3.7 : Familiar Guests at the Dead Dog Café

In Thomas King’s novel Green Grass Running Water allusions to historic events and figures, pop culture, and different forms of literature are used to expand the reader’s possibilities for deeper understanding. The novel is still enjoyable if it is not read with the intention of catching all the allusions and puns that King includes however it is a rewarding experience to read a novel that challenges the reader to think more deeply and critically about the written words.

For this assignment I have chosen to analyze the interaction between Latisha and the Canadian tourists in the Dead Dog Café. Although their exchange is brief, lasting only from pages 156 to 169, King has left many hidden Easter eggs for the reader to find, making the chapter a very interesting one.

As Jane Flick notes in her reference guide, all of the tourists who we are introduced to by name are incarnations of past Canadian writers who all have some ties to Indian themes. Flick also notes that all of these figures are known for having exploited “Indianness” for the purposes of their work (154). The writers who we meet in the Dead Dog Cafe are Polly (Pauline) Johnson, Sue (Susanna) Moodie, Archibald Belaney, and John Richardson.

King first introduces the readers to these characters as they exit their tour bus and walk all together into the restaurant. While it appears that the tourists are in good spirits, Latisha and her restaurant staff seem to not enjoy the tourists as much, as can be gained from the chef Billy’s comment – “not Canadian, I hope” (155).

I interpreted the fact that the tourists are all wearing name tags, and are traveling together as possibly being a group on a writers retreat or a research trip for their work. The purpose of their trip is never made explicitly clear, although Sue states that they are “on an adventure,” and Archie’s comment that they are “roughing it” can be read as a direct reference to the title of Susanna Moodie’s famous book Roughing it in the Bush. However it is Archie who says to Latisha “what we really want to see are the Indians” (158).

I think this is King’s way of critiquing the works of the historical figures these characters represent, as all of them are known for exploiting native culture to benefit their writing. Thus we can assume that the research conducted by these past writers for their works, is not far off from the bright and cheery tourists at the Dead Dog Café who make it clear they are looking for an “authentic” Indian experience.

Research on any of the writers who the tourists allude to shows that their works rely on stereotypical Indian themes like the “Indian Maiden”, and the “Noble Savage”. Their works show a clear example of characterizing Indians to suit white audiences.

Archibald Belaney was known for the fraudulent Native identity he chose for himself “Grey Owl” to support his work as a conservationist writer, although he was British and had no Native background. King’s version of Archie is critiqued for this when Polly points out that Archie is from England “but he’s been here for so long he thinks he’s Canadian too” (158).

Original title:  Major John Richardson. 

John Richardson was an author known for drawing on the themes of the noble savage, particularly in his 1832 novel Wacousta in which an Englishman transforms himself into a “savage” named Wacousta.

http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/ap/c/c007043.jpg

Susanna Moodie’s famous book Roughing it in the Bush, although seeming like a romantic piece meant to inspire sentiments of Canadian nationalism, is actually riddled with racist undertones for relying on the portrayal of Indians as “noble savages”.

Pauline Johnson, who was a Canadian poet of Mohawk and British heritage was known for exploiting her Native heritage to boost her popularity as a poet. This is referenced in King’s chapter when Sue mentions to Latisha that “Polly here is part Indian” (158). Johnson experienced a very privileged upbringing that was more informed by her British heritage, yet she is most known for reading her poetry in traditional buckskin dresses with feathers in her hair, and signing her poems with the name Tekahionwake to emphasize her Native Heritage.

Although Johnson’s Native heritage can be contested, because of the way her poems catered to a white audience, she was also known for writing critically about stereotypes and the challenging circumstances Native people faced in her 1893 short story A Red Girl’s Reasoning. When Polly says to Latisha “its alright, dear, not many people do” (158) when Latisha admits to never having heard of her book, is a reference to the fact that Pauline Johnson’s short stories and books never achieved as much popularity as her poetry.

Further, I think the $20 tip that Polly leaves under the copy of her book The Shagganappi (a book of short stories by Johnson, published after her death in 1913) shows that Polly has a certain level respect for Latisha that is greater than her companions. While the rest leave without supporting the restaurant and don’t purchase any menus (probably due to a perceived lack of authenticity) Polly leaves a more generous tip.

Reading about the works of these writers who the characters in King’s novel represent, I think it is ironic that all of them have claimed either directly or indirectly in their work to be enthusiasts of Native culture, yet as we see with Latisha and her restaurant staff’s reaction to the tourists, they are often quite ignorant. I think this exchange in King’s novel, however brief, is very powerful. By presenting these figures as naive tourists, he is decolonizing a Canadian literary canon that has been built on false and stereotypical representation of Native culture.

Works Cited

Flick, Jane “Reading Notes for Thomas King’s Green Grass Running Water“. Toronto, Harper Collins, 1994. Web. July 31 2016.

Grey Owl. n.d. Archives of Ontario. The Canadian Encyclopedia. Photograph. Web. July 31 2016.

“Indian Maiden”. TV Tropes. n.p . n.d. Web. July 31 2016.

