From the Iron House
Imprisonment in First Nations Writing
Publication Year: 2008
Published by: Wilfrid Laurier University Press
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This book is, in part, the culmination of the energy and dedication of individuals other than myself. My sincere thanks go to Glenn Willmott for nurturing this project in its various stages. Laura Murray’s sharpness brought an intellectual deftness to this study. The two anonymous readers reviewing the manuscript contributed to the breadth and ...
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In a “small, juvenile female cage” with “green cement floor, faded yellow cement walls and ceiling,” Yvonne Johnson surveys her prison cell from a thin plastic mattress (Wiebe and Johnson 368). She is awaiting a jury’s verdict in a North Battleford prison after providing testimony against her brother for rape. As she observes her surroundings, she notes the names ...
Part I. Genre in the Institutional Setting of the Prison
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Prison literature occupies a curious, one might even say paradoxical, place in a society’s philosophical and literary imagination. In his introduction to The Time Gatherers, a collection of prisoners’ writing, Hugh MacLennan summarizes the attraction of prison writing for non-incarcerated readers: “If other readers are like myself, they will find some pages here which will ...
1. Barred Subject: Leonard Peltier’s Prison Writings
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Leonard Peltier’s Prison Writings provides a recent, paradigmatic example of the generic innovation and reinscription of master discourses from the prison. Convicted of killing two FBI officers on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota on June 26, 1975, Peltier is sitting out two life sentences in Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary in Kansas. His ...
2. James Tyman’s Inside Out: An Autobiography by a Native Canadian
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Inside Out was written in six weeks while Tyman was serving a two-year prison sentence at Saskatoon Correctional Centre. Experimenting first with crime fiction, Tyman turned his attention to writing his life story—a story that, by the time he was twenty-four, included a lengthy rap sheet and a growing pattern of recidivism. Like Peltier, Tyman ...
3. Auto/biographical Jurisdictions: Collaboration, Self-Representation, and the Law in Stolen Life: The Journey of a Cree Woman
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Yvonne Johnson is a woman of Cree and mixed blood serving twenty-five years to life in a Canadian prison. Convicted of first-degree murder in 1991 for the death of a Wetaskiwin man, she has served time at the Kingston Prison for Women (P4W), the Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge in Saskatchewan, and, more recently, the Edmonton Institute for Women. ...
4. Prison Collections and Periodicals
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In an illuminating survey of the penal press in Canada, criminologist Robert Gaucher points out the “dearth of available documentation which provides an account of the experiences of criminalization and incarceration from the perspective of those subjected to it” (“Canadian Penal Press” 3). Gaucher performs his own inaugural work as he ...
Part II. Genre in the Institutional Setting of the Residential School
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The movement from prison writing to residential school accounts is premised on the proximate place these two structures occupy in the carceral continuum sketched out in the introduction. Together, these two bodies of literature constitute a larger category of “carceral writing”—works written from the carceral spaces of the prison and residential school. In ...
5. A Residential School Memoir: Basil Johnston’s Indian School Days
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The publication in 1988 of Basil Johnston’s Indian School Days initiated an explosion of writing about residential schools in Canada. A narrative re-creation of life at the Garnier Residential School for Boys by one of its “former […] inmates” (11), Johnston’s memoir helped mobilize a collective response to these institutions.1 Since its publication, a great deal ...
6. “It is the law”: Disturbing the Authoritative Word in Tomson Highway’s Kiss of the Fur Queen
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In an evocative moment early in Highway’s novel, Abraham and Mariesis Okimasis acknowledge their ineffable sadness at their son’s encroaching departure for the residential school in the south. “‘Soonieye- gimow’s orders,’” Abraham repeats to himself, a phrase uttered by the local priest, Father Bouchard. Rather than soothe the grief of the two parents, ...
7. Hated Structures and Lost Talk: Making Poetry Bear the Burden
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The effect of physical as well as literary structures on expression is the primary focus of my examination of Rita Joe’s poetry about her residential schooling. “Hated Structure: Indian Residential School, Shubenacadie, N.S.” and “I Lost My Talk” provide poetic reflections on the residential school that, despite their different rhetorical styles, are continuous ...
8. Autobiography as Containment: Jane Willis’s Geniesh: An Indian Girlhood
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Published in 1973, the same year as Métis author Maria Campbell’s Halfbreed—an autobiography that would become a seminal text in Aboriginal-Canadian literature—Geniesh: An Indian Girlhood spans Willis’s childhood, from on a remote island in James Bay to her ten-anda- half years at residential schools in Fort George, Quebec, and Sault Ste. ...
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Page Count: 162
Publication Year: 2008
Series Title: Indigenous Studies