lady who was across the river a minute ago is now on the bridge – waving like she knew him. A white bag hangs from an iron post in the middle of the crossing. Butch dusts some dirt off his shirt and makes his way, slow but not, to the iron-mouth-opening of the bridge.  He instantly catches a waft from the ancient black oil soaked into the bridge’s long wooden planks.  Its wetness, from last night’s rain, gives off a languid layer of steam under the heat of the morning sun. He feels the warmth on his face. Butch sees the lady as she stands on the other side, directly across from him. For a moment they both hold each other’s gaze. He thinks that maybe her lips try to make a smile. Her eyes shine like small stars. Then she’s gone.  Butch leans his body over the iron railing of the bridge to catch one more glimpse.  The lady collects her children. Seaglass clasped tight in small fists. Butch waits for her to look back over her shoulder so he can tell her that her eyes are like stars. But she doesn’t look back.

On the breakwater’s inclined cement wall Butch opens the bag under warm sun. Three sandwiches, three juice boxes, three small clementines, three chocolate chip cookies. He studies the way the sandwiches are wrapped.  Wax paper carefully folded in the middle, and the triangles of extra paper are tucked under, like a gift.  It dawns on Butch that some people make an effort to wrap a sandwich.  It was probably still dark when she made them.  Bare feet on the cold kitchen floor.  A cutting board ready.  She opens her refrigerator.  Full.  She has to move the carton of milk and leftovers out of the way to reach packages of cheese, liverwurst, turkey. Butch thinks about opening his fridge.  The light inside doesn’t work.  Doesn’t matter cause there’s nothin’ to see.  He closes his fridge and thinks about how soft the bread is from the cupboard above her head.  She probably has to stand on her toes to reach it.  How her hands move.  A hard calm. Tearing. Placing. Folding. Tucking in. She probably smoothed her full hand across her kid’s forehead just before they woke. Butch’s stomach grumbles. He opens the folds carefully (sandwich balancing on his knees), picks up one half, eyes the filling, and takes a bite.

The river is deep.  He tries to see the bottom.  “Standing at the bottom of a deep dark well you can see the stars in a daylight sky,” he says to himself with his cheek full of liverwurst and Wonder bread. He looks to where the lady stood and imagines her.  Imagines her hand on his forehead.  He takes another bite.  A ball forms in his cheek.  His eyes close with the weight of the sun and absently he reaches into his knapsack for his book. Instead, his fingers feel the edges of the metal pipe.

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The ‘v’ was bleeding.  Almost into a “y” before it dried.  That’s what I’d say, if you asked me.  But why should I tell you?  Tell you about the dark red letters painted on the side of the white truck:  Sam Sheep’s East Side Movers.   Under my breath I practiced my s’s:  “Tham Theepths Eathed Thid Moverth ssh th ss.”   Funny, the things you remember.  I remember my seven-year old body wanting to bounce.  Sometimes it did, but mostly I kept it in.   Start agains.  That’s what me and Butch called our moving days.  The scent of opened paint cans, the shafts of uncurtained window light, the steps of something better walking in and out of egg-shell white, empty, unsorted rooms.  Only thing was, Butch was saying start agains different.   It wasn’t just in his voice; it was in his whole body.  A turn to cold.  A mean cold that would slip in from under a trapdoor.

On moving day the van appeared from out of nowhere.  Its motor rumbled, ready and eager to get a move on – a beast on a leash.  Me and Butch sat in the square open mouth at the back, thrown in with the luggage and the boxes. Told to stay put.  Butch climbed a small crag among the cardboard’s mountainous range.

“All our worldly possessions right here under my ass!” he shouted as he lifted his body up with his arms and dropped down hard on the precarious edge. I sat on a brown vinyl suitcase below him.  He bit his nails and spit white semi-circles down at me.

“Stop it or I’m gonna tell on you!” I whined, waving my arms trying to deflect bits of nail.

“Ha! Who ya gonna tell?”

I didn’t turn to look at him. He just thumped his feet hard on the boxes and sang songs I didn’t know.

