Discussion Questions

One Book UWinnipeg

General Questions about This Place: 150 Years Retold

  1. What are the possibilities and challenges of using comics in sharing Indigenous stories and histories?
  2. Using the stories in This Place, find specific examples of the impacts of the Indian Acton Indigenous, Metis, and Inuit people, and discuss its long-term effects.
  3. Why is it essential to restore language, culture, and traditions among Indigenous people? Why does this remain a critical part of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action?How do specific stories in This Place capture these issues?
  4. A number of the stories in This Place dramatize legal violence and illustrate that the law is not necessarily the same as justice. Find three examples from This Place and discuss how they individually and collectively portray the role the legal system has played in settler colonialism since 1867.
  5. The different artists who contributed to this collection use a variety of visual styles to draw the historical narratives. How do the different styles contribute to the specific stories they are telling? Do some styles seem particularly appropriate to their narratives?
  6. A number of the stories in This Place use real documents (letters, newspapers, legal documents) in the text boxes to add official voices to the events depicted. Find two examples and consider how these official documents introduce both information and settler colonial ideology into the stories of individual characters. What is the relationship between the action in the panels and the words quoted in these text boxes?
  7. Although these are different narratives from 150 years of Indigenous and Canadian history across territories, there are some common experiences, themes, and responses that run through all of them. What connections, similarities, and overlaps run through this collection? Are there any recurring images, scenes, or motifs?

Discussion Questions for Individual Chapters

Chapter One: “Annie of Red River” by Katherena Vermette, illustrations by Scott B. Henderson and colouring by Donovan Yaciuk.

  1. What does the story of Annie Bannatyne tell us about the role Indigenous and Métis women played in the Red River Settlement?
  2. Study the panels that depict domestic settings to discuss Annie’s social class and its importance to her self-image and social role in the community. Pay attention to dress, bodily comportment, furniture, and interior design.
  3. Throughout this story, Vermette et al. draw parallels between Annie’s social respectability and the right to respect for her and all Red River women. Discuss the relationship between respect and respectability in terms of gender, class, and race.
  4. In the final scenes, Annie takes revenge on Charles Mair. How do her actions fit with her earlier portrayal? Although this is a short comic, her character is highly developed. Discuss how the writer and artists achieve such a complete portrayal of her through images and words.
  5. In this story, there are incidents of men being “indecent” (14) to Indigenous and Métis women, and when Annie confronts her husband about it, he responds that Indigenous women are “wild” (14).  He further defends Mair by saying, “they are only young men, my dear” (15). Explore the connections between Mair’s behavior at the party and his newspaper editorial to discuss how this story shows the connections between the personal and the political. Why does Annie humiliate him so publicly?
  6. Read the online article by Todd Lamarine about Annie Bannatyne at the Louis Riel Institute website. This story only tells a part of her rich life narrative. Discuss how it hints at her larger story, from her advantageous social position to her connections to Louis Riel, in a relatively short comic.
  7. For further research: In February 1869, Mair’s letter published in Toronto’s Globe newspaper motivated Annie Bannatyne to resist the dominant media portray of Indigenous and Métis women. Her reaction was publicly shared and discussed widely in the papers. Research contemporary mainstream media portrayals of Indigenous and Métis women, as well as how activists and Indigenous community leaders have responded to them, to consider whether this history persists today, and in what forms.

Chapter Two: “Tilted Ground” By Sonny Assu. Illustrated by Kyle Charles and coloured by Scott A. Ford.

