Telling our truth

Much of what passes for history in this country and elsewhere is intelligent speculation.
 
People get most of their history from novels, movies, TV and stories told to them as children. What we learn in school is connected to those stories just enough to render them (seemingly ) truthful, but does anyone really believe that George Stanley knew what Louis Riel was thinking and feeling when he wrote his book about the Metis of Manitoba?  
 
Indigenous writers have to develop that capacity to speculate or we are left to the works of those telling stories about us from another room. We become part of the background if we let that happen. They will see us as objects and not as family.
 
But like those others, in order to speculate intelligently, Indigenous writers need to know themselves and have a belief in the humanity of our people and then they need to develop a degree of confidence in their knowledge bordering on arrogance. That’s why Joseph Boyden’s books Three Day Road, and Through Black Spruce were so compelling, and why his new one The Orenda is even better. It is not so much a story about us as it is our story. It’s not our story in the sense that it is about us but because it belongs to us. It tells them who we were, and are.
 
He continues to grow as a writer. A work of fiction it certainly is but you can see his confidence in the truth of the story.
 

About Senator Murray Sinclair

Canadian Senator Formerly Justice of the Court of Queen's Bench of Manitoba and recent Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada
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One Response to Telling our truth

  1. I talk about this all the time, as an indigenous writer, and am appalled at the absolute claim non indigenous writers make to our stories. I recall one person at a writing event, speaking casually to a renowned writer about wanting to do some “native stuff”. That is what our history, our stories are to the non indigenous writer. Stuff. I have also tried and tried to get this notion across that “knowledge” of our history is gleaned from every source available including “fictional” pieces of work. Non indigenous writers claim that they have a “right” to write whatever they want. But what about the responsibility? How does that “right” to free speech balance with the responsibility to understand that they cannot tell our stories because they do not know our stories. Non Indigenous writers trying to tell our stories, is the same as a cat trying to convey the perspective of a dog. Not possible. I am so thankful for people who will stand and say this, out loud.

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