Governor General's Literary Awards·Moving Forward

Kim Senklip Harvey reflects on her Tsilhqot'in land work, childhood adventures and cream soda slurpees

G'waan is an original essay by Kim Senklip Harvey, part of CBC Books' Moving Forward series.

G'waan is an original essay by Kim Senklip Harvey, part of CBC Books' Moving Forward series.

G’waan is an original essay by Kim Senklip Harvey, the winner of the 2020 Governor General's Literary Award for drama. (Ben Shannon/CBC)

G'waan is an original essay by Kim Senklip Harvey. It is part of Moving Forward, a special series of new, original writing featuring work by the English-language winners of the 2020 Governor General's Literary Awards, presented in partnership with the Canada Council for the Arts. Read more works from Moving Forward here

When I was really little my ungle told me that for any good adventure "we don't go the way we came." Which I dunno if that is true but he always wins on gold rush scratches so he knows a thing or two about something. Growing up with this, going back often felt like a missed opportunity to I dunno ... find the meaning of life? After baseball games I'd beg anyone driving to take a different way.

"Can we pleeeeease go on the road near the gully and pass the 7-11?!"

"No."

"C'mon! Pleeeease"

"We have to go home."

I wanted to go home too … I just wanted to go a different way cause how we got here hasn't been the most fun. And I firmly believed that the gully and 7-11 route had sacred opportunities like cream soda slurpees — which are mystical. The older I got the more frustrating repeating routes felt, it was like we we're going against cultural protocol. And didn't other people want to have better adventures? Find something even cooler than slurpees?

I wanted to go home too … I just wanted to go a different way cause how we got here hasn't been the most fun.

When I spent my summers in the Tsilhqot'in ungle and I would quad all over the backcountry. We would take these circular routes all over the land. I'd be clutching onto the back rack of the red Toyota trike with a horse blanket zap strapped as my seat cushion and my brown and white eczema appaloosa face would get brushed by juniper and pine as we raced across the volcanic plateau. I'd get tree needles stuck in my buck teeth but it was the good life.

Ungle would say that when we were moving through the land time didn't exist. It is an experience that goes beyond a linear notion of living. It is a voyage across space where dirtbag chillcoteen quad crews transform into cultural cosmonauts on journeys that keep us alive. And he's right, it's an affecting experience traversing the land and it can be somewhat disorientating from a frontiers perspective. But with our ochre treads and charmin residues we were marking the Universe for the next generation to remember where we have come from so they know where we need to go.

Ungle would say that when we were moving through the land time didn't exist.

Sometimes ungle and I would get into jackpot situations with gas tanks too low, engines hot and trails mucked. This one time when I was about seven we went out after a rain, even though my ungle says it never rains at Tl'etinqox, our wheels we're just spinning and I felt this impulse to yell "I think we should go back unnnnngle! I think we should go back!!!" but before I could he squeezed my little pant leg and told me to "hang oooooon!" He reversed the quad to get more speed and finally we got through but just as we got out we turned the bend and there was a huuuuge cedar tree that had fell onto the logging road. Ungle spent hours and hours with his Canadian Tire tomahawk clearing the path but eventually he did and we didn't go back the way we came but we did get home.

Later that night when we he was throwing the remains of the cedar onto the fire I mustered up the courage to ask, "how come ya don't like goin back ungle?!" He spat some snuff into the pit and motioned that my hotdog was catching fire, he leaned back and looked up into the Universe and said, "No good looking back little one. We gotta g'waan." I leaned back on my lil stump to try and see what he was seeing but it wasn't til 20 years later that I understood why he never wanted to go back. And when I realized this all I wanted to do was take him out for a slurpee.

Sez? l nunest'in gulin (I love you uncle.)


Kim Senklip Harvey's inspiration for G'waan

"This prose is in what I call my NDN dirtbag genre. As an urban Interior Salish Plateau storyteller who spent almost all my summers on my Tsilhqot'in rez, my teachings collide with the super tradish and honour the cultural evolutions of where we are in this impermanent moment.

"When I think about moving forward I begin to humbly think about from where? Who gets to choose the place to measure the movement from? G'waan — which is slang for 'go on' is an offer to understand the spherical nature of my inter-National existence and the challenge of moving forward as a species when our shared history and continued behaviours are so brutal. I also love 7-Eleven Slurpees and I don't think there is enough literature about their mysticism so there's that."

About Kim Senklip Harvey

Kim Senklip Harvey is a Syilx, Tsilhqot'in, Ktunaxa and Dakelh Nations playwright and actor. (Submitted by Kim Senklip Harvey)

Kim Senklip Harvey is a Syilx, Tsilhqot'in, Ktunaxa and Dakelh Nations playwright and actor. She had roles in Rez Sisters, Gordon Winter and Children of God. Kamloopa: An Indigenous Matriarch Story won the 2019 Jessie Richardson Award for significant artistic achievement, the Sydney J. Risk Prize for outstanding original play by an emerging playwright and the 2020 Governor General's Literary Award for drama

Syilx and Tsilhqot'in playwright Kim Senklip Harvey tells As It Happens that her award-winning play Kamloopa shows "the power and perseverance and tenacity" of Indigenous Peoples. "Our plight and pain is often what the narratives are structured around, but that's not my life," she said. 11:52

About the series Moving Forward

CBC Books asked the 2020 Governor General's Literary Award winners to contribute an original piece of writing on the theme Moving Forward. G'waan was Kim Senklip Harvey's contribution to the series. 

Read the rest of the series:

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