Lee Maracle: The Literary Activist
Written By Qurat Ain
As it has done in the past to acknowledge the efforts and works of different authors from varying backgrounds, this year’s Blue Metropolis First Peoples Literary Prize recognizes the fascinating and thought-provoking novels and essays written by Lee Maracle. It is an award, made possible through the J.W. McConnell Family and the Chadha foundations, which brings Indigenous writers, and through them, their communities, to the forefront of national and international scenes. In fact, the 2018 award ceremony not only recognizes the entirety of Maracle’s works, but also highlights her most recent essay, My Conversations with Canadians, which becomes an opportunity for the author to deal with questions asked during the events she previously attended. Maracle uses her own experience to think about these questions, and the reader, especially a Canadian, forms a dialogue with her through her writing.
“I was raised by a mother who said ‘Never take no for an answer, unless you have come to the conclusion that you are asking for more than you deserve.’ Of course she had a wide framed picture of what we deserved” (Maracle to CWILA’s Hancock).
A member of the Stó:lo nation, Lee Maracle was born in Vancouver and grew up in the poor neighborhood of North Shore. She initially felt disconnected from both the Indigenous culture and the broader Canadian culture, but eventually, the author emerged as an activist standing against racism, sexism and economic oppression surrounding Indigenous populations. Using North American feminism’s framework, Maracle situates the Indigenous women as targets of white male domination as they even exercise influence on First Nations men. The author expands the reader’s point of view by reflecting on Indigenous women’s position at the center of two cultures and questions his/her understanding of the Indigenous experience. Exploring multiple mediums and styles, Maracle has produced novels, poetry, short story collections and collaborative anthologies which combine prose, poetry, fiction, non-fiction, myth and memoire to convey her intended messages and to maintain a connection with traditional Indigenous stories (Bonikowsky). Her notable works include Sojourner’s and Sundogs, Bobbi Lee: Indian Rebel, Daughters Are Forever, Will’s Garden, and Talking to the Diaspora among various others.
Along with the award ceremony which takes place at the McCord Museum on April 29th, Maracle will attend many other events during the Festival:
- This Really Happened: Crime and Punishment
This event is part of a live story-telling series known as This Really Happened and consists in writers talking about peccadillos, petty crimes and illegal crimes that held significance in their lives. This time, the guest of honor is none other than Lee Maracle who will share her experiences with the audience. The activity takes place on April 27th, at Hôtel 10’s Salle Godin, 9 PM and requires a small $15 fee.
- The Other: An Object of Fear
This panel discussion takes on the question of different cultures living together in one place, and this interaction’s impact on society. Authors, including Lee Maracle, Dirk Kurbjuweit, Torkil Damhaug and Charles Taylor, explore the idea through its reflection in modern literature. The event takes place on April 28th, at Hôtel 10’s Salle St-Laurent, 11 AM, requiring a $10 fee.
(Sponsored by J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, Chadha Family Foundation, Cole Foundation, Goethe-Institut Montréal, House of Anansi Press, Norla, and Royal Norwegian Embassy)
- Cosmovisiones Indígenas en América
This round table discussion allows the audience to become familiar with two different pre-Colombian perspectives, Stó:lo and Quécha, as the authors discuss their works, their views of space and time, and their personal representation of the universe. The guest speakers are Lee Maracle, Jorge Alejandro, and Vargas Prado. The activity takes place at the Librairie Las Américas, at 2:30 PM, on April 28th, with a $5 fee.
(Sponsored by Ginny Stikeman, Cosmovisiones Indígenas en América, J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, Chadha Family Foundation, Cole Foundation, Concordia University, Lecture Pen Québec/ Pen Canada Reading)
Bonikowsky, Laura Neilson. “Lee Maracle.” The Canadian Encyclopedia. Toronto: Historica Canada, 2013. Web. 27 Feb 2013.
Maracle, Lee. Interview by Brecken Hancock. Canadian Women in the Literary Arts, cwila.com/an-interview-with-lee-maracle. Accessed 18 March 2018.