Home > Uncategorized > A Long Overdue Update

A Long Overdue Update

Believe it or not, it’s been a busy week or so. Where to start…on Friday November 13th, 2009, it was the 38th anniversary of Helen Betty Osborne’s murder. To mark this occasion, I had a book reading and talk scheduled at Aqua Books with Beatrice Mosionier, author of April Raintree and her new book: Come Walk With Me: A Memoir. I was almost more excited to meet Beatrice than to do my reading.

But before the reading, I was emailed by APTN in the late morning. They wanted to do an interview with me as they were also aware it was the anniversary. So, I did the interview and it aired on Friday evening on the APTN National News. Find the link here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bKbtQLXjxeg

The reading that night was incredible. At Aqua Books, there was a standing-room-only crowd. Elder Betty Ross did the opening prayer, and then I went up and did my thing. I gave a good talk, mostly concentrating on the need for the book to create awareness of our missing and murdered Aboriginal Women. (the book being The Life of Helen Betty Osborne). At the end, I played an excerpt from the Honourable Justice Murray Sinclair’s speech at the launch of the graphic novel in December and gave a short reading. I think we sold Ā a good number of books that evening.

Beatrice went after me and she read a bunch of excerpts from Come Walk With Me and gave a nice talk between passages. Her new book is a beautiful piece of literature for many reasons. Most strikingly, perhaps, is how she survived the struggles in her life. She is at once good humoured, innocent, strong, and moral. That’s what struck me most, and got me to examine myself: even when she did things she wasn’t proud of, she realized it immediately. Those times aren’t very often, mind you. It seems that even as a child, she had a keen sense of what was morally right, and lived by that. She never touched alcohol, either. It’s a fascinating, powerful book. Inspiring. And when I emailed her about it, she wrote back that she thought it would be inspiring maybe to mothers, you know…and I realized immediately what a humble person she is. Because anybody, especially an Aboriginal person, who reads this book will be inspired. Let’s face it: we struggle, we experience struggles because of who we are, and that’s just a fact. And how we make it through those struggles is important. And how Beatrice made it through her struggles is inspiring. And, as Forrest Gump said, that’s all I have to say about that.

After the reading, the owner of Aqua Books, Kelly Hughes, asked me if I would consider being a writer-in-residence. Early this week, I accepted. Starting January 2, 2010, I’ll be Aqua Books’ writer-in-residence. I’ll host some events, run some workshops, and I’m hoping to organize an Aboriginal writers’ week. I’m really excited. I’ll also have an office to write in whenever I want. I may not be there too often, but I’ll use it when I can.

Oh, I should mention that I was able to throw in some promotion for 7 Generations at the reading. we gave away a ton of posters. And left a bunch for Kelly, too.

Tonight I did a Meet & Greet at Chapters Polo Festival. Ā I think it was a slow book night, being a Tuesday. So, I didn’t get much traffic. I think we did sell around 8 or 9 copies, though. so that’s not too bad. And after visiting with Portage and Main staffers today, I know the book is starting to catch on and it’s being bought more and more. So that’s great news. They asked me to come back and do another one of these Meet & Greets on a busier day, so I’ll probably do another.

Tonight, though, I found out why I’m doing this. Or at least, one of the reasons. And I mean, when I say “doing this”, writing books on Aboriginal history. A man came up to me at the Meet & Greet, and was completely racist. And in an apologetic way…like “sorry if that offends you”…some excerpts from his meandering, ignorant talk:

*after reading a part in the book where a man kneeling at Betty’s memorial hears footsteps and feels that Betty is there with him*

“I guess that’s part of your culture?” He asked.

“What?”

“If we here footsteps we go to jail,” he said.

“Go to jail?” I asked. “WE meaning whom?”

“You know, the people who built this building.”

“Who built this building?” I asked.

“White people. If white people like me hear footsteps…we’ll go to jail.”

“I don’t think…”

“Not Headingly, because that’s where you people go…we’d go to Selkirk.”

“The mental institution?”

“Yeah,” he said.

“Ummm….I don’t think that’s entirely true actually.” I said.

“It is true. We’d go to jail.”

“This is probably where you just came from.” I think.

And then, somehow, he likened Aboriginal people to monkeys. And I’m not even sure how he did this, and I can’t for the life of me remember. And he said, “yeah the lady I told that to was so offended.”

“Because it IS offensive,” I said.

“Well I don’t mean to be going there, but I just think we need to get humour sometimes.”

The rest of this part is a blur. But I alternately wanted to punch him, and pity him, for being so unbelievably, comically, racist. And he really just stood there and talked like I was okay with it. And one time he was talking about (don’t ask) how people in World War II who didn’t go to war defected to the United States…ummm…

“Defected,” he repeated. “Do you know what that means?” He asked like I was some little child.

“Yes, I know what that means.” I said.

And the end of our conversation:

“You know, my grandfather was in a mental institution. And my Uncle knew these secrets he had. They put this medication in his mouth so he would sleep 22 hours a day.”

“Oh really? Secrets…like what?”

“He’s dead now.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Yeah, he got into a car accident and it severed his hands off.” He said. “Like her.”

“Like whom? Betty Osborne?”

“Yeah, they cut off her hands so nobody could identify her.”

“Ummm….no they didn’t.”

And finally, friends came and saved me from listening to more. It was…so indescribably offensive, weird, and painful.

And that, my friends, is a long overdue update.

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  1. Miranda
    November 18, 2009 at 6:36 am

    Hello, I’m very interested in your book about Betty. Public appearances are a tough thing, especially in a place like a mall. This really offensive person sounds really deeply disturbed. But you know, I’ve met a number of non-aboriginal people who were kind of the opposite. Saying how the Aboriginal people had no justice and it was a conspiracy and there’s all this mercury everywhere and the potlach was banned to keep us down economically (which kinda makes sense).

    And the part about her hands being chopped off? He was referring to Anna Mae Pictuou Aquash, a Canadian Micmaq woman who was an AIM supporter and was murdered on the Pine Ridge Reserve in 1975.

    It would be nice if you were able to have a presentation in Regina.

    Pidamaya,
    MHanus

    • November 18, 2009 at 2:34 pm

      That is interesting to know about Anna Mae Pictuou. Thanks for telling me that. If that was his only comment, I’d feel like I was being offended too easily. Now I know at least one thing he said was a simple mistake.

      I would love to come out to Regina, if there was an opportunity. Talking about Betty and the changes we hope to help make through this book is something near to my heart.

      Thanks,
      Dave

  2. Beverley Jacobs
    November 18, 2009 at 6:34 pm

    Excellent job, David. Your book is helping to create the public awareness that is do desparately needed. Thank you!

    • November 18, 2009 at 6:56 pm

      Thank you for your support. The more people read this book, the more awareness we can create. Hopefully, it help to make some change in how things are right now.

  3. November 18, 2009 at 9:04 pm

    My dear friend,

    I am sorry that you had to endure communicating with someone so horribly ignorant. My goodness… he obviously had no idea who he was talking to on a fundamental level. How sad.

    However, I am also very excited to hear of this project’s continued success as I know how much of yourself was poured into it. That was very evident during your presentation at Aqua Books, as I know it will be when 7 Generations is a humongoid giant success. šŸ™‚

    You always pour your true self into your art and for that, I am so grateful.
    Please keep up the great work, and call me when your Publishing Company wants to hire me on as your editor. It is a job I shall miss very much.

    ’til then,

    Linz

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