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Reading This Place

One Book UWinnipeg


Contents

Kim Thien Cao, "Examining Dissonance in 'Red Clouds' by Jen Storm"

Kamal Dhillon, "The Windigo as Colonial Agent in 'Red Clouds'"

Wencke Rudi, "The Haunting of 'Red Clouds'"

Andrew Brown, "Birch Trees and Double Standards in 'Peggy'"

Sophia Hershfield, "'We Will Keep Fighting:' A First Nation War Story in 'Peggy'"

Rhys Delios, "'Let's Stick with Rosie': Names and Inuit Secrets in 'Rosie'"

Kell Hagerman, "The Thunderbird as a Symbol of Resistance and Resilience in 'Nimkii'"

Alexander Lucy, "'Warrior Nation': A Love Story"


Examining Dissonance in “Red Clouds” by Jen Storm

Report by Kim Thien Cao, BA in English

October 30, 2019

How to cite this blog post in MLA 8:

Cao, Kim. “Examining Dissonance in ‘Red Cloud’ by Jen Storm.” One Book UW, University of Winnipeg, 12 Nov. 2019, https://www.uwinnipeg.ca/1b19/the-book/reading-this-place.html


Overview

In This Place: 150 Years Retold, “Red Clouds” by Jen Storm recounts the historical incident of Jack Fiddler’s arrest in 1906 for killing fourteen people in Sucker First Nations. The story reflects the injustices and changes Indigenous communities faced during the 20th century, when northwestern Ontario not only faced starvation but, also how a “way of life […that] changed forever” (Storm 54).

Artist’s Talk

In an interview for Portage & Main Press/Highwater Press, Storm talks about the perspective of the character Wahsakapeequay while weaving in the oral stories of the Wendigo. She also stresses the importance of centering the narrative through the lens of a woman’s perspective “without retelling the one already written” (54).

Observations & Reflections

I will closely examine how colonial violence effects Indigenous perspectives, communities and laws. A few highlighted scenes from Storm’s comic, personal observations, and reflection can be found below.

Contrasting Ideas/Imagery

(Storm 68, panel 2-5)

  • Wahsakapeequay is tied up and pleas, “help me” (68) to the Wendigo spirit.

Observations:

  • There is a tender interaction that closely resembles Michaelangelo’s Creation of Adam where they lie side by side with their fingers almost touching. The images show a quiet understanding between Wahsakapeequay and the Wendigo.
  • However, the community is shown with their backs turned to her to reflect the distance and rejection Wahsakapeequay experiences as a result of colonial violence.

Community

(Storm 65, panel 1-5)
  • Wahsakapeequay “tried to hide the spirit causing [her] sickness” (65, panel 1) but eventually, she is forced to leave the shelter to purge (65, panel 3-5).

Observations:

  • Due to her unresolved trauma and illness, Wahsakapeequay exists outside the idea of what/who belongs, and is also shown at times on the cusp between two shelters/communities, the Indigenous and the colonial) (65, panel 4).
  • The tension and disconnection highlights how much healing is needed in the community.

Law

(Storm 78, panel 7-9)
  •  Joseph Fiddler asks, “how is a ‘death sentence’ different from what we did?” (78, panel 9).

Observations:

  • Fiddler critiques the hypocrisy of how the root cause of the Sucker people’s lateral violence is due to in an attempt to eradicate the ‘Indian problem’.
  • Thus, the white man’s law is used as a topical ‘heroic fix’ to erase Indigenous sovereignty and ways of living.

Reflection

Ultimately, Storm offers a way to look at the Wendigo beyond the colonized narrative of the villainous ‘evil spirit’. Instead, “Red Clouds” allows space for a re-imagining of Sucker peoples’ history from an Indigenous writer’s perspective. The comic creates tension between Indigenous and colonial perspectives through the tale of the Wendigo. For instance, in Haudenosaunee confederacy, the Great Binding Law states, “all my relations […] we are all connected” (Bineshiikwe 1), which emphasizes how everything in life is essential in maintaining balance. Spirits like the Trickster or the Wendigo are part of creation, and should be respected for their teachings rather than a spirit that is disregarded. However, because Wahsakapeequay was not given that opportunity to heal, the Wendigo spirit feasted on her trauma and consumed her. As a result, the Wendigo appears as an allegorical ghost; it hovers on the pages and through the experiences of the characters but is not able to yet be held by the community. Overall, colonial laws and judicial systems are complicit in the creation of policies that work to eradicate Indigenous communities like the Sucker nation. Until the ‘white man’s laws’ are removed from Indigenous communities, the violence will only continue to feed and transform the Wendigo.

Works Cited

“Biography – ZHAUWUNO-GEEZHIGO-GAUBOW – Volume XIII (1901-1910) – Dictionary of Canadian Biography.” Home – Dictionary of Canadian Biography, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/zhauwuno_geezhigo_gaubow_13E.html.

“Confederacy's Creation.” Haudenosaunee Confederacy, 23 Jan. 2019, https://www.haudenosauneeconfederacy.com/confederacys-creation/.

“HighWater Press.” Portage & Main Press, 6 Feb. 2017, https://www.portageandmainpress.com/highwater-press/.

Hopper, Tristin. “Here Is What Sir John A. Macdonald Did to Indigenous People.” National Post, 28 Aug. 2018, https://nationalpost.com/news/canada/here-is-what-sir-john-a-macdonald-did-to-indigenous-people.

“Jen Storm on Windigos and a Way of Life That Changed Forever .” Portage & Main Press / Highwater Press - The Exchange, 24 June 2019, http://www.portageandmainpress.com/blog/2019/06/24/jenstorm-redclouds-thisplaceretold/.