  1. The visual style of this story is quite different from “Annie of Red River.” Compare/contrast the artists’ use of the comics grid, colour, and clean vesus rough lines to discuss how the visual styles reflect the narrative content. Page 33 has a particularly interesting layout and style to study.
  2. Unlike “Annie of Red River,” this story has a narrative voice-over in the text boxes/captions. Analyze the narrator’s statements to discuss the identity of this narrator: are they an anonymous, omniscient (all seeing) and ‘objective’ narrator, or does the story imply it is a specific person (if so, who)? What is the effect of having a narrator’s voice in this story?
  3. What impact did his early training and encounters with elders have on Billy as an adult?
  4. How does this chapter represent the significance of the Potlatch for the Southern Kwagu’l people, on the one hand, and the Canadian government, on the other?
  5. This story depicts how the Canadian government used the Indian Act to ban Indigenous ceremonies among Indigenous peoples. The narrator states that Billy’s response was to refuse assimilation and instead practice “adoption,” which we might also think of as adaptation (58). Discuss the differences between assimilation and adoption/adaptation in this context.
  6. The final two pages (50-51) have an almost mythical quality to them, as Billy Assu is drawn as a man who will perform great deeds. Study how the words and artwork build up a heroic image of the protagonist that is still grounded in historical reality. What future event is depicted in the final inset panel at the bottom of page 51?
  7. For further research: Who was Frans Boaz (52-53)? What connection does he have to the anecdote Sonny Assu recounts in his preface that he had to go to the Museum of Civilization in Ottawa to try on his great-great-grandfather’s regalia in an “anthropology-white” room (28)?

Chapter Three: “Red Clouds” by Jen Storm, illustrated and coloured by Natasha Donovan

  1. This story uses a first person narrator to frame the beginning and end of the narrative as a personal account. Who is the narrator? How does this affect the readers’ experience of the events it illustrates?
  2. Discuss the reaction of the community to the return of the mother and child back to the community. What do some of their comments and reactions suggest about how they viewed her before she left and now she has returned?
  3. Study the images of supernatural beings in this story to discuss how Storm et al. suggest they might co-exist with real humans and other beings. Who can see them? Who are they? Why are they there?
  4. There are several striking silent sequences in which the reader must tell themselves the story based on the images. Analyze how Storm et al. use silent sequences: when do they appear? what impact do they have? Consider the role of the gutter as central to how comics make meaning.
  5. This story uses the specific historical context of the 1907 trial of Thomas Fiddler in Norway House, Manitoba, to discuss a popular theme in superhero comics: the law versus justice. How do Storm et al. bring historical reality in to shape this popular comics theme? How is the colonial legal system, represented by the Mounties, unjust? Who emerges as the (super)hero figure who will fight this injustice?
  6. The final page reinforces the power of the Windigo when they say that as the world changes, so will they (80). Watch the short clip of Jen Storm talking about this story to consider how the Windigo’s final lines might be interpreted, especially given that this sequence ends with the arrival of a priest.
  7. For further research: Cree and Ojibwe tales of the Windigo (sometimes spelled Wendigo) have appeared in many forms, from oral histories and folk tales to short stories, novels, comics, visual art (especially painting) and film. Find two other Indigenous-created Windigo stories or images to analyze further ways this important cultural figure has been represented by contemporary artists and writers.

Chapter Four: “Peggy” by David A. Robertson, illustrated by Natasha Donovan

  1. This story opens with a double-page (largely) silent sequence that juxtaposes two time periods (86-87). Analyze how the panels build up a complex narrative over the course of these pages and discuss how the reader must fill in the gutters to connect the two layers of the narrative. Find other examples in this chapter where Robertson and Donovan uses comics’ ability to juxtapose different places and times on the same page, and discuss their significance.
  2. This chapter uses onomatopoeia to convey the chaos of the battlefield (96-97). It appears again on p.99 in peacetime. How does this parallel contribute to the representation of Francis’s post-war trauma?
  3. What is the significance of this statement in relation to Francis’s life story: “it does not matter what they say? Indian affairs, Canada or King George. This is our land” (This Place 105)?
  4. This is a story about justice and injustice in how the Canadian military treated Francis. It is also a story about death and life in how he responded with strength and resilience. Look closely at the Giant Otter story (pp. 106-107) and discuss its role in the larger story of Francis’s life.
  5. For further research: Explore how Francis Pegahmagabow has been represented in settler Canadian and Indigenous histories, literature, memorials, and popular culture. How does this chapter depict him in relation to his growing place in Canadian historical narratives and collective memory?

Chapter Five: “Rosie” by Rachel and Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley, illustrated and coloured by GMB Chomichuk.

