Word Prompt: Wisdom | Story Prompt: from the 2020 Writers’ Trust of Canada, Margaret Laurence Lecture Series, “A Writer’s Life” – Lecture by Lee Maracle *

Write It Out: Instruction Video

“In general, Canada puts indigenous writers, in particular indigenous women, last. Hugh MacLennan, in The Writers Life, says, “As every Canadian knows, the first European to strike North America above Florida was Jacques Cartier.” Never mind that our stories have you here thousands of years before, along with Africans and Chinese, Mr. MacLennan has Cartier standing on Montreal and seeing the forest. Obviously, Cartier did not turn around or he would have seen the cornfields of the Wyandot – Iroquois who allied with the French colonialists over the British…

Although I am grateful for an opportunity to speak, I am still aware of how irrelevant you have made us in order to believe in your pursuit of religions freedom, raison d’être, that masks colonialism. I am invited into your space in an honouring way despite the continued murder of indigenous women, some of whom are my relations. I am always grateful to be honoured…

Dionne Brand’s call: No language is neutral. Stó:lō response: Every word originates in a body. Every word is a call to action, to movement, to being, a salutation to the stars, an address to the world, to the skies, the waters, and all our relations. Today, yesterday, tomorrow. No call-song can disappear, no word is ever unheard…

Breath is wind, wind is voice, voice is power. Voice wants an ear to listen, voice wants a human to care, voice wants a body to respond. But even should no one hear, even should no one listen, even should no one respond, expressing oneself is power. My desire, whether disliked or no by another, once expressed fills me with the strength to move from it. I am powerful as I express. My expression comes from a long line of Stó:lō women, committed to voice, committed to song, dance. Being depends upon Stó:lō commitment. You live on Turtle Island, where is your familiarity with the voice of its’ women?”

***

I’ve always loved stories, and am still hoping to write a good one. After listening to Lee Maracle, I have much more hope that I may one day be able to do this. Why? In this lecture, she shows me it was a white man who defined what was “good”. And how that definition can only ever work for other white men (and not necessarily even all of them).

Stories are living things, and they belong to no one person. There is a respect that happens with stories – I can read your story and respect what you say and how you say it, and in respecting I can hold on to what from your story resonates with me. It does not mean your story is wrong – it is your story. Who am I to say it may be right or wrong? By holding on to that part of your story which resonates with me, I honour your story and keep it alive for me. Story is inclusive. Story does not judge. Story does not divide – it is us, we who add meaning and “rules” – we are the ones who divide. Let’s stop dividing and instead find ourselves in each others’ stories.

Thoughts? Feel free to share them here.

*The above Quotations were transcribed by me directly from The Writers Trust recording of Lee Maracle’s lecture. Any errors are unintended and are my own. A link to the recording in it’s entirety is copied here: Stream episode Stó:lō storyteller Lee Maracle on the Writing Life (Margaret Laurence Lecture 2020) by Writers’ Trust of Canada podcast | Listen online for free on SoundCloud

This link to the October 5, 2021 episode of the “Ideas” podcast features excerpts of Lee Maracle’s Writers’ Trust lecture, and Maracle in conversation with award-winning author and former Massey Lecturer, Tanya Talaga: Canada puts Indigenous women last, says poet Lee Maracle | CBC Radio

Sadly, Lee Maracle died on November 11, 2021.

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