"I Am Not Your Indian- ess"

Lesley Belleau, Angela Hibbs, & Janette Platana

Lesley Belleau is an Anishinaabe writer from Canada. She is most noted for her 2017 poetry collection Indianland (Book*Hug), which won the Pat Lowther Award in 2018.

Angela Hibbs is the author of four books of poetry. Her most recent collection is Control Suppress Delete (Palimpsest Press, 2017). She is originally from Newfoundland.

Janette Platana’s collection of short fiction, A Token Of My Affliction, was a Finalist for the 2015 Trillium Book Award. She is from the Qu’Appelle Valley, at the border of Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

All three writers now live in Peterborough-Nogojiwanong.

“‘I Am Not Your Indian-/ ess’ is a collaborative poem in three voices. It was written in response to Thomas King’s poem ‘I Am Not The Indian You Had In Mind’ and, in part, to Raoul Peck’s documentary film on James Baldwin, I Am Not Your Negro.”

opaque tape top

Dramatis Personae:
Lesley Belleau as Tete-Jaune “Yellow Head” Bostonais
Angela Hibs as The Bastard Out of Newfoundland
Janette Platana as The Maid

Come out of the water.
Come out of the water.
Show me your name.
Niibiinaabe.
Tell me your song.
I know you’re there.
Pant it, pant it together.
Paint it
together.
And we will tell our stories together.
There is nothing as long
as the sound of your name.

She was lost in a little thicket bush.
They built her a little fortress
in the forest. I was burnt in the fire.

Burnt-wood.
Before we were Métis, we were Maidy, we were,
we were the colour of burnt wood.

   Did you know spirit animals are a huge part of witchcraft?
   Diabetes wasn’t brought to you guys — it’s only because all your parents were alcoholics.
   There’s no such thing as reverse racism. Stop feeling sorry for yourselves.
   Jesus- your boy with long hair looks. Like a girl. Cut his fucking hair. I cried when my son cut his hair.
   He cried, too.

Burn wood to burn the witch.
Show me your spirit animal.
Skin me.

   People will tell you you aren’t Indian.
   I lied to stay alive. We are
   French. Don’t draw attention to yourself. You’ll be exposed.

   The elementary and high school teachers who singled you out because
   you came from the reserve: please stand up and inform the other
   children what it’s like to live where you do. Do you feel different? Tell
   us.

   When will they stop fighting amongst themselves? They fight among
   themselves. They’ve already gotten their money. They’ve already gotten
   their money. She looks like she just got out of a teepee. What is in her
   hair? Why is she so dark? Other things that I hear about first Nations
   people, they’re always at the mall. Why are they always at the mall?
   Why can’t I go to the mall without seeing someone who just came out of
   a teepee.
   We need someone exotic to make it authentic.

   Is our fire not sacred enough? Our fire is outside of the church. The church is a sacred place. What is in
   her hair? Her hair — why are they still living in the past? When will they get over it? Are they not over it
   yet? How many reparations? Look at the pie chart look at the pie chart!

   My mother: first white woman on the reserve. We’re hiding in the closet. My father is killing the moose.
   She wondered where her lipstick went. We used it to draw on the walls of the closet. We hid there — three
   sisters in a closet. He didn’t
   want girls. He didn’t show up for our births.

   They had a petition to shut down the healing lodge and they wanted to pray over jingle dresses.

We ate your boat.
I ate your meat.
I eat your name.
“You want me to drive you to Brown Town?” “No thanks.”

   “So, wasn’t Oka more like a pow-wow? Except you got more attention for it. right?”

   If you look like a squaw and they call you squaw and you say you’re not, is it still racism?
   If you look like a half-breed and they call you a half-breed, which half do you betray when you say that you’re not?
   Does Métis mean not quite White or not quite Red?
   Oh! May Tea! The jigging and the fiddling and the ceintures flechés, right? The sugar pie!
   No. I’m from Saskatchewan. Maidy. Fry bread. Tea. Tears.

   “I’ve never been to a reserve but I know a lot about your people.” PhD Indigenous Studies, Trent University 2018.

Rememberwhenyourebuked
myeugenicistovertone
becauseIamalways&still
surprisedbyblonde&blue-eyed
Métis&notbecausethey
areblonde&blue-eyedbut
becausetheycouldchoose&
that’swhattheychose&Iwonder
howtheirliveshavedifferedfrom
mine&iftheyfeltsafer&ifsothen
whybecauseIhadnotbeentoldthat
shamehadbeenrepealedorthat
theinverseofshameisbelonging?

Remember when you asked me if I were “Slot Oh”?
So you’re half-Ashken
azi. That’s
not Anishnaabe
and not it’s Anas
azi or even Apach
ey and meler is not
métis; it’s more like the middle
or pankiī or bangii,
a bit or a little,
or détente or reauleaux
but I guess
ça suffit
pour être
First Nations-
y
ou au moins un peu—
and thus we are both
une plus petit May
tee
hee
hee

This is lateral
This is lateral
This is lateral

opaque tape b