  1. This chapter has a unique visual style. Study its layouts, use of the comics grid, colouring, backgrounds and foregrounds, and visual patterns to generate 4-5 words that describe its style, mood, tone, and affect.
  2. The story starts with an emphasis on names, naming, language and meaning. List all of the characters in this story and their name(s) and discuss the relationships between names, identity, knowledge, and power. To learn more about Inuit names and settler colonialism see the Library and Archives Canada page on Project Surname and a short essay by Inuit writer Ann Meekitjuk Hanson.
  3. Who is the narrator of this story? How does their voice-over narration shape the story? How is their relationship to the protagonist, Pauki, portrayed (see pages 118-19)?
  4. What was the reaction of the ‘newcomers’ towards Inuit language and culture? How does this chapter portray the impact of this response on Inuit people?
  5. The narrator says, “a name was just a word, but words of a kind had made land” (126). Discuss how this statement relates to the chapter’s representation of Inuit language and culture.
  6. Like “Red Clouds,” this story features shamans, guardians, and spirit world beings. Discuss how the Cree story of the Windigo in “Rosie” and the Inuit story of Pauki’s guardian “Red Clouds” intersect traditional knowledge with settler colonial history. Pay attention to their differences as well, in both story content and visual style.
  7. For further research: Inuit art, specifically stone carving and print making, has been an important cultural export to the south. Research the history of settler and government relations with Inuit artists and how their work has adapted to post-contact and contemporary life experiences.

Chapter Six: “Nimkii” by Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm, illustrated by Ryan Howe and Jen Storm, coloured by Donovan Yaciuk

  1. Nimkii tells her daughter that the Residential Schools weren’t “good for kids” (146). She says: “They stole the children’s families, language, and culture” (146). What are the connections between the Residential Schools Nimkii’s mother helped her avoid and the foster system into which she was taken?
  2. Read some of the information at the Metis Nation Sixties Scoop Portal for context to discuss some of the effects of foster care on Indigenous families and children, and tie them back to this specific story.
  3. This chapter is based on a real story and the short film documentary Richard Cardinal: Cry From a Diary of a Metis Child (dir. Alanis Obamsawin, 1984, 29 mins.). Watch the documentary and consider how this chapter is a comics adaptation of the historical narrative and the film: what specific comics techniques does it use to adapt the story into a visual-verbal text?
  4. This chapter is about storytelling itself, from the very first panel. Who are the storytellers and what stories do they tell? Why is it important for Nimkii to tell her story? How does storytelling relate to issues of memory, trauma, survival, and resilience?
  5. There are two different art styles in this chapter (see p.146 for the first example). Study each of the pencil drawings in the panels and on the walls in the background. What kinds of scenes do they depict? What is their significance? What does Nimkii’s comment in the bottom panel on p.147 tell us about why she draws?
  6. The Thunderbird is an important figure in this chapter. What do we learn about the Thunderbird in this story, how many times does it appear, and what is its role?
  7. For further research: What are the historical legacies of the foster care system today on Indigenous communities? How do current foster care and child services policies in Manitoba impact Indigenous families and communities? What recent events have made foster care an important political issue in Canada, and how are Indigenous activists and leaders responding?

Chapter Seven: “Like a Razor Slash” by Richard Van Camp, illustrated by Scott B. Henderson, coloured by Scott A. Ford.

  1. Why was Frank passionate about fighting against the installation of a pipeline in his community?
  2. In this story, in March, 1973, sixteen Dene chiefs tried to get a caveat on their property. Does the chapter suggest that the land title officer was justified in his response to this request?
  3. What was the significance of Justice Morrow’s ruling on the Dene people being the owners of the land? How did this relationship with the federal government impact the building of the pipeline in the Mackenzie Valley?
  4. Watch the CBC archival recording of Chief Frank T’selie’s speech against the Mackenzie Pipeline in 1975. Study how Van Camp et al. adapt this speech into the comics sequence: what images do they use to accompany it? How do these visual images reinforce the oral speech (pay special attention to pages 184-185)?
  5. Based on this story, what significant changes did Judge Berger make after the Berger Inquiry was finalized? How do the visual images that accompany this information illustrate the impact of the Berger Inquiry?
  6. For further research: What has changed between 1971 and now in terms of oil and mining companies in relation to Indigenous lands and rights? What are the recent examples of conflicts between oil and mining companies, Indigenous communities, and the Canadian government?