Johnson, Pauline. “A Red Girl’s Reasoning”. The Mocassin Maker, 1893. Canadian Poetry Press. Web. July 31 2016.

King, Thomas. Green Grass Running Water. Toronto, Harper Collins, 1993. Print.

Macbride, Craig. “CanLit Canon Review #1 : Susanna Moodie’s Roughing it in the Bush”. The Toronto Review of Books. December 7 2011. Web. July 31 2016.

Lock, W. Fredrick. Major John Robinson. 1902. Print. Library and Archives Canada. Web. July 31 2016.

“Noble Savage”. TV Tropes. n.p . n.d. Web. July 31 2016.

“Pauline Johnson”. The Canadian Encyclopedia. n.p. n.d. Web. July 31 2016.

Pauline E. Johnson. McMaster University Library and Archives. Photograph. Web. July 31 2016.

Onyanga-Omara, Jane. “Grey Owl: Canada’s Great Conservationist and Imposter”. BBC News. September 19 2013. Web. July 31 2016.

Susanna Moodie. 1860. National Archives of Canada. The Canadian Encyclopedia. Photograph. Web. July 31 2016.

3.5 : Comparing and Contrasting the Native Creation Story with the Biblical Creation Story

3. What are the major differences or similarities between the ethos of the creation story or stories you are familiar with and the story King tells in The Truth About Stories ?

I was raised in a Christian home so since I was old enough to attend Sunday school I’ve had the biblical creation story recounted to me more times than I can remember. As a child I accepted the creation story as truth, the way things came to be, how we came to be, and why there was good and evil in the world. However as I got older there were some things about this creation story that didn’t sit quite right with me. The question of whether the creation story is true or not aside, the fact that bothered me was that the story of “The Fall” following the creation story places blame for the existence of evil in the world on Eve, the woman.

You don’t have to look far back in history at all to see that women have blamed for a lot. From the middle ages with the witch hunts, today with so many unfortunate instances of women being victim blamed for sexual assault, and everything in between, before and after, points to a reality that women have been perceived as inferior to men. In many Eurocentric societies its not much of a leap to draw connections from the biblical creation story to the way women are treated.

And then, there is the Native creation story. A story that completely subverts the role of women and her role in the creation of the world. Rather than being responsible for bringing evil into the world and corruption it like Eve was, She, the Sky Woman is the creator! I perceive this to be the most significant difference between the Biblical creation story and the Native creation story. From this main difference stems many more, which are discussed by Thomas King in his 2003 talk “The Truth About Stories : A Native Narrative” for CBC’s Massey Lectures.

While I found that the role of women in each creation story is the contrast that stood out as a major difference, King discusses the difference between the hierarchies associated with biblical story, and the co-operative nature of the Native story. According to King the two creation stories are different because the creation of the world in one is a “solitary, individual act,” while the creation of the other is a “shared activity” (King 24-25). King contrasts these two stories and is quick to label them as a dichotomy. While I agree that the two stories can be greatly contrasted there are a few similarities that should not be over looked.

When I first considered the biblical and the Native creation stories side by side, I found that all I could see was differences rather than similarities, but after reading this great article by Brittany Kussman I found that there were actually a few similarities connecting these creation stories. In Kussman’s article she points out that all the similarities between the stories have not been considered much because for the early settlers in Canada, the idea that a Native creation story could be anything like a Christian one was unthinkable. However, she goes on to discuss the similarities; both have a concept of a pleasant sky world (Heaven) and a world that was originally covered in darkness and water below (the Earth). Both stories also have a clear concept of good and evil, with God and the devil in the Christian version and the “Evil Mind” and “Good Mind” in the Native version. Kussman notes that in the Native story, its the “Evil Mind” that creates all the dangers and terrible things in the world, and when viewing the Christian story through the lens of the Native story this explains why Eve was convinced to eat the forbidden fruit. I like this observation and this connection of both stories because it forces us to look at the woman’s role in the creation story in a different light. It seems to remove the blame from woman for the existence of evil in the world, and simply leaves the question of “evil” as something that is in the world to balance out “good”.

When considering both of these creation stories we can’t assume that one is better than the other, and the question of which is true or not is irrelevant because for the people who believe in these stories they are true. In my opinion however, since the biblical story has been privileged in our Canadian society over the Native one, I think its important for people to hear both stories and realize what good moral lessons can be learned from the Native version. Collaboration, co-operation and respect for women are all elements of the Native creation story that I liked. If you are familiar with both stories what do you think? Any similarities or differences that I missed?

– Natasha

Works Cited

Kaussman, Brittany, “Native American vs. Biblical Creation Stories”. Hubpages. April 17 2016. Web. July 18 2016.

King, Thomas, “The Truth about Stories: A Native Narrative.” CBC Massey Lectures. CBC Ideas. Web. July 18 2016.

Linder, Douglas, “A Brief History of Witchcraft Persecutions Before Salem”. University of Missouri -Kansas. 2005. Web. July 18 2016.

“Rape Culture, Victim Blaming, and the Facts”. Southern Connecticut State University. n.a n.d. Web. July 18 2016.

