some tell me this is my pilgrimage
but you and I both know you were not shrine material
you were
too much of this earth, composed
to breakdown, rise
tree like
limbs bearing these candlenuts I carry
in my pocket

this is my religion

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Image  —  Posted: July 10, 2014 in Media

At an event I recently attended I was told that my dissertation was not considered feminist enough. My response, as I held my drink standing within the din of clinking glasses, was: “you’re joking, right?” Interestingly, the remark was made by someone who did not read my work but based their conclusion on my topic. My research project is an analysis of Louis Riel’s 1885 trial and the representation of the Métis leader by the nineteenth-century media and its present day implications. Beyond my ostensibly glib reaction, the remark raised several questions for me, which I am compelled to bring forward to create a conversation.

Aside from the intriguing fact that someone would suggest that my work concerning a Métis leader and his representation in the media is not feminist enough, even more curious is how exactly this reasoning was deduced? This is particularly troubling when considering the long-standing issues endured by Métis peoples in Canada and the continued violence against all Aboriginal Nations specifically with the ever present crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls – a consequence my research connects to Riel’s execution and the negation of Aboriginal sovereignties. Perhaps a more astute question is how could this work not be feminist?

While I accept all criticism as valuable, even more so than praise, this remark left me stymied. Granted my methodology for this specific project does not outwardly use a “conventional” western feminist approach (explained in my Introduction). Instead, my discourse analysis of the historical event applies a critical race and postcolonial approach as I utilize the scholarship, storytelling, and writings of Métis and First Nations scholars, including Riel. I felt this method was necessary because a western analytic framework could once again colonize the sovereign objectives and paradigmatic and contextual shifts Riel was undertaking. As a feminist scholar, I felt this was the most feminist approach to take.

What then does it mean to be feminist enough? Who am I proving my feminism to? Must my feminism be proved at all? Who is in charge of judging this? Are there guidelines, a rule book, an obstacle course, a code of conduct, a hazing ritual, a membership mandate, proof in the pudding, or a complex set of algorithms which will magically spit out gold coins revealing: “Yes, this is feminist … enough?”

Am I, or is my feminism, not enough? Bound with the short sighted evaluation of my work (or more specifically, its title) is an intellectual and proprietary hierarchy, which privileges an assumed power to dictate what feminism is, and with it also arrives (ironically) a distinct gust of patriarchy, no?

Interesting.

To me, if I may be so bold (as a feminist), the remark in many ways says more about the institutionalization of feminisms (plural intended), rather than my work as not being feminist enough. My work was shut down instead of opened up to consider all the possibilities. I was silenced and with this silencing so too was, once again, the contextual histories of the critical work at hand: issues concerning Métis sovereignty.

For the record, my research illuminates new scholarship concerning Riel’s advocacy for the rights and recognition of Métis and First Nations women and girls; his public condemnation of the Canadian government’s gender-based violence during the period; and the connection between the criminalization of Métis sovereignty, which culminated in Riel’s execution, with present day issues concerning missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

The criticism I received was indeed extremely valuable as I continue my everyday feminist methodology: to question and to listen in order to understand and create conversations. I also look forward to bring this anecdote forward into the classrooms where I teach students who come with their own complex histories, and varied stories, and who are grappling with what it means to be a feminist.

I will listen to them in order to understand and to remain open to all possibilities.

 

So far along our road trip you’ve read Germano, got your solo writing cape on, have a belief in what you’re doing, know for sure why your work needs to be published, and had another piece of pie. Okay, time to check the GPS (online resources) and think about where we are headed by considering all the publishers ever known. It’s Bucket List Time, folks. That’s right, you need to look at all the possibilities so you don’t miss the right possibility. Think big! Now ask yourself some questions. Pretend you are doing a Buzzfeed quiz.

 

1) Readership: who would be interested in reading this work?

2) Academic or popular or both: is the work framed for a more educational/institutional setting or for popular culture? Does it serve both sectors?

3) What is the main discipline? Women’s Studies, Political Science, French Studies, Aboriginal Studies, Shakespeare Studies, Communication, Canadian Art History, Social Sciences, Anthropology, Theatre, Psychology, Creative Writing, Religious Studies, Medicine, Art Education, Law, Fine Arts, American Literature, East Asian Literature, etc.

