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Blog

Language & Art & Red Rising Magazine

Sara General

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Over the last year and a half, I’ve done a lot of writing that has yet to find its way into the world. There are a ton of short stories and poems, blog posts and partial novel drafts sitting on my computer patiently waiting their turn to make their way into the world. And when all is said and done with my dissertation work, I intend to release most of that writing—to pair it up with the art I’ve done over the last two years and set it free into the world to find the people that it’s meant to.  

I’ve written before about what it’s like to try and stay focussed on a research project while so many terrible things keep happening in the world. In short—it’s been difficult. But in other ways, having to focus so intensely on something and to produce a dissertation in a relatively tight timeframe has been good for me. It’s made me question what I’m really doing with my time and why. It’s made me think about what it is that I really want. And as more time goes on, it’s made me think about the audience I’m writing and creating for. The who. The why. 

Ultimately, I realize that the majority of my efforts are for my children. So that they know the truth about who we are as Indigenous Peoples of Turtle Island, that they understand what our responsibilities are, and that they have some insight into how their mother tried to fulfill those responsibilities in environments that were not always supportive or welcoming. I want them to see how when things were difficult for me—our stories, knowledges, songs and ceremonies anchored me and helped me withstand and weather all manner of storms. And I want them to know and see that I valued language enough to make time to learn it well enough to speak every day, even when the pathways I was on (earning a doctorate, for example) were pointing me in a very different direction (i.e., writing articles, presenting at conferences, teaching grad courses). 

You cannot split yourself very many ways before it begins to impact the quality of your effort, your health and your ability to produce good work. For me—I’ve come to the realization that the biggest contribution I can make is not to the field in which I research (education)—but in my ability to be able to speak our languages with my family, and most especially—with my children. I’m grateful to have gained some clarity at the end of this huge educational journey, about what my priorities really need to be.

That said, there are many things in this world that I value deeply, some of which have emerged out of western mainstream knowledge systems. I’ve visited elders in hospitals or nursing homes and been grateful there are facilities and western medicines that support their care. And I’ve been a part of ceremonies that you don’t really study for in school—that you learn by taking part in community, by having a community that is willing to help you learn, and a community that even after experiencing a lot of adversity, is still very committed to helping each other. All of this appreciation factors into how I see the world, how I make my choices, and how I think about or evaluate those choices after I’ve had some distance from them. Sometimes, I have to make adjustments. Sometimes, I have to make a new choice. 

My point is—that amidst all of this academic activity, thought and action, there are things that have helped me that I will always be grateful for. Experiences that helped me understand what I value at my core, and helped me find other people who share those values. Encounters that have helped me think about how I could be helpful. 

Language is one of those things. Definitely, absolutely. So is writing. And so is art. 

All of which brings me to a bit of exciting news!

A few months ago, I submitted a small piece of art to Red Rising Magazine that I made for an article my sister wrote, along with a small explanation of the piece and where it came from. I’m super happy to share that all of these pieces appear in the most recent edition of Red Rising Magazine which launched recently! It’s the language edition, and it’s available for order here. I hope you have a chance to check it out. It’s the first time that my art is appearing in a magazine and I’m super excited for it. It’s wonderful to flip through the pages and see a lot of beautiful art and stories about people who love Indigenous languages. And it comes at a time where I’m able to make even more space in my life for language—which is timely all on its own.

 I love this piece. It's especially cool because this was the 100th piece I completed. I made this painting for Red Rising Magazine but displayed a working progress version of it at Woodlands Cultural Centre for Indigenous Art 2018. It's special for a lot of reasons!

I love this piece. It's especially cool because this was the 100th piece I completed. I made this painting for Red Rising Magazine but displayed a working progress version of it at Woodlands Cultural Centre for Indigenous Art 2018. It's special for a lot of reasons!

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Anyways, this is just a small, fun writing/art update in the midst of all the crazy work/life/research excitement that I am super grateful to be able to share. I hope you're having a great summer and I look forward to sharing more exciting news very soon! 

Nya:weh and happy creating!

S.