Silvia Moreno-Garcia | Indigenous Support
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Indigenous Support

At this point, if you are a Canadian writer, you have probably heard about the Appropriation Controversy related to the editorial in the latest issue of Write magazine. To summarize, the introduction to the special Indigenous writers issue of said magazine, produced by the Writers Union of Canada, contained an editorial which urged everyone to culturally appropriate.

It was a baffling, poorly written editorial, although it gave me hope that, should I ever be invited to write an editorial about Canadian literature, I might focus my efforts on describing how Canada is just like the USA but it smells like poutine, or some awkward, odd thing like that which really seems misplaced once you consider the intent and scope of the publication.

The editor of the magazine subsequently resigned and the conversation turned inevitably towards Internet mobbing and freedom of speech, in the very adult form of ‘I’ll write about Indigenous people if I want to!’

Which I expected and which, I must admit, did not bother me terribly since it is the kind of thing I hear constantly.

But then in a case of ‘hold my beer,’ yesterday, members of Canada’s writing and publishing community, people who work for such ‘Canadian’ institutions as Macleans, started to organize online to create an Appropriation Award.

Yes. This is the petty thing that the Canadian community came together to create, offering in the end more than $3,000 for a crass award. This is the equivalent of someone, in the midst of a discussions about women in the arts, jumping in to create the Manly Man Literary Award.

I will be candid: I cried. And I don’t cry often. Up until that point the whole thing seemed to me an odd, if amusing situation which would be resolved positively (I can be naive). After that, I have been left feeling like the Canadian literary community is a cold, callous and indifferent sphere to which I do not wish to belong.

I have felt hopeless. I do not know what to do, not for myself, but for young Indigenous writers who may be looking at this and dropping their pens, deleting their Word document, and giving up on the whole artistic creation thing.

I said online I would pony up $500 for the creation of an Emerging Indigenous Voices Award and I am actually serious about that, though I have no idea which would be the best organization to run with this.

I have always told people that Canada is a good country because it aims to be better, even when mistakes are made. Yesterday, the Canadian literature scene proved me wrong.

However, rather than discuss the editorial or the formation of that gross award, I want to focus on Indigenous writers, on marginalized writers. Please, contact me, tell me how we can do some good and build something beautiful together. Surely we can and do not need #CanadaLit for that.


PS: I am at silvia AT and @silviamg on Twitter.

PPS: It’s Friday afternoon and I have received pledges which total more than $2,500 for the creation of an award, plus many messages saying people would chip in smaller amounts if we did a GoFundMe. You can continue to message me, I’ll collect the info. I plan to get in touch with the UBC Longhouse on Monday to ask them how we could make this a reality. I’m in Vancouver and I am familiar with their work, hence the idea to speak to them and see if they have suggestions of organizations which could run this prize. However, if you have suggestions about Indigenous organizations/groups, specifically those connected with the arts, which could provide guidance in this matter, please do tell me about them.

As well, I’d like to mention that Indian & Cowboy and other sites would be happy to get your donations. Thanks.

PPS: The tally is now $4,000+.