Jordan Abel reflects on what it means to be a modern Indigenous person in Nishga — read an excerpt now
Nishga is a finalist for the 2021 Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction
NIishga by Jordan Abel is a finalist for the 2021 Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction.
The $60,000 prize is the largest prize for nonfiction in Canada. The winner will be announced on Nov. 3, 2021.
In the memoir Nishga, Abel grapples with his identity as a Nisga'a writer, an intergenerational residential school survivor and his own Indigeneity, while consistently being asked to represent Nisga'a language and culture. Blending memoir, transcriptions and photography, Nishga is an exploration of what it means to be a modern Indigenous person and how both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people engage with the legacy of colonial violence and racism.
Abel is a Nisga'a writer from British Columbia. He is the author of the poetry collections The Place of Scraps, Un/inhabited and Injun. In 2017, he won the Griffin Poetry Prize for Injun.
Read an excerpt from Nishga below.
I remember being outside of a Broadway restaurant on a slushy night in Vancouver for a staff Christmas party. I wasn't really invited to the party, but my friend had insisted. So my friend and I were outside smoking, and some of his friends from work were there, and some of their friends too. We were talking and laughing. The food had been excellent and there was more than enough booze to go around. At some point, one of the friends of friends turned to me. She said, "Where are you from?" I told her that I was from the mountains. I had been living in the interior for a few months now, and since I no longer felt like a Vancouver resident, it made sense to me as an answer.
"No, no," she said, "Where are you from?"
I told her that I was from Vancouver.
"No, I mean, you're Indigenous, right?"
I told her yes.
"So where are you from?"
I can't remember if I had known what she was getting at, or if I was just waiting for her to clarify what she meant. But now I knew the answer she wanted to hear.
"I'm Nisga'a," I said. "My grandparents were from Kincolith."
I don't know how many times I've had to give that answer, but every time I do I can't help but feel like it's the only right answer, even though I'm not so sure that it is.
Excerpted from Nishga by Jordan Abel, published by McClelland & Stewart, an imprint of Penguin Random House of Canada. Copyright © 2020 by Jordan Abel. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.