“Michelangelo's Creation of Adam.” ItalianRenaissance.org, http://www.italianrenaissance.org/michelangelo-creation-of-adam/.

Portage & Main Press/ HighWater Press. YouTube, YouTube, 16 Jan. 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_bCzsaqpuys.

“This Place.” Portage & Main Press, 21 Oct. 2019, https://www.portageandmainpress.com/product/this-place/.

“Windigo.” The Canadian Encyclopedia, https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/windigo.

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The Windigo as Colonial Agent in “Red Clouds”

Textual analysis by Kamal Dhillon, MA in Cultural Studies

October 30, 2019

How to cite this blog post in MLA 8:

Dhillon, Kamal. “The Windigo as Colonial Agent in ‘Red Clouds’” One Book UW, University of Winnipeg, 12 Nov. 2019, https://www.uwinnipeg.ca/1b19/the-book/reading-this-place.html


Overview

“Red Clouds” is a story written by Jen Storm and illustrated and coloured by Natasha Donovan in the comics anthology This Place: 150 Years Retold. The story is an allegory that reveals how a system of colonial rule controls the land and its resources, destabilizes communities, and establishes systems of law, not justice. In this context, the cannibalistic windigo monster symbolically transforms into a colonial agent.

Colonial starvation: feeling the effects of the fur trade era

The first sighting of the windigo occurs in the depths of winter, as hunger rages and colonial expansion threatens to continue to clear the land of its animals. The end of the fur trade era put entire communities at risk.

Wahsakapeequay, the story’s narrator, has left her community in search of food. As her family faces the brink of starvation, Wahsakapeequay’s husband leaves to try his luck at hunting; ironically, he returns as wounded prey (Fig 1).

Fig 1 Injured husband: Page 62 of Jen Storm’s “Red Clouds” (This Place: 150 Years Retold)

Windigo picks up on the scent of blood and approaches Wahsakapeequay’s camp. Unbothered by the cold, the monster pretends to be concerned for Wahsakapeequay’s situation (Fig 2). This is a trick – he intends to colonize her mind but needs her to believe it is for her own well-being.

Wahsakapeequay’s son can see Windigo, and the seduction that is taking place, which is clear from his facial expressions. He witnesses his mother relinquish control and succumb to cannibalism (Fig 3).

Fig 2 & 3 Windigo’s concern: Page 63 of Jen Storm’s “Red Clouds” (This Place: 150 Years Retold)

However, it is not Wahsakapeequay’s greed that invites Windigo, it is the settler-imposed land hunger which gives birth to the monstrosity.

Colonial isolation: breaking down individuals and weakening communities

Wahsakapeequay understands the healing power of community, and so decides to return to “(her) people” for a chance at life for her and her son (64).

The windigo does not like that she has returned, because it gains its power through alienating individuals from their communities. It pushes back against its host, destabilizing her inner equilibrium, and causes her to be physically ill (Fig 4, 5 & 6).

Fig 4, 5, 6 Wahsakapeequay’s sickness and isolation: Page 65 of Jen Storm’s “Red Clouds” (This Place: 150 Years Retold)

Wahsakapeequay’s sickness unravels her and drives her away from her community. The moment her community literally turn their backs on her (Fig 7) is when she chooses to invite Windigo to take over her body, becoming one (Fig 8).

Fig 7 Community turn their backs: Page 68 of Jen Storm’s “Red Clouds” (This Place: 150 Years Retold)
Fig 8 Windigo’s invitation: Page 68 of Jen Storm’s “Red Clouds” (This Place: 150 Years Retold)

Before she is killed, she offers a prophetic warning: “I will make you all pay for this! I will make you suffer for generations!” (69) The windigo, acting symbolically as an agent of colonialism, is never satisfied, and is always searching for new victims.

Police as colonial agents: targeting community leaders

The next victims in the story are Zhauwuno-Geezhigo-Gaubow (Jack Fiddler) and Pesequan (Joseph Fiddler), men who selflessly perform the ritualistic windigo slayings for the benefit of the entire community. Jack denies the accusation of murder (Fig 9). It is his responsibility to protect the community from excessive consumption, greed, and selfishness.

Fig 9 Moral responsibility: Page 72 of Jen Storm’s “Red Clouds” (This Place: 150 Years Retold)

The RCMP officers are set against an orange background, which occurs many more times throughout the story. As Storm writes in the preface, “There are stories that tell of red clouds appearing over an approaching windigo, as a warning or omen” (54). Clearly, Canadian law enforcement is the personification of the windigo’s power.

This colour pattern foreshadows the reappearance of Windigo as Jack and Joseph are led away from their community (Fig 10).

Fig 10 Community leaders led away: Page 73 of Jen Storm’s “Red Clouds” (This Place: 150 Years Retold)

The loss of community, companionship, and cooperation weakens their inner strength, and makes them susceptible to the powers of the windigo (see Killing the Shamen). 

Colonial law: imposing a legal system on a sovereign nation

The arrival of the RCMP officers also signals the arrival of colonial law in Sandy Lake First Nation. When news of the windigo deaths reaches Norway House, it baffles law enforcement (Fig 11).

Fig 11 Fear of God: Page 70 of Jen Storm’s “Red Clouds” (This Place: 150 Years Retold)

The officers penetrate the community, and immediately attempt to assimilate and dominate the locals. The officers demand that the community’s “lawlessness” must come to an end (Fig 12 & 13), and assertively declare the RCMP’s authority: “You can enforce this law, or we can” (74).

Fig 12 & 13 Lawlessness: Page 74 of Jen Storm’s “Red Clouds” (This Place: 150 Years Retold)

Canadian law is also enforced in the courthouse, an institution which is inherently discriminatory towards the Indigenous community (Fig 14). The colonial legal system refuses to allow for differences in belief systems or traditional practices and customs. As such, Joseph is sentenced to death for the windigo murders.

