Hello everyone! My name is Mia Calder and I will be going into my fourth year at UBC starting in September 2016. I like to read and collect old books — I just came back from a two-week trip in England, and my suitcase was noticeably more book-shaped than it was when I left. I also like to write, and hope one day to be published.
On this blog I will be documenting my progress through English 470A, a course dedicated to disentangling traditional and imposed narratives of Canadian history. This course also focuses on the many stories and voices of the Indigenous populations which have been distorted or silenced through Canadian history to present day. I know that I will be learning a lot, as well as reading many authors of whom I have never heard. I also know that this process will be an uncomfortable one at times, as any thing is when it causes reflection and introspection.
My only experience so far with stories focused on Indigenous peoples is Initiation by Virginia Frances Schwartz. Interestingly enough, Virginia Frances Schwartz is not Indigenous herself, so I can honestly say that to my knowledge I have not read anything written by an Indigenous Canadian. I prefer — or I guess prefer is too strong a word, but rather tend to — read authors from the mid-to-late Victorian period, as well as modern day fantasy and science fiction authors such as Tamora Pierce and Sir Terry Pratchett (R.I.P).
As I’m reading over what I’ve written so far, I’m having trouble deciding which words to use, or which are appropriate — Indigenous? Native? Is one offensive? Is it offensive that I’m unsure? I hope that this course will help to clear up my confusion.
I am also hopeless with online technological wizardry. It took me longer than I care to admit to even figure out how to start writing this post. That, too, is something I hope will clear up in the coming weeks.
(I saw a first edition Jane Eyre on my trip in the National Gallery, so it was the first thing that came to mind when I was thinking of an image to post).
“A Biography of Sir Terry Pratchett”. www.terrypratchettbooks.com. Transworld Publishers, n.d. Web. Accessed May 13, 2016.
Google Books. “Initiation.” www.books.google.ca. Web. Accessed May 13, 2016.
viaLibri. “Jane Eyre first edition.” www.viaLibri.net. Web. Accessed May 13, 2016.
It’s lovely to virtually meet you and I enjoyed reading your first post. I really appreciated that you mentioned reading back over your post and being unsure about which titles to use. I felt the same way when posting my own blog. I sent a first draft of it to a friend who is a member of the Metis Nation of Alberta and doing a First Nations Studies bachelors degree. I had questions about the appropriateness of comparing Hawaiian history to First Nations history, as I know more about the former than the latter, and was concerned I would seem offensive and uneducated. I am excited to go on this journey with you and our other classmates to gain a clearer understanding on this topic.
You also brought up having read about Indigenous people from a non-Indigenous author. I am excited to explore the idea of voices and points of view that have been continuously represented while others are silenced. This is a discourse I have had many times through multiple theatre history courses. I am interested to see the similarities and differences of the theatre canon and the literature canon.
Hi Stef! Thanks for the comment. What did your friend say regarding the comparison of Hawaiian history to Native American? In terms of colonialism and cultural genocide I do believe I see your point, though their distance and separate cultural identities does make me pause, as I suppose it made you pause. Also, theatre history, that’s cool! Have you had many chances to read or act out Native American… stories, I guess? (I’m not sure if they wrote plays). Thanks again for the comment!
My friend agreed with what I was writing. I don’t quite understand your questions about Native American stories, however, a large discourse we have had is about the canon being made up of white male playwrights and I have had professors purposefully add women playwrights and playwrights of color to our course list to expand what we read.
Hi Mia, Yes – but of course both groups of peoples share the common experience of colonization ….. so, there is indeed already common ground despite distance and culture 🙂 Just as I say ‘all’ of the people who live on this territory we call Canada have a common history – beginning with Chapter 15. Thanks.