  • Note: this is tricky especially if you are an interdisciplinary scholar because more than likely you will be able to select 18 possible disciplines. In this case, narrow it down to 3.

4) What is the main theme within the discipline? Write it down in one sentence, for instance, “The main theme that my book follows in the discipline of Political Science is  …”

5) What are two secondary themes? One sentence!!!

6) Which country is the work grounded in? United States, South America, Canada, Indonesia, Finland, Africa, etc. Detail the specific region if possible.

  • Even if your work has a global trajectory, it is more than likely your research is based somewhere (or a few somewheres). Identify these spaces.

7) Name 5 published works that you could imagine your book appearing next to on a bookshelf. Identify the publishers.

  • Note: This is a great opportunity to take a few minutes to close your eyes and picture your book’s cover. Do it! It’s fun.

8) Name 3 publishers that you have already considered, probably around 2 a.m. while you were highly caffeinated and formatting your dissertation’s bibliography.

9) Select one of the above. The dream publisher. What is it about this publisher that makes you believe that it is the right house for your work?

10) In one sentence, write why your work is suited for the above publisher. * Note: I’m a big fan of “get it down in one sentence.”  The elevator pitch. Think Mad Men. Concision is a struggle with constraint. But a necessary one. I’ll talk about this more a bit later.

11) Talk to your advisors. Ask the only other people in the world who have read your work for their suggestions. They are also published, right? They may suggest publishers you have not considered.

Now that you have gone from big picture to a more narrowed field, take the time to examine all the possibilities while reflecting on your answers to the above questions. To follow are 2 online resources for your search. It is not the be all end all list, but it will get you started:

Association of Canadian University Presses

http://www.acup.ca/

International Academic Press

https://services.exeter.ac.uk/bfa/az.htm

When you have finished your research, do the following:

  • Write down 5 publishing houses that you think would be well suited for your work.
  • Short list 3 out of the 5.
  • Return to the 3 publication sites and really consider “the one.” Write down the name of the one publishing house.

Now you are ready to begin to draft your proposal.

Next stop: The Million Dollar Question: How many proposals should I send out?

As with all road trips the pit stop is always a coveted break (for multiple reasons). After a few hours of driving (while you read Germano’s book!), there is nothing better than a piece of cherry pie and a cup of coffee while we talk about how to write a proposal to get your book published. By the way, Special Agent Dale Cooper is my spirit animal and clearly I enjoy metaphors (this might get out of hand, along with my use of parenthesis). You’ve been warned.

So the first piece of the pie is easy:

1) Belief.

You have to believe in what makes your book important (Full Stop). If you don’t believe in it, no one else will particularly the editor who is the gatekeeper of the publishing house. And guess what? Your belief will make writing your proposal easier because once you know for sure that what you’ve basically opened your veins to research and write for the past six years needs to be read, your proposal writing becomes a piece of cake (or pie, in this case). Belief also comes in handy as you begin to think about everything that your proposal will entail:

a) title (and this will change from your dissertation)
* sidebar: I spent 2 days staring off into space undertaking this task
b) length of book and a very brief description about your proposal content including, believe it or not, font size used
c) table of contents
d) abstract
e) chapter description
f) description of illustrations (of course, if used)
g) sources
h) readership
i) your manuscript revision plan

All of the above (which is fairly standard, but will change here and there for each publisher) is rooted in your belief and will ultimately enable you to select the publisher who will best represent your work.

Now, it’s never a good thing to eat an entire pie at one sitting. I’ve done it. I have no shame — it was delicious. Still, for this road trip we are going to take our time. We are going to take this pie and coffee take-away-style and enjoy it along the way.

Before we head out, I will add that I might be preaching to the converted. I am sure there are those of you who are on task with your belief, and very eager to get going. That’s great! However, I will just say: DO NOT SEND OUT YOUR FULL UNEDITED DISSERTATION OR EVEN YOUR REVISED MANUSCRIPT UNSOLICITED. Pull on the reins here, and don’t do it. You might be either full of confidence or just plain super tired, either way, cease and desist. But we will talk about this on the way. Just don’t do it. Trust me on this one.

