About the Author

Katherena Vermette

KATHERENA VERMETTE is a Métis writer from Treaty One territory, the heart of the Métis nation, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Her first book, North End Love Songs (The Muses Company), won the Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry. Her National Film Board short documentary, this river, won the Coup de Coeur award at the Montreal First Peoples Festival and a Canadian Screen Award.

Her first novel, The Break, was a national bestseller and won the Amazon.ca First Novel Award; the Burt Award for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Young Adult Literature; and three Manitoba Book Awards. It was a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award, the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, and CBC’s Canada Reads. She is also the author of the children’s picture book series The Seven Teaching Stories and recently published the first book, Pemmican Wars, in the young adult book series A Girl Called Echo. Ms. Vermette’s second book of poetry, river woman, is forthcoming in the fall of 2018 from House of Anansi Press.

Books by this Author
Kode's Quest(ion)

Kode's Quest(ion)

A Story of Respect
edition:eBook
also available: Paperback
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Singing Sisters

Singing Sisters

A Story of Humility
edition:eBook
also available: Paperback
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The Girl and the Wolf

The Girl and the Wolf

edition:Hardcover
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This Place
Excerpt

I have never liked the phrase, “History is written by the victors.” I understand the idea behind it – that those in power will tell and retell stories in whatever ways flatter them best, until those stories harden into something called “history.” But just because stories are unwritten for a time, doesn’t mean they’ll be unwritten forever. And just because stories don’t get written down, doesn’t mean they’re ever lost. We carry them in our minds, our hearts, our very bones. We honour them by passing them on, letting them live on in others, too.

That’s exactly what this anthology does. It takes stories our people have been forced to pass on quietly, to whisper behind hands like secrets, and retells them loudly and unapologetically for our people today. It finally puts our people front and centre on our own lands. Inside these pages are the incredible, hilarious heroics of Annie Bannatyne, who refused to let settlers disrespect Metis women in Red River. There’s the heartbreaking, necessary tale of Nimkii and Teddy, heroic youth in care who fight trauma and colonialism as hard as they possibly can in impossible circumstances. And there are many more—all important, all enlightening. All of these stories deserve to be retold, remembered and held close.

As I was reading, I thought a lot about the idea of apocalypse, or the end of the world as we know it. Indigenous writers have pointed out that, as Indigenous people, we all live in a post-apocalyptic world. The world as we knew it ended the moment colonialism started to creep across these lands. But we have continued to tell our stories, we have continued to adapt. Despite everything, we have survived.

Every Indigenous person’s story is, in a way, a tale of overcoming apocalypse. The Canadian laws and policies outlined at the beginning of each story have tried their hardest to beat us down, to force us to assimilate and give up our culture, yet here we are. We have survived the apocalypse. When you think about it that way, every Indigenous person is a hero simply for existing. The people named in these stories are all heroes, inspired by love of their people and culture to do amazing, brave things—but so are the unnamed people who raised them, who taught them, who supported them and stood with them. Our communities are full of heroes.

That’s why this anthology is so beautiful and so important. It tells tales of resistance, of leadership, of wonder and pain, of pasts we must remember and futures we must keep striving towards, planting each story like a seed deep inside of us. It’s our responsibility as readers to carry and nourish those seeds, letting them grow inside as we go on to create our own stories, live our own lives, and become our own heroes. As you read, consider: how are you a hero already? And what will your story be?

—Alicia Elliott

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Perception
Excerpt

Cathy Mattes

The Perception Series:
KC Adams, and the Value
of Socially Engaged Art

Art is a catalyst for social change, and Winnipeg-based artist KC Adams (Oji-Cree) is a social-change agent. Her work addresses racism toward Indigenous peoples, engagement with the land and ceremony, the association between nature and technology, and the benefits of community and kin. With ceramics, photography, beadwork, collaborative performance, and installation, she holds up a mirror to society, and provides opportunities for viewers to participate, reflect, and strategize to make personal and collective change. Adam’s photo-based series Perception challenges racist stereotypes and remedies the aftershocks of historical colonization and its continuous and present hold on contemporary Canadian society. The series relies on willing participants and an invested audience, and is best described as socially engaged art.

Although all art invites social interaction, socially engaged art depends on the involvement of others. Historically, it occurred in art galleries, where artists made artworks which were participatory and appealing, like convening visitors to share food or personal narratives in exhibition spaces. This blurred the lines between artist and audience, and broadened understandings of what constitutes art. Physical art objects or video recordings became the residuals or documentation of the process-based artwork instead of the main component.

Socially engaged art now often happens outside of gallery spaces, and artists are driven to not only challenge understandings of art, but also to make social change. They address concerns like gender inequality, poverty, or the effects of colonial oppression. They collaborate with the public to paint murals on buildings, make posters for distribution, organize pop-up exhibitions in storefronts, and create performance works at community gatherings. They activate conversations that promote self-reflection or cross-cultural education and respond to the current issues of their time. For Indigenous artists, socially engaged art is more than a yearning to make right in society; it is also about their own relationships to the land, and a way to personally and collectively heal from the negative impact of colonization. It requires making art in a good way, grounded in culture, community, and kinship ties.

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