Fig 14 Irrational legal system: Page 78 of Jen Storm’s “Red Clouds” (This Place: 150 Years Retold)

The law’s purpose is to displace and destroy individuals in a system of domination, exclusion and assimilation.

Colonial cause and consequence: looking forward and looking back

Without its leaders, the Sucker clan is forced to accept colonial government rule (see The Sucker Clan and Robert Fiddler), which arrives in the form of a priest, a new colonial agent, a new symbolic incarnation of the windigo.

In the final sequence, the red-clouded background dominates and Windigo reappears to echo Wahsakapeequay’s initial warning. Windigo’s gaze directs forward, to the future, and over its shoulder, to the past (Fig 15 & 16). Colonialism has had, and continues to have, devastating effects on Indigenous communities.

Fig 15 & 16 Windigo’s warning: Page 80 of Jen Storm’s “Red Clouds” (This Place: 150 Years Retold)

In “Red Clouds,” the windigo takes on the symbolic figure of a powerful colonial agent, motivated by greed, selfishness and moral deprivation, whose defeat can only be secured through the strength of community and resilience.

Works Cited

Storm, Jen. “Red Clouds.” This Place: 150 Years Retold, HighWater Press, 2019. 54-80.

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The Haunting of “Red Clouds”

Wencke Rudi, BA in English

October 30, 2019

How to cite this blog post in MLA 8:

Rudi, Wencke. “The Haunting of ‘Red Clouds’” One Book UW, University of Winnipeg, 6 Nov. 2019, https://www.uwinnipeg.ca/1b19/the-book/reading-this-place.html.


“Red Clouds” is written by Jen Storm and illustrated and colored by Natasha Donovan. This historical comic appears in the anthology 150 Years Retold, a book that features ten comics that each individually present fifteen years of Indigenous history. “Red Clouds” tells the story of Wahsakapeequay, a woman whose body is overtaken by a windigo spirit after it injures her husband. The husband dies from his injuries, leaving Wahsakpeequay and their son to rejoin their community, where she is eventually killed by Jack Fiddler, the leader of the community and the first Indigenous man to be charged as a serial killer in 1907. Her deliriousness caused by the windigo spirit goes beyond the written narrative, as the haunting is present in the comics’ illustrations and coloring, the focus on the characters’ eyes, and the page layout. The visual elements, along with the narrative, make “Red Clouds” a harrowing, haunting comic to read.

The coloring of the comic lends a supernatural sense to the physical pages of the comic. The comic is colored in geotic tones, with reds and light oranges featuring prominently, along with stark blacks, grey-blues and varying shades of white. The earthy tones place the story outdoors,where the windigo spirit first emerges from the trees to Wahsakapeequay in the first panel on page 63.

Fig. 1. Birch Trees. Page 62 of “Red Clouds” by Jen Storm and Natasha Donovan.

The transparent silvery appearance of the windigo can be missed easily, as it blends into the surrounding birch trees. The silver colors of the windigo and the white birch trees create an eerie feeling. The earthy tones and continued outdoor setting create the sense throughout the comic that the windigo spirit is constantly in attendance, and it is a matter of it being noticed within its surroundings for it to emerge and conduct another abduction.

The faces of the characters communicate a haunting, especially in the expressions of the eyes. The intricate shadowing and detailing on the faces give depth and dimensionality. The most prominent display of expressive eyes appears on page 60, in the close up on Wahsakapeequay on the left side of her face. The physical closeness of her face creates an intimacy between myself and her, and I feel as though I am looking into her memory through the detailed expression of her eyes.

Fig. 2. Birch Trees. Page 60 of “Red Clouds” by Jen Storm and Natasha Donovan.

Her depth of expression in a single eye is completely gone by the last panel three pages later, in which Wahsakapeequay’s eyes are completely white, erased of irises and her face is highly shadowed and detailed. The frequent imagery of Wahsakapeequay throughout the comic give a familiarity to her eyes, her face, and her body; it is clear when it is Wahsakapeequay the woman and Wahoakapeewuay the windigo.

Fig. 3. Haunted Eyes. Excerpt from page 63 of “Red Clouds” by Jen Storm and Natasha Donovan.

The haunting of “Red Clouds” extends to the setting that works together with the page layout of the comic. The comic’s layout  is like tiles, and this presentation, along with the presence of Wahsakapeequay, gives the sense that the images are from her memory. The same effect is felt on the pages that have panels appearing on top of a white background, such as on page 62 that illustrates Wahsakapeequay’s ninabeem getting injured, attempting to make it back, and dying before he can treat his injuries. The illustrated moments feel like memories adrift on the white clouds of winter, memories that are available for this narrative. This begs the question:through whose eyes are we watching this? The narrator of the story is Wahsakapeequay, but the perspective from which the narrative unfolds cannot be from her, for she was not physically present. The unaddressed perspective to these events (for which Wahsakapeequay is not present) implies that the eyes we are looking through are the windigo’s.  The eeriness of this perspective is achieved by the consistent coloring that is associated with the windigo, the sequencing of the panels, and the spacing from panel to panel.

Haunting is the motif for the comic, and the earthy tones demonstrates how deeply this goes, from the ground that the birch trees are rooted on, to the bones of the characters. “Red Clouds” is an eerie comic to read, and the comic grips tighter with the characters’ eyes simultaneously watching me and sharing their memories. There is  a back and forth of intimacy and coldness between the imagery of Wahsakapeequay and the windigo that leaves me both sympathetic and chilled.

