Located in Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre, the 38th edition of the International Festival of Authors will last for 11 days. Some events include author readings, interviews, panel discussions, and book signings. One of the participants in the festival was author and U of T instructor Lee Maracle. Interviewed by award-winning journalist Duncan McCue, Maracle discusses the controversial topics of her latest book “My Conversation with Canadians.”
Maracle’s work is based on the recurring questions she receives about her Indigenous heritage. Questions like “What do I call you?” or “How can we reconcile our pasts?” are examples she addressed. She emphasized from the start of the interview that her book is meant to be conversationalist and not to definitively answer these often rhetorical ponderings, for which she has no conclusive response.
“What we’re called is always changing and asking me how you can help is asking me to think for you—I can’t,” Maracle said.
Maracle asserted that Canadians have “a mountain of denial” about relations with indigenous people and hold the “myth of hospitality” about themselves. She believes that this is inherited from British upper-class immigrants who prejudicially characterized Canada’s First Nation societies as ignorant.
Maracle’s book highlighted how spirituality and anti-feminist impressions are the only indigenous stories people like to focus on. She addressed the argument of indigenous communities regarding feminism as an outside concept, and said: “Back then, they don’t know themselves. Feminism is an age-old concept.”
Maracle added that while there is still gender oppression in indigenous society, it does not mean that feminism ceases to exist. When asked how she wants indigenous men to support women, Maracle said that she wants men to hold their tongue when telling women what to do and to make more space for women in critical roles.
“Shared space is a big part of being together,” she said.
On the notion of reconciliation, Maracle defines the term as when conflict ends and amends are made. However, the conflict is not yet over since, as Maracle stated, “We don’t have an end to the colonial legacy.”
Maracle stated that everyone is responsible for the collective journey we are on and to be in charge of our own choices and lives. Merely surviving is not the goal, but rather it is to achieve “firmness, kindness, and ceremony.” According to Maracle, reflecting before speaking and acting is the difference between the indigenous notion of respect and general notions of kindness.
Currently, Maracle is touring the country with author readings of her book.
The 2017 IFOA ran until October 29.