Literature and Remaining Idle No More

Yes, this is a Literature issue and it was always destined to be one.  I was going to talk extensively about Literature as we have all known it to be, in the mainstream and alternative sense.  The thematic title was and is — Literature – Subtlety in Stigmas and Stereotypes. It was about LitCrit, perhaps about Atwood and Hage, about Ondaatje, Calvino, Martel and Mistry, about book reviews and book fairs, about teaching Literature and the impact of Northrop Frye on Canadian Literature and about the Empire striking back– about Rushdie, his “underground” days and his many dilettante ways. And so we collected essays, articles, reviews and interviews from some of Montreal’s well known literary figures, poets—-Marianne Ackerman of Rover Magazine, an interview with Simon Dardick of the legendary Vehicule Presse,   about Judy Mappin and the Double Hook Bookstore,  Serai’s own Patrick Barnard, Maya Khankhoje and Nilambri Ghai and John Fretz-the curator of the Poetry Plus happenings at the now famous Arts Café in the Mile End District of Montreal—all eminent practitioners of the written word–they contributed with essays, reviews and short stories, which you will all find very interesting in the following pages.

But then something happened in early November. Four First Nations women spoke out in Words Of their Own. Their literature rose above the conversations that we were immersed in. They spoke in words, loud and clear. Without stereotype, without stigma.  They said they were going to remain Idle No More against the continuous, incremental devastation of Native and Canadian rights over land, water and environmental resources. They spoke about broken treaties, about overnight and surreptitious accession of waterways that were never ceded, about colonization and the failure of their mainstream leaders, trapped in Indian laws as figureheads rather than sovereign entities, to deal with this gradual obliteration of their land rights. They spoke in literature and words that moved mountains and churned up the rivers.

Please see and go through the various posts, announcements, letters and responses. It is a literature that takes precedence.

In their Mission Statement, they say “Idle No More calls on all people to join in a revolution which honors and fulfills Indigenous sovereignty which protects the land and water. Colonization continues through attacks to Indigenous rights and damage to the land and water. We must repair these violations; live the spirit and intent of the treaty relationship, work towards justice in action, and protect Mother Earth. On December 10th, Indigenous people and allies stood in solidarity across Canada to assert Indigenous sovereignty and begin the work towards sustainable, renewable development. All people will be affected by the continued damage to the land and water and we welcome Indigenous and non-Indigenous allies to join in creating healthy sustainable communities. We encourage youth to become engaged in this movement as you are the leaders of our future. There have always been individuals and groups who have been working towards these goals – Idle No More seeks to create solidarity and further support these goals. We recognize that there may be backlash, and encourage people to stay strong and united in spirit.”

In their PLAN OF ACTION, they say “Support and encourage grassroots to create their own forums to learn more about Indigenous rights and our responsibilities to our Nationhood via teach-ins, rallies and social media.  Build relationships and create understanding with allies across Canada. Take steps to contribute to building relationships with international agencies such as the UN to raise awareness to the conditions Indigenous people have been subjected to and assert our sovereignty in the international arena. Acknowledge and honor the hard work of all grassroots people who have worked, and continue to work towards these goals – you are our inspiration.”

Enjoy the literature that we embarked upon and as well the literature that has taken over.

Rana Bose is an engineer, playwright and author.