3.2: A Constructed Canada

2] In this lesson I say that it should be clear that the discourse on nationalism is also about ethnicity and ideologies of “race.” If you trace the historical overview of nationalism in Canada in the CanLit guide, you will find many examples of state legislation and policies that excluded and discriminated against certain peoples based on ideas about racial inferiority and capacities to assimilate. – and in turn, state legislation and policies that worked to try to rectify early policies of exclusion and racial discrimination. As the guide points out, the nation is an imagined community, whereas the state is a “governed group of people.” For this blog assignment, I would like you to research and summarize one of the state or governing activities, such as The Royal Proclamation 1763, the Indian Act 1876, Immigration Act 1910, or the Multiculturalism Act 1989 – you choose the legislation or policy or commission you find most interesting. Write a blog about your findings and in your conclusion comment on whether or not your findings support Coleman’s argument about the project of white civility.

It is uncomfortable coming to terms with the truth that the idea of Canadian nationalism is and always has been based on the exclusion of people who are not white. Myself identifying as a white Canadian girl, I get an uneasy feeling looking at documents like the CanLit guide, and the Indian Act, which I will later elaborate on in this post, and realizing that since its colonization Canada has been continuously constructed as a white persons country.

I use the word constructed, because there is no other word for how Canadian nationalism has developed over the centuries. As we read in this lecture with Daniel Coleman’s argument in his introduction to White Civility: The Literary Project of English Canada, Canadian literature has been notoriously entrenched in the “British model of civility” (Coleman 5). As literature influences society and vice versa, it is easy to see how this model of British civility was held as the dominant model for Canadians to aspire to for so long, and how those who didn’t fit within this model were forced to assimilate.

The Indian Act of 1876 is a good example of this type of forced assimilation put into effect. Although it has gone through many amendments since it was initially passed the Indian Act’s purpose to assimilate First Nations peoples to a White Canadian model has more or less remained the same. Erin Hanson in her article for Indigenous Foundations succinctly describes the act as “a part of a long history of assimilation policies that intended to terminate the cultural, social, economic, and political distinctiveness of Aboriginal peoples by absorbing them into mainstream Canadian life and values” (Hanson n.p).

Laws under the Indian Act such as the banning of the Potlatch and Sundance, and imposing government structures on First Nations communities in the form of band councils were all effective in ensuring the erasure of First Nations’ culture. In the process of tearing down Aboriginal culture, these laws were also effective in the construction of a Canadian nationalism based on British civility.

Over time, and a few world wars later, the Indian Act began to change as white Canadians were beginning to realize that First Nations people were legitimate citizens of the country who deserved rights (wow! imagine that!), but there were still problems with it. The 1951 amendments allowed for certain changes to be made like the lifting of the Potlatch ban, however, the document was still highly oppressive in its nature. Again in 1969 there was an attempt to amend the act by Prime Minister Trudeau with his “White Paper” policy which proposed the abolition of the act and giving First Nations people status as regular Canadian citizens. This proposition was resisted by First Nations people due to the fact that it was an assimilationist policy in disguise as something progressive.

If you look closely at all the laws and policies that are connected to the Indian Act it is overwhelmingly clear that it is a very oppressive piece of legislation. Coleman points out the irony in how uncivilized it is to “forget” how oppressive legislation like the Indian Act is, in an effort to adhere to a supposed model of civility. Coleman’s concept of a “fictive ethnicity” that is the idea of a white Canada seems to go hand-in-hand with the Indian Act’s purpose of erasing any culture that could be a threat to this model.

One final thought – If you look how Canadian nationalism is being constructed today you can see that there really is nothing “British” or “civilized” about it, for the most part. Watch this video and see how the players have changed but the game stays the same. Although I found it hilarious, I couldn’t help but notice how overwhelmingly white it was, and yet it is meant to represent how all Canadians are! I know its a comedy piece and shouldn’t be taken too seriously, but then again this is the kind of media that has a wide audience and can be easily circulated, so its important to be a little bit critical of what popular videos like this say about “Canadian culture” and who fits into its definition (and who doesn’t). But seriously, watch the video, you wont regret it.

– Natasha

Works Cited

CanLit Guides. “Reading and Writing in Canada, A Classroom Guide to Nationalism.” Canadian Literature. n.d. Web. July 7 2016.

Coleman, Daniel. White Civility: The Literary Project of English Canada. U of Toronto, 2006. Web. July 7 2016.

Hanson, Erin. “The Indian Act”. Indigenous Foundations, UBC Arts. n.d. Web. July 7 2016.

IFHT Films. “How to be a Canadian”. Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, June 30 2016. Web. July 7 2016.