Works Cited

Storm, Jen. Donovan, Natasha. “Red Clouds.” 150 Years Retold, Highwater Press, 2019. Pp 54-80.

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Birch Trees and Double Standards in “Peggy”

Andrew Brown, BA in English

October 30, 2019

How to cite this blog post in MLA 8:

Brown, Andrew. “Birch Trees and Double Standards in ‘Peggy’” One Book UW, University of Winnipeg, 12 Nov. 2019, https://www.uwinnipeg.ca/1b19/the-book/reading-this-place.html.


David A. Robertson and Natasha Donovan’s graphic short story “Peggy,” in the anthology This Place: 150 Years Retold, is about Francis Pegahmagabow, a decorated World War I soldier and Anishinaabe chief. In “Peggy”, the Canadian military respects Francis as a soldier, but the Canadian government denies him access to better services as an Anishinaabe. This suggests a double standard in the way Francis is treated.

At the same time, birch trees appear throughout “Peggy,” and they are culturally significant to the Anishinabeg:

  • They often use the outer bark to start fires
  • Older trees produce nutritious sap
  • The Anishinaabeg use birch wood to build structures since they believe birch wood is never struck by lightning (Geniusz 60-61)

Robertson and Donovan use the cultural significance of birch trees to show there is no double standard in how Peggy is treated. In fact, the birch trees illustrate that neither the military, nor civilian Canadian society treats him fairly.

The Anishinaabeg and Tree Cutting

During Francis’ lifetime (1891-1952), Canada’s Indian Department required the Anishinaabeg to have permits to cut down trees. If an Anishinaabe had enough income, this permit would be denied, forcing them to buy wood from outside the community. This limited the wealth in Indigenous communities. As a result, it was illegal for some Anishinaabeg to cut birch trees on their own property for stove wood (Brownlie 68). Robertson and Donovan represent this historical context in the following panels using cut birch trees.

Fig. 1. Wartime and Birch Trees from: Robertson, David A., writer. “Peggy.” Illus./Coloured by Natasha Donovan. This Place: 150 Years Retold. High Water Press, 2019. p.93.

In “Peggy,” these two panels appear in the World War I narrative. The birch trees seem out of place in the narrative, but the panels parallel each other. The trees’ positions match the soldiers’ positions. So, if the trees represent people, and birch trees are significant to the Anishinaabeg, then the trees echo the Anishinaabeg. 

However, there are three wounded soldiers in the first panel, which also parallels the three cut trees. This symbolizes that their Anishinaabe identity, represented by the trees, is hurt from being “cut off.” Therefore, the two panels parallel the damage to their territorial lands and resources to the injuries and deaths of the First World War.

Francis as a Canadian Soldier

Comics are read left to right, and down the page, but reading the same panels out of order creates new meanings (Cohn). Reading the same wartime/birch tree panels in reverse order reveals how Francis is exploited as a soldier. The birch tree panel shows the Anishinaabeg as oppressed, which then continues onto the soldiers in the wartime panel.

Fig. 2. Soldier Asking Francis from: Robertson, David A., writer. “Peggy.” Illus./Coloured by Natasha Donovan. This Place: 150 Years Retold. High Water Press, 2019. p.93.

Canada conscripted over 600,000 men to fight in World War I; it was optional for Indigenous men (“The Cost of Canada’s War”). In “Peggy,” the above anonymous solider asks Francis why he enlisted (Robertson 93). The question itself implies the soldier was not interested in fighting in World War I. This soldier represents the many others who did not voluntarily consent to fight, kill, or die for their country; rather, they are pawns in an international conflict.

Francis volunteered to fight in World War I, but it was not in his best interest:

  • At the Battle of Ypress, the enemy released “6,000 cylinders of chlorine” gas onto his battalion (88).
  • He fights at Passchendaele, which was a “senseless slaughter” (Robertson 88,96; Roy and Foot).
  • Francis killed “378 enemy soldiers,” which he regrets by stating he killed “too many” (Robertson 91).
  • It is a miracle he survives the war, but he consequently develops mental health issues (99).

So, the Canadian military disregards Francis’ own health and values so they may achieve their own goals.

“Peggy” still portrays Francis as a hero. However, the cultural importance of birch trees shows that there was never any double standard – the Canadian government mistreats Francis as both an Anishinaabe and a soldier. When reading This Place, pay attention to the plants in other chapters. They also tell stories since they share this place with us, thus providing “new skills to help us survive and flourish as peoples” (Justice 76-77).

Works Cited

Brownlie, Robin. “Man on the Spot: John Daly, Indian Agent in Parry Sound, 1922-1939. Journal of the Canadian Historical Association. vol. 5, no. 1, 1994. pp. 63-86.

Cohn, Neil. “Navigating Comics: An Empirical and Theoretical Approach to Strategies of Reading Comic Page Layouts.” Front Psychology. vol. 4, no. 186, 2013. https://www.ncbi.nlm.  gov/pmc/articles/PMC3629985/. Accessed 21 Oct. 2019.

“The Cost of Canada’s War.” Canadian War Museum. https://www.warmuseum.ca/war  history/after-the-war/legacy/the-cost-of-canadas-war/. Accessed 27 Oct. 2019

Geniusz, Mary Siisip. Plants Have So Much To Give Us, All We Have To Do Is Ask: Annishinaabe Botanical Teachings. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2015.

Justice, Daniel Heath. Why Indigenous Literatures Matter. Waterloo: Wilfred Laurier University Press, 2018.

Robertson, David A., writer. “Peggy.” Illus./Coloured by Natasha Donovan. This Place: 150 Years Retold. High Water Press, 2019. pp. 82-108.

Roy, R.H., and Richard Foot. “Canada and the Battle of Passchendaele.” The Canadian Encyclopedia. https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/battle-of-passchendaele. Accessed 35 Oct. 2019.

