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Poet Jordan Abel used scissors to deconstruct racism in western novels

Western novels were one of the first places Nisga’a poet Jordan Abel encountered representations of Indigenous peoples. His new collection of poetry won the 2017 Griffin Poetry Prize and used a unique process to rearticulate the stereotypes common in westerns.
Poet Jordan Abel wrote Injun by re-purposing lines from old western novels.
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Originally published February 4, 2018 

Western novels were one of the first places Nisga'a poet Jordan Abel encountered representations of Indigenous peoples.

"The western genre is one that is deeply embedded in our popular culture, and it's a genre that very often goes unchallenged," explained Abel.

His third collection of poetry, Injun, won the 2017 Griffin Poetry Prize and used a unique process to rearticulate the stereotypes common in westerns.

"I was very interested in thinking through what it looks like to dismantle racism and to deconstruct it."

Excerpt from Jordan Abel's poetry collection, Injun.
To write Injun, Abel gathered 91 online western novels – books with titles like Good Indian, Pardners and Hopalong Cassidy's Rustler Round-Up – and pasted them into a document. He then searched the text for the word "injun."  

"'Injun' is slang mispronunciation of the word 'Indian,'" said Abel. "It seemed to be at the core of the stereotypes surrounding Indigenous peoples," he added.

Abel printed the 500-plus pages that contained the word "injun," then took an interesting next step.

"I took a pair of scissors and I cut up each page."

Abel cut sentences and rearranged words into what became his groundbreaking book.

"This is work that is built out of all settler texts," explained Abel. "At the end at the end of the day, it becomes an Indigenous work."  

"It's a process of reclaiming and rearticulating an Indigenous voice out of settler narratives."  


Click the Listen button above to hear Jordan Abel read an excerpt from Injun.