2.6 : Reading Between the Lines of “Roughing it in the Bush”

2] Read Susanna Moodie’s introduction to the third edition of Roughing it in the Bush, 1854. I use the Project Gutenburg website which has a ‘command F’ function that allows you to search the entire document by words or phrases. Moodie’s introduction is often read as a warning to would be emigrants as well as an explanation of why her family emigrated from Britain. See if you can find echoes of the stories discussed above: a gift from god, a second Garden of Eden, an empty/wasted land, the noble but vanishing Indian, and the magical map. By echoes I mean reading between the lines or explicitly within Moodie’s introduction. Discussing what you discover, use your examples as evidence to write a blog that explores what you think might have been Moodie’s level of awareness of the stories she carried with her. And accordingly, the stories that she “resurrects’ by her appearance in the Dead Dog CafŽ in Green Grass Running Water.


With my previous studies in art history the theme of the vanishing Indian is one that presents itself quite often in nineteenth century art. From looking at paintings of American landscapes by artists like Thomas Cole or Asher Durand you can see a lot of different hints that point to a dominant belief that the Natives were a disappearing race, and this was accepted as a fact that was as natural as the changing seasons in the landscapes that they painted. The landscapes with their wild beauty, and with no traces of Native settlement reflect the belief that was held by these painters that the land was the remains of the biblical garden of Eden, given as a divine gift by God for the Europeans to colonize. The American painters of the day who took up the vanishing Indian theme were also heavily influenced by literature that addresses the same theme. Novels like The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper and poems like “A Walk At Sunset” by William Bryant Cullen were instrumental in painting a romanticized picture of the situation for Native Americans at the time. The reality was that the Indian Removal act which was implemented by president Jackson in 1830, was forcing Native settlements to move further and further westward and away from their homeland. However, it is clear from viewing the works of landscape painters, and reading the works of the poets and novelist at the time that the situation for the Natives was seen as a natural occurrence, comparable to changes in nature, like the setting sun in Bryant’s poem. With regards to Susanna Moodie and her book Roughing it in the Bush, I’m uncertain if the works of Cole, Cooper, and Bryant would have influenced her awareness of the situation for Natives in Canada at the time, but her introduction betrays many of the same patterns of thought that influenced American art and literary circles.

    

In Moodie’s introduction for her third edition of Roughing it in the Bush there are some implicit mentions of themes that the American painters and writers took up in their work. Until the last paragraph where these themes can be identified explicitly, Moodie’s introduction requires some reading between the lines to find the colonial discourse that Dr. Paterson has introduced us to this lesson. Moodie’s introduction takes the tone of a warning for those considering immigration to Canada. She stresses that the life of an immigrant is tough, and not for those whose “hand has long held the sword”. No, Moodie makes it clear that the immigrant life is not suitable for the privileged, but it is for the ordinary and underprivileged citizens who will be able to escape the burden of class hierarchies and make “the land of their adoption great”. Even the use of the word “adoption” puts the settler in a position where they are in a position of control. But in control of what exactly? Moodie’s introduction never makes any mention of the Native inhabitants of the land. This is where reading between the lines is important, because sometimes omissions speak volumes, and Moodie’s omission of the Natives in her text about their land supports the Vanishing Indian theme. Clearly Moodie is suggesting that the immigrants will have control over the land, and she is also suggesting that Native inhabitants are barely distinguishable from the land, and therefore not worth mentioning. Perhaps her awareness of the belief that the Natives were doomed to extinction influenced her omission of them from her introduction.

Works Cited

Avery, Kevin J. “Asher Brown Durand (1796-1886)”. The Met Museum. October 2009. Web. June 27 2016.

Avery, Kevin J. “Thomas Cole (1801-1848)”. The Met Museum. August 2009. Web. June 27 2016.

Cole, Thomas. Shroon Mountain, Adirondacks. Oil painting, 1838; in the Cleveland Museum of Art. Web. June 27 2016.

Cullen Bryant, William. “A Walk At Sunset”. The Idle Man 1 no. 3. 1821. Web. June 27 2016.

Fenimore Cooper, James. “The Last of the Mohicans”. Book Cover, Photograph. n.d. Web. June 27 2016.

Moodie, Susanna. “Roughing it in the Bush”. Book Cover, Photograph. n.d. Web. June 27 2016.

Moodie, Susanna. Roughing it in the Bush.. Project Gutenburg, 18 January 2004. Web. June 27 2016.

2.4 : Obstacles in Understanding

2) In this lesson I say that our capacity for understanding or making meaningfulness from the first stories is seriously limited for numerous reasons and I briefly offer two reasons why this is so: 1) the social process of the telling is disconnected from the story and this creates obvious problems for ascribing meaningfulness, and 2) the extended time of criminal prohibitions against Indigenous peoples telling stories combined with the act of taking all the children between 5 – 15 away from their families and communities. In Wickwire’s introduction to Living Stories, find a third reason why, according to Robinson, our abilities to make meaning from first stories and encounters is so seriously limited. To be complete, your answer should begin with a brief discussion on the two reasons I present and then proceed to introduce and explain your third reason from Wickwire’s introduction.

This question asks us to elaborate on how our capacity for understanding first stories is limited. I will briefly discuss two reasons Dr. Paterson has provided, one being the disconnect from the social processes of storytelling, and two being the barriers imposed by cultural genocide. Considering both of these reasons, I will discuss a third reason which I believe has a similar effect on our understanding of first stories. The third reason I suggest is the salvage paradigm.

