English Raintree Essay

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There is an art to spinning words so that they are always-already against the monotony of voice and for the polyphony of political speak. Living as we do in the charred remnants of a time during which the voices of Indigenous peoples were siphoned out of the theatres of culture and into the wastelands of law and order, you, a white and settler you, are beholden to a project of lessening the trauma of description.

Everywhere in the colonial archive there are a plethora of descriptions that sought and seek still to hold the position of the Indigenous in a state I can only describe now as against opacity, as against the right to be unseen and unseeable.

Mosionier took the work of description into her own hands and because of this she refused to offer up a rhetoric that one might describe as simple.

That is, Mosionier wrote in the mode of “truth-telling” to paint a picture of complicated and compromised living in the crosshairs of settler governance.

My oldest sister, an undergraduate student at Grande Prairie Regional College at the time, had been assigned the book in a Native Studies course.

I wanted a glimpse into the intellectual world of post-secondary education, to read and to be moved, irreparably and unsuspectedly.It is an emotional orientation that enables one to pick up a book and put down a carcass.Simplicity is a structural impossibility for Indigenous peoples who write despite and in spite of the coloniality of the present.Theorist Dian Million, in an essay called “Felt Theory: An Indigenous Feminist Approach to Affect and History,” describes a “new language for communities” to get at the sorrow and love that proliferates in Indigenous social worlds.Million cites both as texts that evidenced an artistic practice that broke through the sound barrier of Canadian historical ignorance to tell “politically unspeakable” stories.Indeed, it was recently revealed that a chunk of Campbell’s book was edited out because it detailed sexual abuse at the hands of members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, an avowal that would have surely thrown into relief the chronic problem of police brutality against Indigenous women.This time, Million tells us, produced “a profound literature of experience.” Still, those who look and install meaning into words with the force of a history of impoverished reading negate the profundity of our writing.In narratives that hinge on proving our humanness, Indigenous people sit stilled in the role of the described. Having only in our arsenal words that self-destruct, we shoulder the burden once more of voicelessness.How cruel to have our critiques of the ways in which unlivable lives are manufactured everywhere in Canada heard as evidence of our ability to speak and nothing else!Hurled with the right amount of intensity, words floor us.There are words that lay me flat on the floor of the world.

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