Incisive Words from Indigenous Writes
Hello and welcome to Wordy Wednesday!
Today’s words come from a non-fiction volume entitled Indigenous Writes: A Guide to First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Issues in Canada by Chelsea Vowel. I chose this book to fulfill Native Literature Challenge prompt #5, a history by a Native writer.
A couple years ago, when my migraines were so intractable that I couldn’t watch TV or look at a computer screen, to pass the time I got really into podcasts. I delved deep into the true crime genre, as one does, and that’s when I came across a Canada Broadcast Company podcast entitled Missing & Murdered: Finding Cleo.
Cleo was a Cree girl taken from her home in Saskatchewan by the Canadian government and put up for adoption in the U.S. as part of what is now called the Sixties Scoop. During the ‘60s and ‘70s, Indigenous children throughout Canada were forcibly taken from their families and either put in foster homes or adopted into new families. The goal was total assimilation of Indigenous peoples, severing the youngest generation from their culture, language, and family ties.
In Missing & Murdered, Cleo’s sister Christine asks the CBC to track down Cleo, whom Christine had been unable to find since being separated from her decades ago. Reporter Connie Walker leads the investigation with sensitivity and perseverance to help Christine learn what happened to Cleo.
Before listening to this podcast, I had never heard of the Sixties Scoop. I had no idea that just like the U.S., Canada has its own dirty history of injustice and cruelty toward Indigenous peoples. The media portrayals of Canada I had encountered—John Candy’s Canadian Bacon and Robin in the TV Series How I Met Your Mother— were full of stereotypes. Canadians love hockey and Tim Horton’s. They’re too polite for their own good, they’re sticklers for the rules, and the way they pronounce “sorry” sure is goofy, eh? Canadians, I assumed, were too nice to have committed violence against Indigenous peoples.
Well, you know what they say about assuming things.
A donkey indeed.
As I listened to Missing & Murdered further, I decided I ought to learn more about Canada’s history between settlers and Indigenous groups. Indigenous Writes provides a thorough overview. The book has its dry parts, but mostly it’s interesting and elucidating. (It would be great to find a book about Native American issues in the U.S. that’s as comprehensive and clear as Vowel’s book.) A lawyer, Vowel breaks down topics including terminology of relationships, culture and identity, myth-busting, state violence, and laws and treaties.
To bring my Indigenous Canadian history journey full-circle, Vowel co-hosts an Indigenous feminist sci-fi podcast called Métis in Space, something to try once I’m done with her book.
All in all, Indigenous Writes is a great primer on Indigenous peoples’ history and modern-day issues in Canada, and today’s words come from its pages.
New to Wordy Wednesday? Here’s how it works. I find a new word in a book, give the sentence in which I found it, define it, and then use it in a sentence myself. Today I have three words. Here we go!
“Once they [Native American reservations] were terrible places, the dregs of arable land, full of poverty and alcoholism” (74).
Adjective: (of land) used or suitable for growing crops.
Soybeans and corn grow well in the arable prairies of the Midwest.
“Through Kress’s novel, [...] these Cheyenne have been set up as foolish Luddites and are mocked throughout” (75).
Noun: derogatory, a person opposed to increased industrialization or new technology.
Maybe this makes me a Luddite, but I still prefer a paper planner over an app on my phone to keep track of my schedule.
“Rounding out this vituperative triumvirate in July of the same year was Karin Klassen, a Calgary Herald journalist” (117).
Adjective: bitter and abusive.
Online bullying is especially concerning because insults made on screen tend to be more vituperative than those made face-to-face.