Before this course I didn’t know much about “first stories,” the stories told by Natives before contact with non-natives (and I still don’t know much), so my first introduction to these stories that have traditionally been told orally, were experienced through reading them in print and on a computer screen. Although I have never heard these stories told orally and therefore have nothing to compare it to, it seems to be clear that our capacity for understanding these stories are limited when they are experienced through a different medium than what they were originally intended for. I think that Wendy Wickwire, in her compilation of Edward Robinson’s stories, Living By Stories: A Journey of Landscape and Memory, recognizes this barrier and did a fantastic job at translating the stories that were told to her into a book format in a way that captures the quirks of storytelling that you don’t often see written down.

Photograph:Without written languages, American Indians relied on storytellers to pass down myths, folktales, and tribal histories through the oral tradition.

Another way our capacity for understanding these stories is limited is through the impact of cultural genocide. The Indian Act which was responsible for the initiation of a 75 year ban on potlatch ceremonies, where the first stories were traditionally told, as well as the implementation of the residential school system, both had severely detrimental effects on the tradition of storytelling. Years without opportunities for the storyteller to tell, or the listener to listen, has created a barrier or a gap in what our understanding of these stories can be today.

A third barrier that limits our understanding of first stories is one that I found in reading Wickwire’s intorduction. This third barrier has to do with the term the salvage paradigm. Being an art history major I’ve come across the term “salvage paradigm” in the context of art, but Wickwire made me aware that it also applicable to the treatment of First Nations stories.

As artist Janice Gruney discusses in her artist statement for her own exhibit titled “The Salvage Paradigm,” the term simply describes the “belief that it is necessary to preserve so-called ‘weaker’ cultures from destruction by the dominant culture”. This type of thinking is called up in Wickwire’s introduction when she brings up the work of ethnographers like Charles Hill-Tout and Frans Boas who only saw Native stories as having any value if they were pre-contact stories and had no “impurities” that suggested a post-contact historical setting (23). As Wickwire mentions, this type of thinking prevented the exposure of so many good stories that had non-traditional characters like cats, horses, and cows, and non-traditional elements like motor boats and guns. These stories were not pre-contact stories but they are important for the ways that they show how Native culture is not purely rooted in the past, but it is constantly changing and evolving.

The salvage paradigm seems to be the flip side of the detrimental effects of the indian act. Instead of ensuring the erasure of Native culture, the salvage paradigm fights to preserve it, at the risk of making it something that has no value in our contemporary society. Thankfully the salvage paradigm is something that has been resisted by museums, art galleries, and authors since the 1980’s, as Wickwire points out, and we have more or less moved past the dangerous thinking that brought about the Indian Act, however these barriers are not far enough in the past that they don’t effect how we understand Native stories today.

What do you think are some ways that first stories can be privileged more in our society?

Works Cited

Grandish, Shaunna. Storytelling Important to Preserving History and Tradition. April, 2011. Photograph. Web. June 17 2016.

Gurney, Janice. “The Salvage Paradigm”. Panya Clark Espinal. 1990. Web. June 17 2016.

Robinson, Harry, and Wendy C. Wickwire. Living by Stories: A Journey of Landscape and Memory. Vancouver: Talon, 2005. Print.

Whiskeyjack, Tan’si Lana. “What are Oral Traditions?”. Native Drums. n.d. Web. June 17 2016.

Weiss, E. William. Buffalo Bill Historical Center, Cody, Wyoming/The Art Archive. Photograph. n.d. Web. June 17 2016.

2.3 : List of Common Shared Assumptions, Values, and Stories About Home

Assignment 2:3 Read at least 3 students blog short stories about ‘home’ and make a list of the common shared assumptions, values and stories that you find. Post this list on your blog.
Reading my classmates’ stories about home was a very enjoyable experience. We are such a diverse group, with a lot of great stories to tell. Each story was uniquely different from the next in the way the story was told, or in what the story was actually telling. I noticed that despite differences in where we grew up, our family structures, or our traditions and values, there are some commonalities that were shared among quite a few of us. Here’s the list of my discoveries of what our common shared assumptions, values and stories are about “home”.
1. Home is not always a place, but it can be a specific person or a few people.

The word home generally has positive connotations because it is associated with what makes us feel safe, and gives us a sense of belonging. However even before reading my classmates’ stories I knew that home isn’t always a safe place where we can grow and thrive. This prompted me to think that home doesn’t always necessarily have to be a place, sometimes its people who give us this sense of comfort, safety, and belonging that we expect home to give. Heather’s story about how she finds a home through her close relationship with her brother was very touching. Her perspective on feeling alienated in the land that she lives on, and how its a person she connects a sense of home to is something that I noticed among a few other blogs as a similarity. Like Christy, who says that home is where “my parents, husband, and plush toys are”. Home is not always land, or a house, or a specific place, but its a person, or a family.

