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Blog

Tales from Turtle Island

Sara General

In the very first blog post I ever wrote, I talked about how I live on Turtle Island (what others refer to as North America, the United States or Canada). I didn’t always think that way. My education was very colonized. I grew up learning history that more or less precluded my own people and I looked at things very differently as a result. It wasn’t until I went to university and took Indigenous Studies classes that I learned more about the true history of the Haudenosaunee and other Indigenous Peoples. It was many more years until I learned that my ancestors had a different name for this land, a name that also represented how we viewed ourselves in relation to the universe around us: through a series of interconnected and interdependent relationships.

This process of learning and unlearning has been my own personal journey of decolonization. At times, I’ve had to use language I’m not fond of to foster understanding with others. And while I think creating understanding is very important, I also realize that words are equally important – they are one of the vehicles that carry truth from one generation to the next. And the truth, my truth and the truth of my people, matters very much. My journey to decolonize and learn the truth has had a few bumps here and there, but on a whole, it has been the most transformative and happy experience I’ve ever had. I have learned songs and stories. I have started to learn my language. I have read books and developed theories. I have interacted with hundreds of wonderful people who are working in their communities in the area of education, art, and the environment. I have been inspired to create and encourage others to do the same. I have found my purpose.

Writing and telling stories, is a huge part of that purpose but it’s taken me a long time to have the courage to write, to apply myself to doing so in a serious manner and to then share what I’ve written. I didn’t know what kind of stories I wanted to tell when I first began writing and most of what I wrote - I tossed away. Even so, I never lost the desire to create. There are not many survivors of this period of writing save for a couple that I’m going to attach to this post (and probably separately under my writing tab).

The following two stories were written for a contest called Our Story: Aboriginal Writing Challenge. (Aboriginal being a perfect example of one of the words that I don’t like!) I wrote both of them in my mid-twenties. My writing style has changed a great deal since and though they certainly aren’t masterpieces, these early stories were a lot of fun. Some stories you plot, some just fly out of your imagination and onto the page. These stories were written relatively fast because back then I had a habit of writing things on the same day as they were due; I have since developed a healthy respect for making enough time in the drafting cycle for editing but believe me, it is still hard to do-I can be terribly impatient about wanting something to be finished when it could really use another round.

Each of them is about a different event that happened in my people’s history but since they were written nearly 8 years ago, they don’t have the benefit of some of the decolonizing work I’ve done since then. Still, I think they have some of my spirit in there, helping them along. The challenge is open to writers of First Nation, Métis or Inuit ancestry between the ages of 14-30. There is also a new category this year for artists age 11-13. Submissions are asked to be about a moment or theme in Indigenous history. And as fate would have it, this is probably the best description of the kind of work I love to do. It certainly describes everything I’ve worked on since then.

http://www.our-story.ca/winners/writing/310:going-the-distance

http://www.our-story.ca/winners/writing/259:recovering-ground

Without further ado, here are my submissions! I hope you find something to enjoy or learn in them - even if it's what not to do! Happy writing!

S.