It is nice to virtually meet you too :). I come from a background in theatre as well, all of my degrees are from the Theatre Department at Uvic. I am pleased to hear that you had the sensitivity and insight to send your draft to a more knowledgeable friend for consolation, thank you. You might find it interesting to consider the emergence of contemporary First Nations, Inuit and Metis theatre productions in context with our course. Take a look at the early history of the Canadian Fringe festivals – which were the first non-juried theatre productions in Canada – and you will see the beginning of many and varied Indigenous theatre production companies across the country: Native Earth Performing Arts http://www.nativeearth.ca/ . When I look back at the history of First Nations performance on Canadian theatre stages I see the names and faces of so many fellow theatre artist who began on the Fringe: http://www4.nac-cna.ca/pdf/eth/aboriginal_theatre.pdf
Sometimes I feel wretchedly uncomfortable writing about literally anything but my own experiences that involve no other people or events or societal influences (which is often impossible). Another one of our classmates Heather James posted a blog post that included a link to a really helpful, UBC moderated student blog that outlined relevant terms and issues that permeate the conversations people tend to have about Indigenous issues. I actually bookmarked the blog that Heather cites so that I can reference it whenever I’m feeling unsure. One thing Heather mentions that I completely agree with is that sometimes because people don’t know how to talk about something, or are afraid to talk about something or don’t want to offend anyone, those important and uncomfortable conversations simply don’t happen. I think I would rather accidentally offend someone (and let that memory keep me up at night for the rest of my life) than never acknowledge their experience or lived truth. Hopefully Heather’s blog post can help you feel a little more confident as well, or at least more informed. 🙂
Hi Laura, thanks for the link! I agree, it’s better to be open and communicative, even if that leads to some uncomfortable moments, than to stay silent on important issues.
If we were in a classroom, face to face, it would be easier to impress upon you what I want to say. But, we are not. In some ways, the act of writing, in place of classroom discussion is so much more difficult BECAUSE of the sense of permanency on writing and posting. However, in classrooms, so few people have the opportunity to express their ideas and insights, or even ask their questions. At least online we can all speak and there is time to think too :).
In a classroom, I would look you in the eye and encourage you to take time to reflect before speaking and be sure you are speaking from the heart ….
I enjoyed reading your introductory post! My name is Corbin, I am a fellow English Literature student and ENGL 470 classmate. You touched on some of the worries I have when approaching Canadian literature, there is a certain ambiguity as to how it should be read, addressed, and discussed. For me personally, this comes from somewhat of an identity criss regarding my Canadian identity.. Furthermore, we Canadians seem to have three stream (at a minimum) of history (First Nations, English and French), all so very intersected. I hope we both gain a better knowledge of Canadian First Nations literature through this course, as my limited reading in it has shown it to be very beautiful.
I am very jealous that you saw an original copy of Jane Eyre, it is one of my favourite books from the Romantic period. Have you read Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys? I read it recently, and found it super striking how Rhys wrote Bronté’s character: Bertha.
Looking forward to further discussions throughout this course!
Hey Corbin, thanks for the comment! Yes I have read Wide Sargasso Sea — I can only describe it as hypnotizing. The descriptions of the scenery, the heat, and Bertha’s madness was so captivating and unnerving. I felt like I was in her mind. Definitely made me look at Mr. Rochester in a new way, though of course English 221, I think it was, had already taught me to do that. This class, I think, will allow for the same immersion into a text and allow for change of opinion/new ways at looking at famous characters/historical figures (like Christopher Columbus, for one).
Hi Mia! Thanks for sharing your perspective on the course. I have taken two courses prior to this that have talked about or focused on Indigenous perspectives and one resource I found helpful when I was unsure about what terminology to use was on the UBC Indigenous Foundations Website (http://indigenousfoundations.arts.ubc.ca/?id=7400). I think you will also enjoy reading texts written with an Indigenous lense, I find perspective is such a key aspect of any story or history and I am excited to see what kinds of conclusions you draw during this exploration of a new perspective.
I also really appreciate you making note of how this may be an uncomfortable journey at times. I myself am feeling a similar anticipation for topics outside my comfort zone and it is reassuring to know that I am not alone.
Thanks again for sharing your thoughts, looking forward to hearing more as the term progresses!
Thanks for the link! So far I am really liking Chamberlin’s book, and though I know he isn’t full-blooded I believe he said in the introduction that his grandfather was half-Native American, so I am getting a little taste of Indigenous lenses.
Excellent blog post. I certainly appreciiate this website.
Continue the good work!
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