Butch leaned back heavy on our laundry basket stuffed with winter coats, almost toppling it. I remember my army green snow pants and a pair of red mittens fall from above and land near my feet. I looked up ready to say something but he was busy reaching his hands into the basket. They emerged with a set of bongos he stole from the grade 9 music room. “Fuckin’ A,” I heard him whisper.”Fookin’ A.”  I looked away to watch the outside. A marmalade cat tucked herself into the shade beneath a parked car.  The only other traffic on the curbless, sun-filled street was some hanging laundry  from the low rise balconies catching an occasional breeze, and the cicadas’ singing, piercing through the summer heat. Then from inside our darkened cavern ever so lightly with his fingertips (oh, so lightly), I heard Butch tap out a rhythm. Skin on skin. Tilting my head up, I watched him from below.  The smooth wood of the instrument was clamped tight between his legs. His long thin back curved over the double-hided spheres. His head poised to one side, his thirsty ear listening. As if he was looking for something far away.  A darkness was lifting. I liked his face this way.  Like the moon.  One side always dark.  Butch liked the moon. At night we’d walk around the empty streets with nowhere to go and look up at the moon. It was like a compass thrown into the dark ocean of sky. Like a spell, he’d rhyme off the moon’s seas: Mare Frigoris, Mare Imbrium, Mare Cognitum, Mare Crisium …

But they’re not really seas.

Oceanus Procellarum …

Usually he stood in its eclipse, but just then, the shadow turned away, briefly. He was a waxing gibbous. Luminous.  A warm light.

“You two bandits okay in there?” From outside the truck came a raspy voice like a chase through loose grey gravel.  Thick with debris. Followed by a long cough.

A man, telephone-pole tall, clad in faded blue coveralls, edged around from the side of the truck.  Pant legs too short.  Sam was written on his shirt pocket all fancy in dark blue.  His eyes were set in a squint from sun and smoke.  A tuque sat atop his head.  A dollop of black wool.  In the corner of his mouth a cigarette burned. Long ash doomed.  He leaned his hands against the rim of the truck as if holding the sides open with all his might.

“Hey, is your name really Sam?” Butch asked with a wide smile, heels thumping the boxes.

The Moving Man looked steady – not moving.  For a minute I thought he was going to reach in and throw Butch out and onto the road. Instead, in a single fluid motion, his cigarette ferried from one corner of his mouth to the other.  The ash broke.  The Moving Man adjusted his cap. “Just helpin’ out my brother.”

Butch shot back in disbelief,  ‘Ha! You mean your brother makes you wear his suit? The thumping stopped. The two stared at each other.

“That’ll be enough outta you little man,” he said pointing, adjusting his cap “Just yous keep ‘er down in there.” A smile appeared across the Moving Man’s lips like a strange wave frequency.  He flicked his smoke to the ground.  Orange sparks.

The panel door scraped downward. Rattling chains to pitch black.  The beast revved.  A low rumble vibrated our bodies.  The truck lurched forward and we both reached out into the darkness.   In moving black, Butch drummed while I kept my unseeing eyes wide-open trying to sing along to songs I didn’t know.

I have been asked the question many times over the course of my research and writing: “Why Riel?” The a/effect of answering the question provides me with the opportunity to consider my position within the work. One answer could be that as I happened upon the torrent of dehumanizing representations of Riel in the nineteenth century press, I also realized that a critical analysis addressing the relationship between the trial and the media was lacking in scholarship and thus necessary. Another answer could be that additional work needed to done within the context of Canada’s nineteenth century media and its representation of Aboriginal identities; moreover, how do these early representations inform the present day understandings of indigenous sovereignties, histories and stories? It could be that late one night at a library’s microfiche bay, I realized that something was not quite right when I read the Riel trial coverage in the 1885 newspapers. The answer could also be that I wanted to better understand how the mechanics of racism operate and figure out how the stereotyped matrix is configured and then dispensed into zones of intelligibility. All these responses would indeed be accurate; yet, these answers do not really resolve why I have not been able to let Riel go.