2. On the flip side, sometimes home is a certain place!

Danica’s story about her home in Prince Rupert, and Deepak’s story of his home in New Westminster really made me think that home can be associated with a city, or a house, or a familiar park in the neighborhood. Reading both stories I noticed that the sense of home as a place was also linked to other things like childhood memories and spending time with family.

3. Language has an impact on how we feel at home in a place.

This connection was one that I made between my own experiences and Claudia’s story about how language and labels were tied up in her sense of belonging in Canada. Spending my childhood in Quebec and then moving to British Columbia at the age of 11, I can relate to the struggle of living as an “anglophone” in Quebec, and then experiencing some alienation as being an “Easterner” in Western Canada. When I lived in Quebec, my French was not great, as I explained in my previous post, and that deeply affected my sense of belonging, and not feeling like Quebec was my home. Language barriers can be a scary thing that make us feel vulnerable and like we don’t belong. I think its awesome that Claudia has been working with immigrants for the past 18 years as an ESL teacher to help people feel like they can find a home in Canada.

Assignment 2.2 : Home

Write a short story (600 – 1000 words max) that describes your sense of home and the values and stories that you use to connect yourself to your home and respond to all comments on your blog.

“Home may be in another time and place, and yet it holds us in its power here and now. Home is like our language, compelling us to think and feel in certain ways and giving us the freedom to imagine other ways and other places. It is who we are and where we belong. Home both binds us and liberates us” (Chamberlin 76).

I like this quote from Chamberlain because the idea that home can be another place, but at the same time holds us in the “here and now” resonates very much with how I grew up here in Canada, and how I see this country as my home. My “life story” I guess, is pretty neatly divided by chapters of living in different cities in Canada. From birth to early childhood home was in Ottawa, Ontario. From kindergarten until the sixth grade my home was in Beaconsfield, Quebec, a city about forty-five minutes east of Montreal. My teenage years were spent in Surrey, BC, and now my adult life so far has been evenly spent in both Ottawa (a lot differently than how I remembered it in my childhood), and Surrey again while I go to UBC. In every place I have lived I always felt that home was where I was was at that point, but it was also where I had lived before. Even now typing this post in my family’s house in Surrey, I feel at home, yet if I think about Ontario or Quebec, I also feel like those places are home too. Home is another place, but at the same time home is also this place. Although there have been times in my life when I distinctly remember feeling that home was always another place, and definitely not this place.

When we lived in Quebec I had a very hard time in school, mostly because the French language did not come easily to me. Homework was always frustrating experience, but school itself was worse. Subjects like math and science that were not easy for me to begin with, and were made even more difficult by the fact that I had to do them in French. Whenever I would get tired from not understanding French I would feel so strongly that Beaconsfield was not my home. Home was in Ottawa, where I liked school, where my grandparents lived, where I had happy memories.

But Beaconsfield wasn’t all bad, and not always as dramatic as I’m probably making it sound. I made some great friends there, and I have so many great memories of us riding our bikes around town, swimming at the neighborhood outdoor pool in the summers, and skating at the park in the winters. These were the times when I felt at home in Beaconsfield, and they were also the things I would remember when I first moved to BC, and went through another transition period when the place I lived did not feel like home.

Moving from Quebec to BC was a huge change for myself and my family. We had never been to Western Canada, and we had no family there. Family is very important to us, so moving to a place where visiting them was no longer a 20 minute drive like it was in Ottawa, nor a two hour drive like it was in Beaconsfield was very hard for us. Seeing our family was now only possible in the summers, when we could all get together at the family cottage in Ontario. Of course with the added drama of being a twelve year old about to start high school where I didn’t know a single person, I did not feel like Surrey was where I belonged. It took a while before it did.

I can’t tell my story about home, without talking about our family’s cottage on the lake. Since I can remember, my family has always gotten together at my grandparent’s cottage in the summer. The cottage is on Lake Kashwakamak near a small town in Ontario called Harlowe (fun fact: my dog is named after this town).

harlowe at the lake

My dog Harlowe at the lake.

My family had this tradition where every summer we would all get together and compete in the “Cottage Olympics” for a weekend. We would have different events like canoe racing, scavenger hunts, and the odd creative event that my grandpa would come up with like “bird house decorating”. These fun times at the lake with my family are some of my best memories, and even though its hard to get us all together now with all the cousins getting jobs or going to school, I still consider the lake to be the place where I feel like my sense of home and belonging are strongest.

Do you have any family traditions or a special places that define your sense of home?

Works Cited

Chamberlin, J. Edward. If This Is Your Land, Where Are Your Stories?: Finding Common Ground. Cleveland, OH: Pilgrim, 2004. Print.

“Education in Montreal, Quebec”. Living in Canada. n.p. n.d. Web. June 6 2016.

“Kashwakamak Lake”. Kashwakamak Lake Association. n.p. n.d. Web. June 6 2016.

1.5 : The Story of How Evil Came Into the World

Your task is to take the story about how evil comes into the world, the story King tells about the Witches’ convention in Chapter One of The Truth about Stories, and change it any way you want, except the ending. You can change to place, the people, the time – anything you want. But, your story must have the same moral – it must tell us how evil came into the world and how once a story is told, it cannot be taken back.

