Quebec author An Antane Kapesh's two books, Je suis une maudite sauvagesse (1976) and Qu'as-tu fait de mon pays? (1979), are among the foregrounding works by Indigenous women in Canada. This English translation of these works, each page presented facing the revised Innu text, makes them available for the first time to a broader readership.
In I Am a Damn Savage, Antane Kapesh wrote to preserve and share her culture, experience, and knowledge, all of which, she felt, were disappearing at an alarming rate because many Elders – like herself – were aged or dying. She wanted to publicly denounce the conditions in which she and the Innu were made to live, and to address the changes she was witnessing due to land dispossession and loss of hunting territory, police brutality, and the effects of the residential school system. What Have You Done to My Country? is a fictional account by a young boy of the arrival of les Polichinelles (referring to White settlers) and their subsequent assault on the land and on native language and culture.
Through these stories Antane Kapesh asserts that settler society will eventually have to take responsibility and recognize its faults, and accept that the Innu – as well as all the other nations – are not going anywhere, that they are not a problem settlers can make disappear.
About the authors
An Antane Kapesh (1926-2004) was an Innu writer and activist from Schefferville, Quebec. She was a chief at Schefferville (Matimekosh) from 1965-1967. Her 1976 autobiographical book Je suis une maudite sauvagesse was published in both French and Innu and dealt with topics such as loss of hunting territory, the residential school system and police brutality.
Sarah Henzi is a settler scholar and Assistant Professor of Indigenous Literatures in the Department of French and the Department of Indigenous Studies at Simon Fraser University. She is the translator of I Am a Damn Savage; What Have You Done to My Country? by An Antane Kapesh (WLU Press, 2020).
- Winner, Quebec Writers' Federation Cole Foundation Prize for Translation (French to English)