What I have come to learn over the years, and in fact what I am still learning, is that much of what draws me to the subject of Riel and Métis sovereignty has much to do with my own histories. Although I am not from Aboriginal descent, my corporeal and psychic being is a product of the colonial project. My father was Dutch; my mother was Indonesian. While not plunging the plumb line too deep into my own complex historical well (this work will be left for another time), what lies at the core of my affinity to Riel’s history is my mother. As a half-caste Indonesian-Dutch woman, she was born into the Dutch colonized archipelago where she survived a Japanese internment camp in Indonesia during WWII. Her histories similar to those histories of thousands of girls and women, who endured the violence of war and subsequent displacement, exile and lose of identity and geography, has remained largely undocumented. From the age of ten until she was fourteen my mother was a prisoner in the camp along with my great grandmother, my grandmother, and my tanta. One of my tantas was born in the camp. When the war ended they were further displaced into a refugee camp in Singapore before being forced to the Netherlands and into exile. My mother and her sisters were told never to speak of their origin, the camp, their histories, and their mixed race. Silenced was the history of my mother whose hair was cut and her name changed to “Jimmy” along with her gender at the age of ten. She lived in the camp as a boy (a common mother’s trick during war to save their daughters from being taken by soldiers as “comfort women”). The “comfort woman” euphemism of war facilitated the rape, exploitation, and the torture and murder of young girls. Silenced was my grandmother’s smuggling of cigarettes out of the camp at night for medicine to try to save the malnutritioned, sick and dying girls and women, one of which was her own mother, my great grandmother. Silenced was the sexual violence, my grandmother giving birth to a daughter in the camp, the racial hierarchies in all-women’s camps that relegated the hybridity of Indonesian-Dutch women to exclusion and violence. Silenced were these histories and countless others under the guise of assimilation and shame. “We are now Dutch,” my mother was told. But my mother knew she wasn’t really Dutch. She didn’t want to be Dutch. And in her bones she would never belong – anywhere; her hybridity, her half-breededness, her impurity would haunt her and, so it seems, would haunt her daughter. My mother always felt she lost her home, her land, her self.  When she eventually arrived in Canada, she was lost.

I am able to pass as white, yet beneath my skin, just under the surface I am an Indonesian-Dutch hybrid who is determined to keep categories, whatever they may be, complicated and unfixed, and always with unstable histories. Complicated histories. Sarah Stillman explains that it is the obligation of scholars to “pursue the unknown ghosts and recognize the need for proactive digging to recover stories about those deemed ‘disposable’; and valuing the structural integrity, details, and delicacy of each individual story you unearth” (500). Perhaps it was the words in Riel’s testimony: “But justice demands that we honor our mothers as well our fathers. Why should we care to what degree exactly of mixture we possess European blood and Indian blood?” Riel’s words struck a chord when defining his place, his identity, and his sovereignty; perhaps, what struck a deeper chord was the government’s negation of his rights and the denial of his belonging. If I do not identify as mixed raced I negate my mother, my grandmother, my great-grandmother, and tantas’ histories; I ignore the colonial violence they lived; I absolve the colonizer, and I devalue their daily acts of resistance. I erase their strength. I enable silence. Assimilation is amnesia’s handmaiden. I am privileged to be stained by my father’s whiteness; yet, I am also privileged to be haunted by the hybrid ghosts who never sleep, who speak to me, who toss and turn and at times beat their fists beneath the floorboards of my skin and demand that their histories are spoken. So, here I return to my initial question:  why Riel?  Truthfully, I am still not exactly certain. What I do know is that somewhere within the landscape of Riel’s and Métis histories I recognize specters that continue to haunt me; and their need to be resurrected, to speak, to be recognized, to refuse the refusal of their sovereignty and to do the work to set it right.  There is indeed work for the living to do.

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notes from here to space:

Posted: May 27, 2013 in (Re)Memory, Love, Media

did you know that from the bottom of a well looking skyward i can see the stars during the day?
venus has two continents & lava plains beneath impenetrable clouds of sulphuric acid
phobos & deimos (panic & fear) are moons in synchronous rhythm with red mars
jeans instability is a force overcome & causes interstellar clouds to collapse
blue neptune with its great dark spot discovered because it had to be
thermonuclear fusion in the sun’s core & neutrinos fly to earth
shepherd satellites (prometheus and pandora) herd their flock of rock and ice
& circle endless saturn
pleiades (the seven sisters) maia electra alcyone taygete asterope celaeno merope:
zeus changed them into doves
galileo galilei looked into the sky in 1610
the naked eye can see andromeda 2.2 million light years away
beyond our milky way a hundred billion galaxies
during the first second there was the speed of light

imagine

gravity

pleiades_M45

 


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50.    IPA.    Redcap.  Stubby brown glass. A bottle-mouth my lips blow a whistle across.
Every Friday the beer truck delivered; we didn’t have a car.
I never really thought about why she put it up there, up there on the mantle.

“A freak of nature,” a neighbour whispered holding it up to the window, then looking at her.

The cap’s metal teeth biting down, sunlight filling the glass,
warming the small dead body inside.

“An omen” my mother said.

I.