First, learn your story by heart, and then tell the story to your friends and family.

After you have told the story a few times,  post a blog with your version of the story and some commentary on what you discovered about story telling.

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I have a great story to tell you, it is the story of how evil came into the world. You might think you know this story, but I can assure you, you’ve never heard it quite like this before.

It happened in a place on this earth that no human has ever seen, at the beginning of time when the earth was mostly covered in water. Because there was no land at this point, there were also no humans. But there were human-like creatures of great intelligence, and great power. Mermaids we might call them, but not the type that sit on rocks and sing beautiful songs.

No, these mermaids are ancient creatures who know all the secrets of the sea, and the land which came after it. And it just so happens that they know all about how evil came into the world, because they are the ones responsible.

It happened like this: a few of the oldest and wisest mermaids from all over the world came together in a cave in the deepest part of the ocean. They were having contests of all sorts: Who could create the prettiest seashell? Who could summon the largest wave? Who could control an entire school of fish?

Finally the mermaids decided on one final contest: who could create the scariest thing in the entire ocean?

Each took their turn, trying to create the scariest thing, and each outdoing the last. This is actually how some of the scariest creatures in the ocean came to exist!

Finally there was only one mermaid left, who was one of the oldest and most mysterious mermaid in the ocean. And all this mermaid had was a story, but it was a terrible story about disease, murder, treachery, and blood magic. The list of awful things in this story seemed to go on and on.

The rest of the mermaids decided that this story was the winner, the scariest thing in the entire ocean. But they were not interested in having this story loose in the world, they all agreed that it was too terrible to live with. So they ordered the wise old mermaid to take the story back.

“I can not do that,” the old mermaid replied.

“Once a story is told it can not be called back. It will now be loose in the world forever.”

– – –

Storytelling was a new experience for me. For my whole life its been someone else telling the story and me being the listener. Even before I was about to tell my story to my parents, brother, and sister, we all had some fond memories to recall about our family’s own experiences with storytelling.

My dad would always tell us the story of “Pirate Pete” in the summers as we sat around a campfire at our cottage in Ontario. We would all howl with laughter every time he ended the story with explaining how Pirate Pete got his glass eye (“aye, a seagull pooped in me eye!”).

Reminiscing about the adventures of Pirate Pete oddly allowed me to draw some sharper observations about the nature of story telling. I noticed that the storyteller has a lot of freedom in how the story is delivered, but it is very important that the ending is delivered more or less the same.

I definitely added to, and rephrased certain parts of my story as I went along, but I was careful to make sure the ending was the same as how I initially intended for it to be. In the same way, with my dad’s Pirate Pete stories, we all counted on that same ending to make us laugh.

So whether the purpose of an ending is to make us laugh, or to give us something to think about, it seems that the endings of stories that we tell orally have a lot of power. So I guess that is really the point of the moral of our stories: be careful of the ones you tell, for once it is told it cannot be called back.

note: I was looking for a good picture of mermaids to accompany this post, but nothing really caught my eye. However, I did find this interesting article about mermaid legends. Check it out! There are stories about mermaids from cultures all over the world!

Works Cited

Radford, Benjamin, “Mermaids and Mermen: Facts and Legends”. Live Science: November 15 2014. Web. May 29 2016.

“Rolling Waves in Deep Ocean”. Shutterstock Photo. n.d. Web. May 29 2016.

1.3 : The Problem with “Written” and “Oral” Cultures

Explain why the notion that cultures can be distinguished as either “oral culture” or “written culture” (19) is a mistaken understanding as to how culture works, according to Chamberlin and your reading of Courtney MacNeil’s article “Orality.

Before reading Edward Chamberlain’s book If This Is Your Land, Where Are Your Stories? and Courtney Macneil’s article “Orality” I must admit that I had never thought there was anything problematic about distinguishing cultures as either “oral” or “written”. I was content to accept that different cultures had different ways of communicating, and chalk it all up to cultural relativism. However, now that I have had the chance to read both Chamberlain and Macneil’s thoughts and reflect on what they mean, I can see now that differentiating cultures as “oral cultures” or “written cultures” is a false dichotomy as no culture is either entirely “oral” nor “written”.

To begin with an analyses of Chamberlain’s writing, he explains that distinguishing cultures as either “oral” or “written” is just another way of viewing the “Us vs. Them” dichotomy. In the hierarchy of “Us vs. Them,” Chamberlain suggests that the “Us” who “speak properly” and do “worthwhile things” are viewed as superior to “Them” who “doodle and do nothing” and “babble, more or less meaninglessly” (8). When viewing this hierarchy in the context of “oral” and “written” cultures, Chamberlain explains how cultures with written languages are viewed as having a place in the “Us” category while cultures with no written languages are reserved to “Them”. In reading Chamberlain’s thoughts on language, I noticed that he had three main reasons for suggesting why distinguishing cultures in this way is a misunderstanding of how cultures work.

