Saturday June 18, 2016

Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm on telling sex-positive Indigenous stories

Anishinaabe author Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm's collection of short stories strives for a more fulsome expression of Indigenous life.

Anishinaabe author Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm's collection of short stories strives for a more fulsome expression of Indigenous life.

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There's love, lust and lots of lived experience in The Stone Collection, a book of short stories by Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm. Grandmothers, teenagers, single moms and missing sisters move through the pages, and the reader is immersed in the day-to-day lives of the characters. It's the first book of fiction from Akiwenzie-Damm, who is a member of the Chippewas of Nawash First Nation, and a poet, performer and publisher. 

Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm spoke to The Next Chapter host Shelagh Rogers from Ottawa.

THE REALITIES OF LIFE FOR INDIGENOUS WOMEN AND CHILDREN

What I'm trying to do here is really give people a fuller sense of what the reality is like for Anishinaabe people, especially Anishinaabe women, and hopefully I've managed to capture in a more fulsome way what that is like. Part of my own story is that I'm the mother of adopted children, and so I'm very keenly interested in what's happening with Indigenous children in this country and the way that Child and Family Services cares for our children, or in some cases does a terrible job of that. So that's something I've been carrying with me for a while as well, and that definitely intrigues me — the way that, in this relationship with Canada, there's a lack of safety for us. Other people take their safety for granted in ways that we cannot.

TELLING SEX-POSITIVE INDIGENOUS STORIES
I recognized at one point that I couldn't find very much love poetry or stories about positive, healthy, lusty relationships between Indigenous people. So I started looking further and further afield. I was travelling internationally so I was looking at Māori literature, Aboriginal Australian literature and so on, and I started to think, what's going on? Why is there this lack of sex-positive stories and things that affect our values and thoughts around sexuality? So I made a conscious choice, and I made it my mission to talk to other writers and artists, and I collected an anthology of Indigenous erotica, and I started writing my own. It was very difficult at first, and also very freeing, and my hope was that at some point that would just be a natural part of Indigenous literature and not be an issue. 

Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm's comments have been edited and condensed.