“Ypress 1915” Veterans Affairs Canada. https://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/history/first-world-war/canada/canada4. Accessed 27 Oct 2019.

Further Reading:

Koennecke, Franz. “Francis Pegahmagabow.” The Canadian Encyclopedia. https://.www.thecanadianencyolopedia.ca/en/article/francis-pegahmagabow. Accessed 25 Oct 2019

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“We Will Keep Fighting:” A First Nation War Story in “Peggy”

Sophia Hershfield, BA in English

How to cite this blog post in MLA 8:

Hershfield, Sophia. “’We Will Keep Fighting:’ A First Nation War Story in “Peggy.” One Book UW, University of Winnipeg, 12 Nov. 2019, https://www.uwinnipeg.ca/1b19/the-book/reading-this-place.html


The chapter “Peggy” in This Place: 150 Years Retold is written by David A. Robertson and illustrated and coloured by Natasha Donovan. This chapter tells the story of Francis Pegahmagabow, also known by the nickname Peggy, an Anishinaabe(Ojibwa) soldier from the Parry Island reserve who fought in the First World War.

While the first two splash pages may suggest a standard contrast between the pastoral nature of home and the horrors of war, this chapter complicates that dichotomy, and disrupts the typical Canadian war narrative. Robertson and Donovan use stylistic elements, especially sound, to represent perilous and onerous conditions, both at war and at home, and thematic elements, especially nature, to subvert Francis’s connection to war and his country. While the conditions of fighting Germans in the trenches are undeniably brutal, Francis is forced to fight the Canadian government under different, but still difficult, circumstances. In “Peggy,” Robertson and Donovan show that, for Indigenous soldiers in the First World War, the fight did not end on Armistice Day.

The use of onomatopoeia and vivid visual images in this chapter creates a visceral representation of trench warfare. Throughout the first half of the chapter, Robertson and Donovan show numerous loud, chaotic, and crowded moments both on and off the battlefield, such as the sudden and violent death of Francis’s scouting partner from a landmine.

Fig.1 Landmine Explosion: Excerpt from page 91 of Donovan and Robertson’s “Peggy.”

This moment is especially striking compared to the quiet panels on the page before.

Fig. 2 Scouting: Excerpt from page 90 of Donovan and Robertson’s “Peggy.”

Donovan and Robertson show the continued trauma of the war in Francis’s life during a thunderstorm when Francis is back home. He is woken up by the sound of thunder and he admits that the sound “reminds [him] of war” (fig 3).

Fig. 3 Nightmares: Excerpt from page 99 of Donovan and Robertson’s “Peggy.”

Donovan and Robertson use sound to portray the obviously horrible effects of war and how it impacts Francis in different ways.

In contrast, after he returns from war, there are more silent panels. One example is a striking splash page which shows Francis speaking to a group of people, but there is only one small speech balloon in which Francis is actually speaking.

Fig. 4 Band meeting: Page 104 of Donovan and Robertson’s “Peggy.”

On the next page, Donovan and Robertson show the whisper campaign started by Indian agent John Daly that served to sabotage Francis. Francis speaks very little, but Daly and those who wish to undermine Francis speak a lot.

Fig. 5 Whisper campaign: Excerpt from page 105 of Donovan and Robertson’s “Peggy.”

Rather than being a sign of calmness, Francis’s increasing silence as the chapter goes on parallels the way that Francis is silenced by Indian Affairs in his fight for rights and property for his community.

Donovan and Robertson emphasize the importance of nature and Francis’s relationship with nature throughout the chapter. In Francis’s childhood, nature is a source of comfort and protection, and war violates both nature itself and his relationship to nature. For example, Francis explains his relationship to the Thunder Spirit as a source of protection.

Fig. 6 Thunderstorm: Excerpt from page 102 of Donovan and Robertson’s “Peggy.”

There are many images throughout the chapter that show earth mutilated by landmines as well as barren trees destroyed by fire and gas. While this type of imagery is not uncommon in war narratives, for Francis, the government’s violation of nature does not stop in the trenches. Even when Francis has returned from war, the Canadian government still tries to interfere with his connection to nature. A notable example of this is when Francis is denied a loan request for horses for his farm by the Indian agent.

Fig. 7 Receiving a letter: Excerpt from page 102 of Donovan and Robertson’s “Peggy.”

After returning from war, Francis is forced to continue to fight, but instead of fighting Germans, he is fighting a government that has colonized his people and his land.

Francis’s story is an unusual history of war. In the first half of the chapter, he is fighting for Canada, and in the second half he is fighting against Canada. Although the chapter initially seems like a simple dichotomy between the horrors of war and the peace back home in Canada, “Peggy” is much more complex.

Robertson and Donovan subvert the traditional war narrative with the unexpected use of familiar elements. Francis is oppressed by noise and also by silence. He is comforted by nature, but his connection to nature is exploited. Francis’s hardships, both in the trenches and at home, are mediated by the colonial forces of the Canadian government.

Works Cited

Robertson, David and Natasha Donovan. “Peggy.” This Place: 150 Years Retold. HighWater, pp. 83-108.

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"Let’s Stick with Rosie": Names and Inuit Secrets in "Rosie"

Rhys Delios, BA in English

October 30, 2019

How to cite this blog post in MLA 8:

Delios, Rhys. “‘Let’s Stick with Rosie’: Names and Inuit Secrets in ‘Rosie.’” One Book UW, University of Winnipeg, 12 Nov. 2019, https://www.uwinnipeg.ca/1b19/the-book/reading-this-place.html


Writers Rachel and Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley’s and illustrator GMB Chomichuk’s comic "Rosie" draws on Inuit culture and knowledge regarding names and the supernatural to ground the titular character in Inuit culture, mysticism, and secrets, and to inform the visuals of the comic. Pauki’s names, and the connection to the supernatural and spiritual they suggest, act as a vehicle through which the visual layers of the comic peel back and allow the supernatural to make itself known to both Pauki and the reader.