Chapter Eight:“Migwite’toneg: We Remember It” by Brandon Mitchell, illustrated by Tara Audibert, coloured by Donova Yaciuk.

  1. How does this chapter represent the federal government of Canada’s approach to enforcing fishing bans in Mi’gmaq communities?
  2. The silent sequence on p.196-97 tells the story of what happened in summer, 1980, in Restigouche. Discuss how the absence of speech or text narration shapes the depiction of these events.
  3. How does this chapter represent the Mi’gmaq understanding of their fishing rights versus the Canadian government’s understanding of the Treaty Rights? What are the underlying causes of this conflict? Read the original 1752 Peace and Friendship Treaty Between His Majesty the King and the Jean Baptiste Cope for context.
  4. The sub-title of this chapter is “We Remember It.” Why is it important to remember this specific event? What other conflicts over Indigenous fishing and hunting rights have taken place since the early 1980s?
  5. For further research: Watch the classic NFB documentary Incident at Restigouche by Alanis Obomsawin (45 mins) and discuss how this chapter represents the same historical events but in the form of comics. How do the writer and artists convey tension, conflict, community solidarity, peace and violence using words and images on the page?

Chapter Nine: “Warrior Nation” by Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair, illustration and colours by Andrew Lodwick.

  1. Analyze the visual information conveyd on the double title spread (22-23). What does this reveal about the role of the media in this historical event? Listen to the CBC Unreserved radio story about the famous photograph on the tv in this scene and discuss why sociologist Rima Wilkes insists in this article that “the photograph is colonial”.
  2. This chapter represents a crucial event in recent Canadian history and also uses a coming-of-age story to show us how it transformed a young boy into a politically aware activist. Discuss the intersections between the larger political narrative and Washashk’s coming-of-age and romance story: how do the two intersect? How does this chapter show the connections between the personal and the political?
  3. What does this chapter suggest can be learned from the Mohawk resistance at Oka and their struggle to preserve their land and culture? Do you think their nonviolent approach served its purpose?
  4. How does this chapter depict human rights violations and the use of police force? How did the federal government’s approach make the Mohawk more resilient in their fight for land rights and protection?
  5. This historical event is commonly known in mainstream media as “The Oka Crisis.” How does it change our perspective if we call it “The Oka Resistance”?
  6. This chapter uses a lot of irregular grids and dense panels to convey the narrative. How does the visual intensity on the page relate to the narrative content? What kind of tone and mood do the layouts create?
  7. For further research: What is the status of this land today? How do historians and public commentators view the events at Oka now?

Chapter 10: “Kitaskînaw 2350” by Chelsea Vowel, illustrated by Tara Audibert, coloured by Donovan Yaciuk

  1. This chapter is set in a post-apocalyptic future rather than being based on real events in the past. It is part of the resurgence of Indigenous Futurism (or Speculative Fiction). Read Lindsay Nixon’s essay on Indigenous Futurism for GUTS magazine and discuss why it is important for This Place: 150 Years Retold to conclude with a chapter set in a speculative future.
  2. When studying any type of post-apocalyptic or speculative fiction, it is important to understand the storyworld: Where is this? What has happened to make this world? What is this world like? How is this society organized? What are its challenges and conflicts?
  3. Wapanacahkos becomes a time traveler. What historical moments and events does she witness? Why is she sent by her community on this journey?
  4. When she returns to her people, Wapanacahkos learns the fuller story of what she witnessed through time travel. Analyze pages 274-76 to summarize how this story depicts a dystopian past versus a utopian, post-apolyptic future.
  5. For further research: The resurgence of Indigence futurism in literature, art, and popular culture combines decolonization with the genre of science/speculative fiction. Listen to Chelsea Vowel and Molly Swain’s podcast, Metis in Space, and research other examples of Indigenous Futurism to compare/contrast to “Kitaskînaw 2350.”