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Poetry Native American


The Poetry of Sky Dancer Louise Bernice Halfe

by (author) Louise Bernice Halfe

edited by David Gaertner

Wilfrid Laurier University Press
Initial publish date
Apr 2018
Native American, Native American Studies, Women Authors
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    Publish Date
    Apr 2018
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    Publish Date
    Apr 2018
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“I build this story like my lair. One willow, / a rib at a time”
— “The Crooked Good”
Since 1990, Sky Dancer Louise Bernice Halfe’s work has stood out as essential testimony to Indigenous experiences within the ongoing history of colonialism and the resilience of Indigenous storytellers. Sôhkêyihta includes searing poems, written across the expanse of Halfe’s career, aimed at helping readers move forward from the darkness into a place of healing.
Halfe’s own afterword is an evocative meditation on the Cree word sôhkêyihta: Have courage. Be brave. Be strong. She writes of coming into her practice as a poet and the stories, people, and experiences that gave her courage and allowed her
to construct her “lair.” She also reflects on her relationship with nêhiyawêwin, the Cree language, and the ways in which it informs her relationships and poetics.
The introduction by David Gaertner situates Halfe’s writing within the history of whiteness and colonialism that works to silence and repress Indigenous voices. Gaertner pays particular attention to the ways in which Halfe addresses, incorporates, and pushes back against silence, and suggests that her work is an act of bearing witness – what Kwagiulth scholar Sarah Hunt identifies as making Indigenous lives visible.

About the authors

Louise Halfe has three book publications to her credit. Bear Bones & Feathers was published by Coteau Books in 1994. It received the Canadian Peoples Poet Award, and was a finalist for the Spirit of Saskatchewan Award in that year. Blue Marrow was originally published by McLelland & Stewart in 1998; its revised edition was released by Coteau Books in September 2004. It was a finalist for both the Governor General’s Award for Poetry and the Pat Lowther Award, and for the 1998 Saskatchewan Book of the Year Award and the Saskatchewan Poetry Award. Her most recent work, The Crooked Good, was published in 2007. Louise Bernice Halfe's Cree name is Sky Dancer. She was born on the Saddle Lake Reserve in Two Hills, Alberta in 1953. At the age of seven, she was sent to the Blue Quills Residential School in St. Paul, Alberta. She left residential school of her own accord when she was sixteen, breaking ties with her family and completing her studies at St. Paul's regional high school. It was at this time that she began writing a journal about her life experiences. Halfe made her debut as a poet in Writing the Circle: Native Women of Western Canada, the acclaimed anthology of life-writings by Native women. In 1993 she was awarded third prize in the League of Canadian Poets' national poetry contest and was Saskatchewan’s Poet Laureate for 2005-2006.

Louise Bernice Halfe's profile page

David Gaertner is a settler scholar of German descent and an assistant professor in the First Nations and Indigenous Studies Program at the University of British Columbia. His research and teaching investigate new media and digital storytelling within a decolonial framework. He blogs at

David Gaertner's profile page

Editorial Reviews

In this collection, Halfe’s fierce and incandescent poetry and voice, which have resonated with readers since the 1990s, are amplified and (if possible) intensified by her biographical afterword, in which she charts her writing life, her work to address legacies of pain, and a process of “spiritual enlightenment, intellectual observation, and emotional healing.” The collection is also made all the more powerful by the foreword by settler scholar David Gaertner.

Sôhkêyihta is an especially crucial collection for educators, scholars, and readers of Canadian poetry. Halfe offers readers a rich process through which to begin and continue to contend with the horrors and injustices that underpin settler colonialism in Canada.

Renée Jackson-Harper

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