“Rosie” is set in the 1940s and follows Pauki, an Inuit girl who lives in the Arctic, from the perspective of her spiritual guardian, given to her by the shaman Iqqaq. A Canadian trader approaches Pauki and asks her to tell the shaman, Aasivak, that he has brought her dolls. When Pauki does this, Aasivak attacks her, but Iqqaq protects Pauki and the attack turns back onto Aasivak.

The comic opens with the following set of five panels (Fig. 1):

Fig.1 Colour Stripped: Page 114 of Qitsualik-Tinsley, Qitsualik-Tinsley, and Chomichuk’s “Rosie.”

Just as the narrative boxes describe the stripping of the flower blossom, Chomichuk strips the colour from the panels, leaving only a monochromatic, pale blue wash. As the comic continues, occasional auras of green, red, yellow, and purple accompany the pale blue; the purple tones are only used in these first panels or attached to Pauki herself.

Like the colours, there is a similar stripping away in Pauki’s names in her introduction to the narrative. The first shot of Pauki accompanies narrative boxes that explain her names; this introduces the Inuit concepts of atirusiit and aqausiit to the narrative. The narrator explains the origin of Pauki as a nickname that becomes an essential part of Pauki’s identity (fig. 2 and 3).

Figures 2 and 3 The Explanation of Pauki: Excerpts from Pages 115 and 116 of Qitsualik-Tinsley, Qitsualik-Tinsley, and Chomichuk’s “Rosie.”

I use the name Pauki because both her mother and the guardian use the name Pauki, and because it is the only name with a detailed explanation. The narrator also translates Pauki’s other names (fig. 4):

Fig. 4 Nameless: Excerpt from Page 115 of Qitsualik-Tinsley, Qitsualik-Tinsley, and Chomichuk’s “Rosie.”

While these names are somewhat tongue-in-cheek. because Pauki does have many names, they do play a larger role in the narrative. By naming her Atiittunnuaq and Atiqanngitturjuaq, the writers foreshadow Pauki revealing her true name to the buyer. These names are also somewhat cheeky, as the writers only reveal her true name in Inuktitut syllabics, leaving her true name incomprehensible to non-Inuktitut speakers (fig. 5).

Fig. 5 The Buyer Says Pauki’s Name: Excerpt from Page 136 of Qitsualik-Tinsley, Qitsualik-Tinsley, and Chomichuk’s “Rosie.”

While it might be possible to find a translation of her true name, Pauki’s response to the buyer is also said directly to a settler reader (fig. 6).

Fig. 6 Pauki’s Response: Excerpt from Page 136 of Qitsualik-Tinsley, Qitsualik-Tinsley, and Chomichuk’s “Rosie.”

There is power in keeping her name in untranslated Inuktitut syllabics, and the writers’ choice to do so challenges the colonial desire to know and own everything.

Inuit elders describe the soul, tarniq, as a bubble, which connects to one of Pauki’s names (fig. 7). Pauki’s name connects her to the spirit and to the supernatural world.

Fig. 7 Bubble: Excerpt from Page 115 of Qitsualik-Tinsley, Qitsualik-Tinsley, and Chomichuk’s “Rosie.”

Both Pauki and her guardian are often surrounded by a series of circles that look like bubbles (Fig. 8 and 9).

Fig. 8 Pauki’s soul: Excerpt from Page 131 of Qitsualik-Tinsley, Qitsualik-Tinsley, and Chomichuk’s “Rosie.”
Fig. 9 Pauki’s Guardian Protects her Soul: Page 124 of Qitsualik-Tinsley, Qitsualik-Tinsley, and Chomichuk’s “Rosie.”

So, the narrator’s description of the soul suggests that the circular motif it accompanies are visual representations of the soul.

Pauki’s connection to the spiritual allows both Pauki and the reader to see beyond the layers of reality into the world of the supernatural. In the following panels, Pauki is notably unchanged, while her playmate takes on a wolf-like appearance (fig. 10). This firmly plants the supernatural as being from Pauki’s perspective, but not occurring universally.

Fig 10 Pauki’s Playmate Transforms: Page 118 of Qitsualik-Tinsley, Qitsualik-Tinsley, and Chomichuk’s “Rosie.”

After this moment, more supernatural elements enter into the visual space, specifically as spiritual companions to the comic’s characters. The first guardian who makes an appearance is the buyer’s (fig. 11).

Fig 11 The Buyer’s Guardian: Excerpt from Page 121 of Qitsualik-Tinsley, Qitsualik-Tinsley, and Chomichuk’s “Rosie.”

This guardian's appearance immediately draws a connection to European folklore about fairies, while the other spirits in the comic are animals indigenous to the land surrounding them.

Fig. 12 Pauki’s Guardian: Excerpt from Page 119 of Qitsualik-Tinsley, Qitsualik-Tinsley, and Chomichuk’s “Rosie.”

The contrast between humanoid and animal makes the buyer's companion, and the buyer himself, seem entirely alien to the environment they now occupy. (Which, in fairness, they are.)

Qitsualik-Tinsley, Qitsualik-Tinsley, and Chomichuk ground Pauki in Inuit culture through her many names, interweaving their meanings throughout the narrative, and maintain a level of secrecy regarding Pauki’s true name, combatting the European prerogative of ownership through knowledge. Pauki’s names inform some supernatural elements of the narrative, bringing in the visual elements of the publaq and allowing her to open up the visual sphere to the spirits seen around the characters.

