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Category Archives: Unit 2

4] In the last lesson I ask some of you, “what is your first response to Robinson’s story about the white and black twins in context with our course theme of investigating intersections where story and literature meet.” I asked, what do you make of this “stolen piece of paper”? Now that we have contextualized that story with some historical narratives and explored ideas about questions of authenticity and the necessity to “get the story right” – how have your insights into that story changed?



After completing this week’s readings I am compelled to say that I no longer read the original story, at least in order of presentation in this class, as a legend, but as a historical narrative. It certainly does not fit into the Western interpretation of history, but it does serve as an entry point to both a past occurrence, although impossible to prove, and a bridge to the post-contact colonial world. By this I mean that after reading the story of Coyote and the King, the ongoing narrative, which is common to oral story telling traditions and practices, provides the context for the second reading.


The main characters are again Coyote (the black twin) and the King (the white one). In this case the older twin (Coyote) has the upper hand, and gets his way over his younger brother, at least initially. The law is written on paper as coyote wants, and the terms are to be sent to what is Canada to be read when the First Nations peoples become literate. This certainly differs from the first tale, at least in the beginning, in that the older brother appears to be in control. Though we soon learn that this is yet another trick by the younger brother, in that the documents end up being locked away and their contents do not become accessible to the First Nations people as they were intended to be.


Arguably, the story is fictional, but the direct correlation to real world events, and the still large divide between European powers and First Nations groups is clearly illustrated in both of these stories. The information, in the form of laws, is still being hidden from Coyote’s peoples, and the balance of power still sits in the deceptive ‘white” peoples hands. The political commentary is succinct, and the method of delivery (direct transcription from Robinson’s words) adds to the power of the message in the story.


After this weeks readings both stories, the origin story and the follow up, represent a voice that needs to be heard. It commands one to recognize that there was an established culture, with their own ways and practices, well before the arrival of settlers in North America. It is the time to listen, and not just with our ears, but with our hearts and minds. Once this occurs then, and only then, can a true dialogue develop, and the potential for reconciliation, perhaps a societal do-over, can occur.

For this post I have chosen to tackle the following question.

“If Europeans were not from the land of the dead, or the sky, alternative explanations which were consistent with indigenous cosmologies quickly developed” (“First Contact43). Robinson gives us one of those alternative explanations in his stories about how Coyote’s twin brother stole the “written document” and when he denied stealing the paper, he was “banished to a distant land across a large body of water” (9). We are going to return to this story, but for now – what is your first response to this story? In context with our course theme of investigating intersections where story and literature meet, what do you make of this stolen piece of paper? This is an open-ended question and you should feel free to explore your first thoughts.”


After completing all of the readings lesson 2:2, I was immediately intrigued by question 5. The concept of two twins, one light skinned and one dark skinned, of the same basic ancestry is both interesting and problematic for me. On one hand it is presented in the form of an origin story, and therefore contains many unrealistic components (such as animals with agency). On the other hand it does relate to my personal beliefs about a similar origin of all people on the planet.


My initial point of contention is caused by the negative representation of the white twin, which in the context of Robinson’s story is an obvious reference to the European colonizers who came to North America from the 11th century to the 19th century. This story, and its perspective, directly challenges the ‘Europeanized’ version of history, and therefore the civilization, that we in North America have been raised on. The fact that I initially felt this way leads to a second conflict, a deep understanding of the sentiment buried in this particular origin tale. Drawing back to the aboriginal belief in having a connection with all aspects of life, it only makes sense that the coming of the ‘white’ man to their lands would seamlessly fit into their narrative. I have been so conditioned to believe in the correctness of European accounts, that a rational response, from a completely different perspective, could initially seem threatening to my preconceived notions of first contact narratives.


When thinking specifically about the stolen piece of paper, I am drawn towards the conclusion that what was written on that paper was not important, as the paper symbolized the ability to write, something that was not prevalent among aboriginal groups in Canada prior to European contact. Wickwire makes reference to this in her introduction to Harry Robinson’s stories, in particular where she states Robinson’s belief that if the twin had not stolen that paper, Robinson’s ancestors would have known how to write and the Europeans wouldn’t have. This sentiment also highlights the ongoing friction between the first inhabitants of Canada, and the invading Europeans who alienated them upon their arrival. The importance of this particular narrative to Robinson, as highlighted by his multiple renditions of this story, indirectly express aboriginal resentment to the usurpation and assimilation attempts of European settlers.