The stone fireplace has a mantle (as all should);
a carved wooden crow with one glass eye
watches the room entirely      convinced.
She’d walk her dog, Rocco,
a grey German Shepherd, along the riverbank.
Pant leg hems muddy.  She comes in through the backdoor
wiping his paws with a tea towel.
Her dog swam out, brought driftwood back held tight between his teeth
Growled when she took it away.
A piece of fallen oak, she liked its uprootedness.
A boat with holes to secure her square Kodachrome snapshots
sepia-toned-passengers
set careful
beginning to curl, teetering
children clutching her hands on either side
next to the convinced crow with the glass eye
watching

en neem er vooral een glas koel bier bij?

II.

a case of twenty-four
a well     a spring    a fixture
in the middle of her kitchen floor
Rocco at her feet
she divines from a chrome chair
elbows on her bare legs
smoking a cigarette the driver left
pulls the kerchief from her hair
thinks about cracking open
glass rubbing glass clinking glass
hooked in her crooked fingers
brown headless bodies
full of ale “good for breast feeding” she says
a consolation prize

in one bottle she sees a small vagrancy
caught by its tail
as it slipped through the air vent the crack, the cage
breathless fugitive
weightless body
heavy plans gone awry
bottled then capped
“think i’m dead?”

they muse

her floating eyelids up and down
did she just wink?
“cheeky”
mouse inside her glass house
winks back
she places her bottled stowaway next to her boat next to her snaps next
to her cocky one eyed crow next
lighting another cigarette, she admires her mantle (as all should)

they both wonder:

“how shall i be got out?”
cigarette ash drops to the floor
“how             shall i be got out?”

Kim Anderson, Métis writer and scholar, explains that “Native women [have] historically been equated with the land.  The Euro-constructed image of Native women therefore mirrors Western attitudes towards the earth.  Sadly, this relationship has typically developed within the context of control, conquest, possession, and exploitation” (100). Emma LaRocque borrows from Sarain Stump‘s poetry in There Is My People Sleeping when explaining the significance of hearing the voices that break the violent continuity of this ever present colonial misrepresentation:

I was mixing the stars and sand
In front of him
But he couldn’t understand
I was keeping the lightening of
The thunder in my purse
Just in front of him
But he couldn’t understand
And I have been killed a thousand times
Right at his feet

“Culture forms our beliefs” as Gloria Anzaldua argues, and “we perceive the version of reality that it communicates. Dominant paradigms, predefined concepts that exist as unquestionable, unchallengeable, are transmitted to us through the culture” (38). Stereotypes are not spontaneous phenomena; they require what John Durham Peters calls “the zone of intelligibility” (208) where a meeting of minds can take place – this takes time. But where does “the zone” or what Wilkie Collins used as his essay title, “The Unknown Public,” occur?  How does it happen? What are the power configurations at work and how are the images and their inscribed knowledge transmitted and what is their material and psychic impact?  When describing the representation of Aboriginal peoples in Canada’s nineteenth-century, historian, Lyle Dick explains “from the time of Confederation, the media has generated images of Canada, its constituent peoples and regions, exerting a wide-ranging impact on the country’s culture. To study these images, especially in the key period after 1867, is to witness the nation-state in the process of its ideological construction” (1).[1]

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Plate 1

The nineteenth-century newspapers in America, Britain, and Canada were the most ubiquitous agent of popular education (Anderson and Robertson 2011; Benjamin 1968; Brake 2009; Burke 2005) and as such constructed events using established stereotyped colonial ideologies to organize a meeting of minds or “imagined communities” among strangers (Anderson, “Imagined” 6). European whiteness mobilized the stereotype of the so-called “wild savage” and held within it the noble, the child, the feminine, and the enemy. Nancy Black argues that to determine a sovereign state there must be an enemy and it manifested in the Western illustrated press into the figure of “The Indian” (130). Understanding that the nation’s communication systems were saturated with the figure of  “The Indian,” in its multiple formations, begins to address Daniel Francis’ question:  “How did I begin to believe in the Imaginary Indian?” (18).  Francis’s query opens further questions concerning the shaping of a national consciousness that contributed to a unifying ideology that Eva Mackey calls Canadian-Canadians (3) or as Mark Cronlund Anderson and Carmen L. Robertson describe as “imagined Canadiana” (9).