Works Cited

Qitsualik-Tinsley, Rachel, Qitsualik-Tinsley, Sean, Chomichuk, GMB. “Rosie.” This Place: 150 Years Retold, Highwater Press, 2019. pp. 110-136.

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The Thunderbird as a Symbol of Resistance and Resilience in “Nimkii”

Kell Hagerman, BA in English

October 30, 2019

How to cite this blog post in MLA 8:

Hagerman, Kell. “The Thunderbird as a Symbol of Resistance and Resilience in “Nimkii. ” One Book UW, University of Winnipeg, 12 Nov. 2019, https://www.uwinnipeg.ca/1b19/the-book/reading-this-place.html.


Told by an Anishinaabe mother to her young daughter, “Nimkii” is a story of cultural survival that uses the thunderbird as a symbol of resilience and hope in the midst of struggle. The comic follows a narrative of two Anishinaabe children in oppressive foster care placements related to the Sixties Scoop. Nimkii relates her experiences within the child-welfare system to her daughter, and tells her about community resistance against removing children from their homes in 1990. Spiritual creatures appear in both timelines, and the events are connected through Nimkii’s artwork and her mother’s storytelling.

In Nimkii’s adult home, bright illustrations cover the walls, caught up with childhood experiences of loss, disorientation, and helplessness from which she hasn’t moved on (Fig. 1). These drawings in the background of the initial panels hint at layers beyond the comic’s present that are unpacked through Nimkii’s stories.

Fig. 1 Nimkii’s drawings on the walls: excerpt from page 143 of “Nimkii”by Akiwenzie-Damm et al.

The comic’s creators convey that spiritual beings are as relevant to Indigenous heritage and realities as are the consequences of Residential Schools and systems of colonial violence, and that the spaces of each intersect.

When Nimkii’s mother tells her stories of Anishinaabe creatures, the artist pictures them alongside the bedtime scene, drawn out of the mother’s imagination and onto the fabric of the page (Fig. 2). The Anishinaabe stories are Nimkii’s memento of her mother, and a guide for her and the Indigenous kin with whom she shares them.

Fig. 2 Nimkii’s mother tells stories: excerpt from page 145 of “Nimkii” by Akiwenzie-Damm et al.

The spiritual beings provide new bases of understanding for Nimkii’s and Teddy’s stories of their own lives. Nimkii explains that thunderbirds “speak in thunder” and “fight Mishi-bizhiw and the horned serpents” (154-155; Fig 3): these creatures carry emotional weight for her, and become associated with her broader fears and hopes. Where the trauma she has suffered is too great to consider within her reality, the Mishi-bizhiw and Giizhogokwe stand in symbolical for threats against her (Fig. 3).

Fig. 3 Thunderbird as protecter: excerpt from page 155 of “Nimkii” by Akiwenzie-Damm et al.

When she and Teddy are taken from their kin, she draws the Mishi-bizhiw as a threat instead of human figures (Fig. 4); when she attempts to rescue her brother, she draws the serpent Giizhogokwe in the shadows of the houses (Fig. 5).

Fig. 4 Mishi-bizhiw: excerpt from page 146 of “Nimkii” by Akiwenzie-Damm et al.
Fig. 5 Giizhogokwe: excerpt from page 161 of “Nimkii” by Akiwenzie-Damm et al.

These creatures strengthen the sinister tone associated with the foster care system just as the thunderbird represents protection and strength. The thunderbird is a constant sign of support that extends beyond the figurative landscape, as a protection against both the creatures it faces in Nimkii’s mother’s stories, and the colonial structures she faces in her everyday life.

In Indigenous Writes: A Guide to First Nations, Métis, and Inuit issues in Canada, Chelsea Vowel argues that Indigenous social organizations have historically centred on spirituality, kinship, and land-based knowledge. Canada’s child-welfare system, she states, led to “thousands of Indigenous peoples being raised without their culture” (183, 187). The settler state has worked to assimilate Indigenous peoples by disrupting communities, and removing children from families is one way that Indigenous children lose their culture.

In this context, thunderbird stories are not only a memento of Nimkii’s mother and a symbol of her Anishinaabe heritage. Thunderbirds demonstrate what importance traditional knowledges continue to have into the 20th (and 21st) century. They are a part of oral Indigenous culture, and a step towards renewing historic Indigenous perspectives.

As well, the events of recent history can stand alongside these beliefs to create a more nuanced picture of Indigenous legacies. Nimkii keeps her memories close to her, both in her thoughts and externally, in the background spaces around her, and through the activism she dedicates time and energy to. The drive that leads Nimkii to describe her past and to hold onto the thunderbird also motivates her to protest against the presence of child services on the reserve. As part of a blockade, she strives to protect a new generation of children in her community from the struggles she and many others faced.

Akiwenzie-Damm et al. draw on the symbol of strength one last time on the final page of the comic, where thunderbirds soar through the air as a great force behind human Anishinaabe activists (Fig. 6).

Fig. 6 Resistance with thunderbirds: excerpt from page 164 of “Nimkii” by Akiwenzie-Damm et al.

The thunderbirds signify the survival of a people despite violence against their cultures. Though the community remembers the trauma, the thunderbirds show that it is used to build relationships and Indigenous resistance, where past and present, loss and renewal reveal themselves equally in a story that promises to continue.

Works Cited

Akiwenzie-Damm, Kateri, et al. “Nimkii.” This Place: 150 Years Retold. HighWater Press, 2019, pp. 138-164. ProQuest, https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.uwinnipeg.idm.oclc.org/lib/uwinnipeg/reader.action?docID=5760003

Vowel, Chelsea. “Our Stolen Generations: The Sixties Scoop and Millennial Scoops.” Indigenous Writes: A Guide to First Nations, Métis, and Inuit issues in Canada. HighWater Press, 2016, pp. 158-165.