In the meantime, really think about why the work needs to be published.
Write it down in one sentence.
That’s right, one sentence.
You can use a semi colon.

Next up: Selecting a publisher

I’m taking a slight but important detour before we head out to the proposal. It’s the breakup. Now this might sound radical and some may get off of the motorcycle (yes, it’s that kind of road trip) upon hearing this advice but it is a critical change that will strengthen and transform you and your writing. You need to break up with the institution. And yes, breaking up is hard to do! Yet, this is one of those break ups that will work out to be best for everyone. If you are lucky and you had a healthy relationship with your advisor, that person will always be your BFF and let’s face it they will always be there to advise you as you continue on your academic journey, but when it comes to writing your book, things have to change. You have to stop writing for the institution and for your committee.  You need to start writing not only for a wider audience, and other editors, but you need to rediscover (or perhaps even discover) your own voice. Your voice. It’s scary, I know. Years of academics have taught you not to trust your own voice. You could only trust other, more qualified, voices. This was a very important part of your learning curve because you were not ready yet. However, over the past maybe 5 or 6 years (or more) your research, your writing, your voice have been constrained by the protocols and restrictions of an academic discourse and somewhere along the line your voice was lost. You learned not to trust your own voice. As you begin the process of revising your dissertation to a book it is in many ways like an archeological dig of recovering your self in your work and you need to do that on your own. Remember that thing you did in front of a committee called a defence? Well, crossing that finish line gave you the license to use your own voice. You know your work better than anyone else. Be brave in it. Go back to the moment, the exact moment if possible, when that spark ignited the reason why you took your journey of discovery in the first place. Why is this work important? Why is this work important to me? In that spark, in that very moment, is your voice. It’s been waiting for you. Find it, grab hold of it, and more than anything, trust it. Then you are ready to begin. So cut the umbilical cord. Your advisor, your committee, and academic community have helped you to be ready for this moment. It’s time to strike out on your own. Risk writing your own voice in your own way. Shift your mind as you begin to reread and revise your work. Open it up and discard the “language” that blocked the way you say what needs to be said. Be fearless. It’s transformation time. The work ahead is indeed a road trip and you have a story to tell.

We are all waiting to hear you tell it!

Next up: The Proposal (for real)

 

When my friend Natalie heard the news that my manuscript proposal was accepted for publication, she had the brilliant idea (because she is brilliant) that I create a blog to share my experience. Natalie I discovered is also persistent: “You should do it!” So, in the next series of blogs (thanks to Natalie’s tenacity) I’ll share the ups and downs, as well as the detours, road blocks, and occasional clear highways along my journey of turning my dissertation into a book. Also, this space, I hope, will offer the opportunity for writers to post their questions about the process. I will try to answer these queries or direct you to where you might find a solution. I love questions.

  • The first thing my editor told me to do was to read From Dissertation to Book, Second Edition by William Germano (2013). She was right! Before you do anything else, do this! If you have read it, read it again! http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/F/bo16835829.html
  • Up next:  The proposal

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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.

Image

Image

PROJECTION fills a white wall. Text image:

A pattern, precedent, and lively warrant
A pattern, precedent, and lively warrant

NURSE exits first.
JULIET, LADY CAPULET move to speak; their backs are turned toward each other, almost touching, but not.

JULIET:   Is there no pity sitting in the clouds //
LADY CAPULET:   My arms, full of rain, shall answer.
JULIET:   … that sees into the bottom of my grief?
LADY CAPULET:   My hands, a bowl for thee.
JULIET:   O mother, cast me not away.
LADY CAPULET:   Your voice is a match. //
JULIET:   I can love enough to die.
LADY CAPULET:   Strike it!
JULIET:   My tomb, my open mouth is but sand beneath my feet.
LADY CAPULET:   You are not soft.
JULIET:   My fingers bleed from endings that never do.
O, Hear me, with patience but to speak a word.
Let it end, now!
LADY CAPULET:   And then to ash.
(beat)
JULIET:   I am not soft.

from, girlswork

Image: Still from production (right to left), Anuta Skrypnychenko, Sandy Lai, Kate Abrams, Claudia Wit, and Blair Kay,

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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