How then is the mythical continuity of a unified “Canada” ruptured in the 2013 counter movement Idle No More; moreover, how does the present leadership of Chief Theresa Spence disrupt (in her demand to speak with the Prime Minister of Canada concerning land, governance, social and economic policies) the historical national framework that has endeavoured to make absent and silence Aboriginal women and girls: (in)actions that continue to wage an ignored colonial violence against them, and even in the real and statistical atrocities, that mark the evidence of their missingness and murders, their names are erased. What violence then, it must be asked, does the Prime Minister’s refusal to speak to Chief Theresa Spence continue to advocate and authorize?

It was not surprising to read the biased article reported by the CBC, a Canadian Crown corporation owned by the federal state: “Review of troubled Northern Ontario reserve’s finances says federal funds spent without records” If the audit report, that the CBC coverage presents inaccurately, is actually read it is clear that the audit conclusions criticize, in fact, the federal government’s department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada’s (AANDC) management, or rather mismanagement, of the Attawapiskat funding. The media and its “timely” slandering of Chief Theresa Spence’s leadership is a stark reminder (if indeed one needs to be reminded) of the colonial strategies and stereotypes that continue to be deployed by the government through the media when they are confronted with acts of resistance.

The line of attack is not new. The foundational media strategy is rooted as far back as the c1493 Basel woodcut, “Epistola de insulis nuper inventis” [“Concerning islands recently discovered”], from Columbus’ letters and the advent of print production; yet, its stronghold, within the material and psychic spaces of growing nationalism and printing press technology in Canada, is made by the mid-nineteenth century.

In the July 16, 1885 edition of The Regina Leader newspaper, for instance, under the headline Telegraphic News – Ottawa  – “Supplementary Estimates Brought Down,” paper editor and owner, Nicholas Flood Davin summarizes the federal budget report for the North West; the article proves insightful particularly when bearing in mind the ignored petitions and the grievances brought forward against the federal government by the Métis peoples, Aboriginal Nations, and white settlers concerning not only land, but also the social anxiety and violence by increased and aggressive policing along with an upswing in the government’s implementation of irresponsible and malignant policies that created the foundations of inadequate health, economic, educational, and social systems on Reserves – issues demanded to be constitutionally addressed and recognized in the Métis Bill of Rights (1869 and 1885).  Sound familiar? The report includes the 1885 federal budget forecasting $250,000 earmarked to the North West Mounted Police, $50,000 toward land surveys, $660,000 for the CPR, and $6,000 to the “Half-breeds” (1). The report on one level reflects the government’s exclusive priorities: security, ‘acquisition’ of land, military transportation and communication technologies through the North West specifically adhering to colonial objectives, while on another appeasing the apparent needs and sentiments of the Victorian settlers by disseminating propaganda that security is enforced, land is organized, mobility and communication services are accessible, and that the Métis, with Riel charged with high treason, were, according to their the under-funding, “disappearing,” and the Aboriginal Nations (not allotted a funding budget line) were not present at all. It was the era of the “Vanishing Indian” and similar to the 2013 CBC coverage, the numbers were presented to do colonial ideological legwork. Conventional to the Leader’s format, the article is followed by a travel narrative entitled “The North West as, a Home, for the Small Farmer” and on the following page, the headline “The End of the Rebellion.”

In the same issue, the article “The Mounted Police – The Report of the Commissioner” replicates the geographical specialization of race, the implementation of government policies in the Indian Act, as well as how the policies were not accepted by the Aboriginal communities but were instead forced upon them in the issuing of discipline and punishment through state policing.  In the report, Prime Minister John A. Macdonald condemns “the indiscriminate camping of Indians in the vicinity of towns and villages in the North West … Indians should not be allowed to leave their reserves without a permit from a local Indian agent.” The report

pointed out that the introduction of such a system [The Indian Act] would be  tantamount to a breach of confidence with the Indians generally, inasmuch as from the outset the Indians had been led to believe that compulsory residence on reservations would not be required of them, and that they would be at liberty to travel about for legitimate hunting and trading purposes … that discretionary power, according to circumstance should be vested in the officers of police, was wise and sound … The camping of Indians near towns is an unmitigated nuisance, and if they are to be allowed to wander off their reserves without even the small check of a permit from the local agent, what is the good of having reserves at all?