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“Warrior Nation”: A Love Story

Alexander Lucy, MA in Cultural Studies

October 30, 2019

How to cite this blog post in MLA 8:

Lucy, Alexander. ““Warrior Nation”: A Love Story.” One Book UW, University of Winnipeg, 12 Nov. 2019, https://www.uwinnipeg.ca/1b19/the-book/reading-this-place.html.


Overview

The penultimate tale in This Place: 150 Years Retold, “Warrior Nation,” penned by Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair and inked by Andrew Lodwick, follows Washashk, a run-of-the-mill apathetic teen, unmindful of his Indigenous rights and heritage. It is not until he is thrown into chaotic negotiations two provinces over, forced to witness the oppression of his people first hand, that he undergoes a transformation from innocence to maturity. Through the guise of a romantic, coming of age tale, “Warrior Nation” subverts the tense political drama of the Oka Resistance, altering a history of hostile division into a story of hopeful unity.

Figure 1: “Face to Face” by Shaney Komulainen: Canadian soldier Patrick Cloutier (left) and protester Brad Larocque (right).

Face to Face, Panel to Panel

Criticized for its colonial misrepresentation of “Canada in a peacekeeping role, casting the soldier as a hero” (Lazowski), freelancer Shaney Komulainen’s photograph (Fig. 1) quickly became the face (or, in this case, faces) of the proclaimed ‘Oka Crisis’, a highly publicized land claim standoff between Mohawk and the townspeople of Oka, Quebec, Canada.

Throughout the comic, Komulainen’s arresting photograph is reimagined to dilute its racial tension. This is first evident in the title page spread, the centre of which displays Komulainen’s photograph, tightly framed on a small, brightly lit television screen (222-223). However, while this image centres the eye by way of its iridescent glow, it is the peripheral—a double spread that bleeds to the page’s edges—that extinguishes the former’s presence, showcasing an unlikely community (Mohawk, military, press & politician) standing in solidarity, facing the screen. (Fig. 2)

Figure 2: Title page spread on pages 222-223. (This Place: 150 Years Retold)

This image is likewise replicated during Washashk and Kanontienentha’s initial kiss, capturing the fleeting anticipation and hesitation of that intimate encounter (Fig. 3). Drawn across three panels, the two lean forward, cast in a red hue of passion, not violence (237). Lodwick’s illustrations dismantle the hostile tension evoked by Komulainen’s photograph, substituting it with love and community.

Figure 3: Washashk and Kanontienentha’s first kiss on page 237. (This Place: 150 Years Retold)

Irregular Grids

Figure 4: Raven is pulled over by RCMP on page 231. (This Place: 150 Years Retold)

Lodwick utilizes an irregular grid pattern in order to disrupt the linear narrative, offering multiple angles into the branching storylines: the political and the personal. No layout is arranged the same; instead, the comic’s overall design matches the narrative’s mood and pacing, often overlapping panels, minimizing gutters. Surrounded by tear gas, the panels become erratic, staggering along the page much like the stunned resistance members, stumbling towards safety (227). Similarly, when Raven witnesses the flashing RCMP lights in her rearview mirror (Fig. 4), the panels clump together to emphasize her extreme vigilance (231).

In addition, Lodwick’s panels rely heavily on opposing visuals, often pairing the political with the personal, war with peace—rarely allowing the former to dominate the central narrative. The most arresting example comes early on during the smudging scene. Under the shattering “BOOM!”, captioned in razor edge lettering, Lodwick freezes on this moment, bordering peaceful negotiation and hostile deception, unleashing a cacophony of colour (Fig. 5). The calm blue smudge contrasts the malignant yellow gas that is likewise invading its borders (226).

Figure 5: Tear gas assault on page 226 (This Place: 150 Years Retold)

Boy Meets Girl/ Boy Meets Heritage

For a text with the apparent purpose to document the Oka resistance, the narrative is in and of itself an act of resistance. In the midst of a tense racial divide, Sinclair instead weaves a story of young love—a familiar boy meets girl storyline that possesses all the romantic tropes common to teenage dramas, albeit in an all too uncommon, dangerous setting—that overshadows the dominant narrative as spun by the Canadian media.

However, this is not just some simple love story between teenagers, but one between an Indigenous youth and his cultural heritage. In turn, “Warrior Nation” is nothing short of a comics coming-of-age story, following one youth’s journey of self-discovery by way of his cultural past and present; the protagonist’s very name, Washashk, a Mohawk word meaning “from ignorance to maturation” (220), affirms the narrative direction.

Figure 6: Washashk and Kanontienentha’s future kiss on page 243. (This Place: 150 Years Retold)

Conclusion

Overall, “Warrior Nation” provides a heartfelt retelling of one of Canada’s more recent blunders regarding Indigenous relations. In tandem with its writing and illustrations, this subversion is achieved through opposing visuals, irregular grids, and an unexpected romance narrative that re-angles the television camera in the hopes of offering a different picture.

Works Cited

Lazowski, Laura. “One photograph shaped how everyone saw the Oka Crisis”. CBC, https://www.cbc.ca/radio/unreserved/reflections-of-oka-stories-of-the-mohawk-standoff-25-years-later-1.3232368/one-photograph-shaped-how-everyone-saw-the-oka-crisis-1.3232786. Accessed 2 Oct 2019.

Sinclair, Niigaanwewidam James and Andrew Lodwick. “Warrior Nation.” This Place: 150 Years Retold. Winnipeg: Portage & Main Press, 2019.

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