I can’t also help but notice how the oral tradition of compiling history and origin through stories has survived well into the age of literature. I think it speaks to the importance of tradition to the first inhabitants of North America, and the underlying strength of their cultural beliefs and practices to have endured this long in an environment where every effort was made to extinguish said beliefs and practices.


I welcome any feedback on this post.



It started out like every other day. She rolled out of bed, made her coffee, and perched herself in her favourite spot on the east-facing patio.


To Stella, the east is where the day is born. The sun first appears, its golden rays gently coaxing the world into action. To her, this signifies the importance of positivity and light. It wasn’t long ago that everything in her life seemed perfect. Perfect job, perfect family, she had it all. As she gave into this train of thought, she thought back to her early childhood.


She had a stable, if unspectacular childhood. She was not overly popular, but she was liked well enough. She would never be described as an exhilarating person, but rather as safe, stable and reliable. It was in this mediocrity that she thrived.   Her home life was much the same; her parents had seemingly been together forever. Sure, they had their share of tense moments, but they always seemed to come out the other side of them. While inspiration was not their strong suit, love and stability was. Thinking back on it, a smile starting to appear on her face. She always felt safe at home, regardless of what was happening in the outside world. Her foundation was solid, there was always mom and dad, there was always her childhood fortress; these things all added up to her sense of home. It was when she was deep in this thought, that very precious moment, when the phone rang.


Stella glanced at her watch, it was only 8am; for a moment she hesitated as the sun was just clearing the top of the forest behind her house. That glorious moment when one feels in touch with nature, the warmth of the sun providing the same sense of security for her that home did. It was then that her sense of curiousity overtook her; who would be calling so early, what in the world could they want?


She slowly rose, and chided herself on her ingrained sense of obligation; yet another carryover from her upbringing, her inbred desire to be there whenever anybody called. She told herself that it was selfless, but deep down she knew it wasn’t. These acts of service did more to satisfy her sense of purpose more than her desire to help others. She learned this from her parents. They had a habit of being ‘helpful’, even when their presence was unwelcome. Perhaps this was a byproduct of her introverted personality? Perhaps this was how she reached out to the world. Maybe it was just her strong sense of curiousity? Whatever the reason, she lunged for the phone and picked up the receiver.


It was her cousin, and childhood best friend, Joan. There were no pleasantries or platitudes in this conversation, just an explosion of frantic dialogue. While only half listening to Joan, as she had a habit of carrying on like this, Stella got lost in the story of how she met her soul mate.   She met Steve while she was at work one day; handsome and funny he had swept her completely off of her feet. It wasn’t the dialogue of the phone call that brought Steve to mind, but the abruptness of it that triggered her memory. Her parents were unimpressed with him, not personally, as they found him rather charming, but in what he represented. He was a break in the solidity of their family unit. Her relationship with Steve was all encompassing, and for years she tried to live in this self-concocted duality. She tried to evolve into her new role as a life-partner without severing her ties to her parents. Even as an adult, her parents represented security, and most poignantly home. In building her future with Steve, she was faced with the task of reconciling her past. Her parents and their stability versus Steve and his passion. She knew from her childhood example that she had to buy-in with Steve, but what of her parents? Where was the balancing point, was there a middle ground…


It was in this moment when Joan recaptured Stella’s attention. It was abrupt, a single phrase that did it; there has been an accident, it was pretty bad…


It was her father, there was a drunk driver, or perhaps he was drunk. The details didn’t really matter, as it appeared as if he wasn’t going to survive this. Her mind wandered back to her childhood impressions of him. He was stoic, strong and stubborn. He rarely bared his soul, but when he did that is when his true essence shone through. He had a strict sense of duty to family that had more than imprinted on her; it had enveloped her. It was this that caused her to fight when Steve expressed his dislike for where their relationship was heading. It was her insecurities, also from her father, that had caused most of the fights in the first place. It was this that saw her wake up alone on this morning, her sense of duty that triggered her stubbornness. Joan slowly brought Stella back into focus; in the short amount of time Stella had become engrossed in her own thoughts her father had passed. Her childhood broken, but her future secured.


She hung up the receiver and mechanically returned to her patio. As she slowly brought the cup of coffee to her lips, fighting the accompanying tremble, she decided it was time. She finished her coffee and picked up the phone. When Steve answered, all she could do was sob.




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