Davin’s extract taken from the House of Commons invites his readers into the sovereign zone of intelligibility as it reinforces the mapping of racialized spatial hierarchies and authorizes “community” surveillance as a “wise and sound” method to maintain security while it segregates boundary lines between the civilized “towns and villages,” and individuals from Native communities as “unmitigated nuisance.”  Within the loaded colonial tropology of “if they are to be allowed to wander” metaphorically transfers as it reduces the Aboriginal population as deviant and must be kept confined and more specifically aligned with the state protocols of incarceration. In 2012, with the prison population overwhelmed with individuals of Aboriginal descent, the nineteenth government policy as a racist template continues to have catastrophic implications: “Aboriginal people are four per cent of the Canadian population, but 20 per cent of the prison population … one in three women in federal prisons is Aboriginal and over the last 10 years representation of Aboriginal women in the prison system has increased by 90 per cent.”[2] Moreover, the imperial euphemism of discretionary power issued by the North West Mounted Police (NWMP) elides the colonial violence in the rhetoric of security; the police did not protect the rights and interests of the Indigenous population but, rather, collaborated closely with eastern business interests who paid their salaries.[3] By 1883, 70% of the Métis and more than 50% of the Native English (“Half-breeds”) had seen the lands they occupied in 1870 patented to others mostly Ontario Orangemen newcomers.[4]

The public slandering of Chief Theresa Spence in the national media, and the Prime Minister’s explicit disrespect in his refusal to meet with her as a leader of a community, within the nation of Canada, that has not only been mismanaged by its federal agents (as identified in the audit report) but has also been sanctioned into a state of crisis because of the AANDC’s delinquent and negligent methods, reflects how Harper continues in the colonial footsteps of his nineteenth century Conservative predecessor.

Macdonald_Nov20_1885

Plate 2

There was another figure who led, with others, two movements of resistance, whose leadership was also disparaged in the press, and who articulated his response to the nineteenth century Canadian federal government concerning parallel issues that remain to be addressed in 2013. To follow is one instance among many:

The only things I would like to call your attention to, before you retire to deliberate are:
1st. That the House of Commons, Senate, and ministers of the Dominion who makes laws for this land and govern it are no representation whatever of the people of the North-West.
2ndly. That the North-West Council generated by the federal Government has the great defect of its parent.
3rdly. The number of members elected for the Council by the people make it only a sham representative legislature and no representative Government at all. British civilization, which rules to day the world, and the British constitution has defined such Government as this which rules the North West Territory is an irresponsible Government, which plainly means that there is no responsibility, and by the science which as been shown here yesterday you[] are compelled to admit it, there is no responsibility, it is insane. (Louis Riel, Prisoner’s Address, 1885)

The Idle No More movement is also not a recent phenomena but a continuum of 500 years of resistance. Perhaps then, in the news media’s eagerness and the government’s colonial anxiety that attempt to misrepresent and undermine, once again, Aboriginal peoples issues, demands and leadership, make evident just how powerful Spence’s counter movement, and a growing solidarity, is.

List of Illustrations

Plate 1
“Canada West” (c. 1923-1925)
Immigration Poster
Issued under the direction of N. James Alexander Robb,
Minister of Immigration and Colonization, Ottawa, Canada

Plate 2
Glenbow Museum.  Edgar Dewdney Fond.
“J.A. Macdonald to Dewdney.” Correspondence with Sir John A. Macdonald – 1878-1888.
Series 8. M-320-p.587. On-line.

[1] Dick, Lyle. Manitoba History, 48. Autumn/Winter 2004/2005. Web. April 30 2012. http://www.mhs.mb.ca/docs/mb_history/48/nationalism.shtml

[2] Carolyn Bennett. “Aboriginal People Need Solutions, Not More Jail Time.” The Huffington Post. December 11, 2012. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/hon-carolyn-bennett/aboriginal-crime_b_1923856.html

[3] Metis Culture 1875-1885.”1883.” Retrieved from http://www.telusplanet.net/public/dgarneau/metis50.htm

[4] Metis Culture 1875-1885. Retrieved from -http://www.telusplanet.net/public/dgarneau/metis50.htm

The students – Megan Reback, Élan Stahl, and Hannah Levinson – used ‘the word’
during a public reading at John Jay High school
in a New York city suburb.

School principal Richard Leprine said the girls
were being punished because they disobeyed
an order not to use ‘the word.’

