Kim Anderson is a Cree/Metis writer and educator living in Guelph, Ontario. She is in Winnipeg as part of the Thin Air International Writer's Festival. She'll be speaking September 20 and 21 about her book Life Stages and Native Women: Memory, Teachings, and Story Medicine. In this Q and A, Kim Anderson explains how traditional knowledge can be applied toward rebuilding healthy Indigenous communities today:
What do you want people to know about Life Stages and Native Women?
This book is based on medicines that I have dug up through listening to the oral histories of Michif (Métis), Nēhiyawak (Cree), and Anishinaabek (Ojibway and Saulteaux) elders. My intent is to offer these medicines as a contribution to the healing process we call decolonization.
Why did you write this book?
Knowing our history is an integral part of recovery for us as Indigenous peoples and for our communities in general, and it is in keeping with the adage that one often hears in "Indian country": "You have to know where you are coming from to know where you are going." We know that the more we understand about Indigenous experiences in the past, the better we will be able to shape our future; the more we understand about colonization, the better we will be at decolonizing ourselves and our communities. It also means learning about the brilliance of our traditional cultures; the systems that can inspire us today as we reconstruct.
Why are you so passionate about this topic?
I was moved to do this research because of my role as a parent. As a new mother in the mid--‐ 1990s, I was overcome with a desire to learn about Indigenous customs related to pregnancy, childbirth, infant care, and ceremonies that honour children's life passages. Now, as a mother of teenagers, it has been helpful to explore teachings and stories about adolescence from an Indigenous perspective as I continue to work at knowing and honouring my children. As a middle-aged woman, life cycle teachings offer me reminders on how to respect and care for myself in the work that I do. And as I grow into an old lady, I will take inspiration from the stories about the power of age!
Some Indigenous people have more immediate access to this knowledge through teachers or lived experience, but this was not my experience as a young woman.
What was your goal for this project?
Anthropologist Keith Basso documented how stories "work like arrows" among the Apache. My hope is that as I launch this book into "Indian country" and the world beyond, it will work like an arrow, piercing the injustices of our past and slicing open more avenues for change. I encourage each reader to dig out the medicines that suit his or her particular needs, and continue to dig, as there is so much more to learn.
What's next for you? What are you working on now?
After 20 years of researching and working with aboriginal women and children, I was recently awarded a three-year grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) to study the issues of masculinity among indigenous men.
The research will be done in partnership with the Ontario Federation of Indian Friendship Centres (OFIFC), who've built a burgeoning grassroots social movement of men who are eager to explore masculinities, identities and roles that are not based in Euro--‐western patriarchy.
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