For one, Chamberlain says that cultures who rely more on oral communication are praised for their “naturalness and naiveté” when the reality is that oral communication is a sophisticated and complex form of communication in its own right (18). Secondly, he then points out that this kind of thinking is dangerous as it encourages people to look down on other cultures, while celebrating their own culture as one that is sophisticated and superior. As we can see in Canada’s history the “Us vs. Them” dichotomy exists in the encounter between the Europeans and the First Nations people. Finally, he notes that believing that there is such a thing as “written cultures” and “oral cultures” is a misconception. So-called “oral cultures” have there own forms of writing even if they are non-alphabetic. An example of this in First Nations Cultures are totem poles and wampum belts, which record important information like history, treaty agreements, and stories. In reviewing these points, Chamberlain makes a very clear case that all cultures draw on both written and oral forms of communication, therefore they cannot be easily categorized as simply “oral” or “written”.

Macniel’s article draws on many of the same points that Chamberlain makes and even references his writing in her discussion, but she also makes a very interesting point that is separate from Chamberlain’s analysis. In challenging Walter Ong, a professor of the Toronto School of Communication who subscribes to the literacy/orality model Macneil suggests that communication though cyberspace has given us another reason to rethink orality. She challenges Ong’s statement that orality is “evanescent” by calling up the permanence of audio-recordings, and sound files that we can replay again and again. Similarly, she states that if written language is meant to be held as the more sophisticated form of communication because of its permanence, as Ong would have it, then what do we make of the fleeting nature of instant messages? Macneil’s article left me with an awareness that online spaces will play a crucial role in negotiating the place that orality has as a viable form of communication that is not secondary to written language.

Works Cited

Chamberlain, Edward. If This Is Your Land, Then Where Are Your Stories?. Toronto: Vintage Canada, 2004. Print.

“European Colonization and the Native Peoples”. Site for Language Management in Canada (SMLC). University of Ottawa, n.d. Web. May 20 2016.

Huang, Alice. “Totem Poles”. Indigenous Foundations. UBC, n.d. Web. May 20 2016.

Macniel, Courtney. “Orality”. The Chicago School of Media Theory. University of Chicago, winter 2007. Web. May 20 2016.

“Wampum”. Haudenosaunee Confederacy. Haudenosaunee Confederacy, n.d. Web. May 20 2016.

Welcome!

Hello ENGL 470, and welcome to my blog (that I have yet to come up with a creative title for, but perhaps inspiration will strike sometime during this semester)! This blog is a component of a Canadian Studies course I am taking at the University of British Columbia (UBC) titled “Canadian Literary Genres” or as Dr. Patterson has named it – “Oh Canada … Our Home and Native Land?”.

I’m a third year Art History major, although this is still my first year at UBC. I did the first two years of my undergrad at the University of Ottawa, but it was just too cold for me there, so I decided to move back home to BC where I find the mild climate more agreeable!

So far in my studies in Art History I’ve had the privilege of learning about many past and contemporary Canadian artists. One of the things I love most about art is the power that it has to communicate with the viewers. Whether its a political message, or an artist’s personal story, art opens up opportunities for dialogue through what the art is communicating, and how the viewer receives, interprets, and responds to the message that is being communicated.

As this is my first upper-level English course I was a bit nervous about taking it on, but after reading the course blog more I was able to draw many parallels from what I know about studying art to what we will be learning in the class. As is also the case in literature, First Nations artists have often been excluded from what we have been told is “Canadian art”. We know of the Group of Seven, and Emily Carr as artists who were known for producing what is often held as quintessential Canadian art, but in order to really understand what Canadian art is we have to realize that the omissions speak volumes. I am grateful for the professors I have had who taught me to problematize the idea of a Canadian art that is predominantly white and male, and who exposed me to the works of many great First Nations artists! One of my favourite contemporary First Nations artists is Vancouver based Brian Jungen who uses his art to critique stereotypes and the appropriation of Aboriginal cultures. Check out his exhibition “Prototypes for New Understanding,” its amazing how he can take pairs of Nike Shoes and re-work them to resemble traditional masks of the Coast Salish people!

Jungen_Prototype_23

In this course I look forward to exploring literature as a different medium of storytelling than what I am used to with art, and I hope to expand my understanding of how European and First Nations stories and perspectives have shaped Canadian literature. I am always open to constructive feedback with my writing, and discussion, so please comment!

– Natasha

Works Cited

“Emily Carr.” Vancouver Art Gallery. n.d. Web. May 12, 2016.

Gambino, Megan. “One Man’s Trash is Brian Jungen’s Treasure: Transforming everyday items into Native American artwork, Jungen bridges the gap between indigenous and mass cultures”. Smithsonian Magazine. September 2009. Web. May 12, 2016.

“Group of Seven”. Canadian Encyclopedia. n.d. Web. May 12, 2016.

Jungen, Brian. “Prototype for New Understanding #23”, 2005. Nike Air Jordans, 18Ω x 20Ω x 5 7/8. Collection of Debra and Dennis Scholl, Miami Beach, Florida. Courtesy of Debra and Dennis Scholl. October 16, 2009. Web. May 12, 2016