They used the word

Hang thee, young baggage!
Disobedient wretch.
I tell thee what – get thee to church Thursday
Or never after look me in the face
Speak not, reply not, do not answer me!
My fingers itch …
Out on her.             [Capulet in Romeo and Juliet]

The three girls
were a bit older than Juliet would have been
when she disobeyed

When a student chooses not to follow that directive, consequences follow.
[Leprine in NYTimes, Mar 8, 2007]

The girls said they never made such agreement.   [NYTimes, Mar 8,2007]

Megan, Élan, and Hannah took turns reading an excerpt
from the play; then they read the
offending passage together:

My short skirt is a liberation flag in the
women’s army – they read – I declare
these streets, any streets, my vagina’s
country.   [from Monologues, “My Short Skirt”]

Readings of the play [The Vagina Monologues]
are a common fund-raiser for sexual assault
and battered women’s centres
because [Eve] Ensler
suspends royalty payments for groups combating
violence against women

Plate 1. Francesca Woodman: From Angel series, Rome, 1977. George and Betty Woodman.

Plate 2. Francesca Woodman, Untitled, Providence, Rhode Island, 1975-1978. George and Betty Woodman.

mis/pronunciation

Posted: August 28, 2012 in (Re)Memory, Love, Sovereignty

“Room One is for the slow people,” Frances said when I told her where I go on Tuesdays on Tuesdays, in the school’s basement, Room One waits for me as I walk the sharp cornered corridors (small steps muted) I try not to think about Frances because I can’t pronounce her as I practice my s’s thay my ethhis’s. Under my arm my robin-egg-blue notebook red lines crowned with pencil chubby sea shore sea shore thhee e thoorre (concentrate) thh ee thore theee thhhore. Room One’s door is notebook blue with a small window way up high yellow-warm with light opens and then Miss Sutherland’s sandy hair done up and her green blouse well-tucked in a rose coloured skirt. Her barefeet in open white sandals and the edges of her heels patched with hard cracking garden blackened skin an April earth. I dangle my legs under me under my small chair with the plastic orange seat. Swallow hard. My mouth is broken. Needs fixing. Miss Sutherland’s shoulder touches mine  and I smell spring and open books with sheep. shores. shoulders. shouts. seashells. songs. sad ships she senses six-year-old’s suffering suffocation in/articulation. Then a tin cup with gold stars. Licking her finger with her tongue a star for my robin-egg-blue notebook. Am I slow? I want to ask but I can’t pronounce her. My tongue can’t find its place. The blue door closes behind me. I leave the soft room and go upstairs where Frances is waiting.

I’m late.
He’s sleeping in his bed, one leg uncovered, running shoe half off, the sun
not even up yet.
He grew tired of waiting.  I know
he’s sleeping even as I stand at the elevators; his snores can penetrate steel.
I push open the door to his small room, his breathing

suspended in apnea

I wait :

It comes like a long piece of cardboard ripping from top to bottom.
Two quick inhales and a return to steady snores.  His pills
know how to keep him.

I shake his shoulder; his eyelids pull open, one at a time:  nightglue.
I put a tin of sardines in his vest pocket.

One of his paintings hang on the wall, next to his bed:
“Vermeer’s light comes only from a window.  See,” he says, pointing, as I pass him his teeth.
The lacemaker’s uninterested.
Her head bends, two fingers, two needles, two threads making lace on polished oak.
She’s used to his noises.

Exercises are posted under his painting,
to keep his left side from atrophy

bend knee up, straighten knee down, bend knee up, straighten knee down, bend knee up

One of my hands holds his ankle, the other under his knee
weight  of a fallen branch.
He looks up at the ceiling.
His eyes watering.

“Don’t hold your breath,” I say.  “And no holding the side of the bed!”

He used to walk the tightrope with these two legs; a steel wire
strung like a clothesline in front of his cottage on the edge of Erie’s eroding shoreline.
He’d hop on the wire like it was a bus, swaying       catching balance
stepping forward and back, balancing a broom on his nose, rings spinning fire on his arms.
“Swaying side to side makes the old ladies scream,” he says.  Laughing.
“Boats came in from Ashtabula to see me.”

 bend knee up, “yeah right,” straighten knee down, bend knee up, straighten

He lived alone with his paintings and books and unpredictable shoreline
“One Christmas I strung candy-coloured lights around me from head to toe and walked the wire.
Damn near fell in the lake.
The neighbours had to come round to untangle me.”

Fresh pants clean shirt nylon jacket.  Combing his hair makes him still.
I put his feet into his shoes, left ankle swollen to a stump, wheelchair
opens like a story he never expected.
Leaving his small room, I glance at the lacemaker and her window of light:

she doesn’t bother to look up.