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Vancouver's first Indigenous poet laureate set to share the stories of the Musqueam people

Last year, as part of Vancouver's year of reconciliation, the city reached out to the local poetry scene to find the first ever Indigenous poet laureate. Christie Charles, who is a poet and raps under the name Miss Christie Lee, was awarded the prestigious title.
Christie Charles is Vancouver's first Indigenous poet laureate. She is excited to share the stories of the Musqueam people. (Miss Christie Lee Soundcloud)

Last year, as part of Vancouver's year of reconciliation, they reached out to the local poetry scene to find the first ever Indigenous poet laureate.

Christie Charles, who is a poet and raps under the name Miss Christie Lee, was awarded the prestigious title.

"I'm super proud to be from Musqueam, and have lineage to several Coast Salish nations — it's just a really great time to be proud of who I am as a Musqueam woman," said Charles.

Sharing the pride she has for the people of Musqueam is Charles' top goal in her new role.

"The city [of Vancouver] is very brand new, and not too much is known about Musqueam, about our history," said Charles.

"I'm just excited that I get to elevate our Musqueam history and future, and also [share the stories of] urban nations that call Vancouver their home."

Writing and sharing stories runs in Charles' blood, her father Henry Charles was a storyteller, and was the storyteller-in-residence at the Vancouver public library in 2011.

"He highlighted a lot of our [Musqueam] stories, and he created a lot of new stories for myself and my children," said Charles.

"It's kind of heartbreaking that he passed away last year, but I'm so thankful that he shared all his stories. He's gone physically but spiritually he's very much present, and still teaching us and leading the way."

Over her three year term, Charles will be holding workshops, sharing her poetry at city events, and also plans on creating a poetry book that'll feature the work of several Indigenous poets.

"I would like to publish a collection of poetry, different writings, not just from Musqueam … but all the Indigenous people I have been able to work with, all the artists, poets, musicians," said Charles.

"I'm challenging myself to translate it into Halkomelem dialect … but I'm also going to encourage people to submit in their dialect as well, so whatever First Nation language the artist speaks, I ask them to challenge themselves as well."

And Charles said poetry and art has the power to bring people — Indigenous and non-Indigenous people — together.

"We can move forward by working together, we have a saying in Musqueam, nə́c̓aʔmat tə šxʷqʷeləwən ct, and it means '[we are] of one heart and one mind.'"

"So if we open up our hearts and mind to each other, and understand that we're all in this together, we can create some beautiful pieces together."

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