MARACLE, Lee




Author Tags: Aboriginal Authors, Literary Landmarks

LOCATION: False Creek (aka Snauq), beneath the Burrard Bridge, Vancouver

In her story ‘Goodbye Snauq’ which appeared in West Coast Line in 2008, Lee Maracle, granddaughter of Chief Dan George, recalls the area that is now mis-identified as False Creek in Vancouver. While incorporating the protests of Chief Khahtsahlano, who decried the loss of First Nations land and food supplies to real estate appropriation and pollution, Maracle writes, “Khahtsahlano dreamed of being buried at Snauq. I dream of living here.” Born in 1950 and raised on the North Shore mudflats, Lee Maracle, of Salish and Cree ancestry, is a member of the Stó:lo First Nation. She became one of the first Aboriginal writers in Canada to publish fiction with her groundbreaking synthesis of autobiography and fiction, Bobbi Lee, Indian Rebel (1975).

ENTRY:

"White men have become the rootless, the lost, and the ridiculous... I am no longer on the periphery of their world and cut off from mine; they are on the periphery of mine." -- narrator, Sundogs

Lee Maracle, of Salish and Cree ancestry, is a member of the Stó:lo First Nation and one of the first Aboriginal writers in Canada to publish fiction. Her groundbreaking synthesis of autobiography and fiction, Bobbi Lee, Indian Rebel (1975), recounts travels in the 1960s and 1970s within B.C., California and Toronto’s counter-cultural community. It admonishes the rest of Canada to “search out the meaning of colonial robbery and figure out how you are going to undo it all."

”Published twelve years later, I Am Woman (1988) describes Maracle’s struggle to “climb the mountain of racism.” Including poetry and photos of loved ones, I Am Woman was first published by her second husband Dennis Maracle, who also helped Maracle publish a little-known collection of poems, Seeds.

In Sundogs (1992), promoted as Maracle's first novel, a 20-year-old East Vancouver sociology student, Marianne, wants relief from her wrathful mother’s railings at the television news and insistence that white society is an anti-Native genocidal plot. As the only unilingual sibling of five, Marianne is the “baby” who lacks confidence in Aboriginal ways. Beset by family upheavals, racism and patriarchy, Marianne frequently feels “tethered to the hot wire of my own rage.”

Over the course of one summer in Sundogs, Marianne is liberated by Elijah Harper’s anti-constitutional stance and the Oka stand-off. “If Elijah upset Canada, he upset me more. His message to us was profoundly simple; we are worth fighting for, we are worth caring for, we are worthy.” Marianne has an affair with her boss, an Aboriginal rights lobbyist, but rejects him when she learns he is married. She joins a First Nations long distance run from Penticton to Oka, carrying a feather for peace. She also feels inspired by sundogs, “impossible images reflected under extraordinary circumstances.”

In Maracle’s novel, Ravensong (1993), urban Aboriginal women in a Pacific Northwest community that is beset by a flu epidemic in the 1950s must choose between saving the lives of elders or the lives of their babies. The young protagonist, Stacey, is at odds with her mother’s adherence to old customs. Circling and touching the storyline are Raven’s musings, which poke fun and impart wisdom.

Maracle’s first young adult novel, Will’s Garden (2002), describes the ceremonial traditions of Stó:lo boys who are becoming men.

“I was born in Vancouver on July 2nd 1950 and raised on the North Shore mud flats about two miles east of Second Narrows Bridge,” Maracle writes in her first book. Her mother, she says, worked 14 to 16 hours a day at very hard physical labour to feed and clothe seven children. At 14, Lee Maracle became B.C.’s top high school long distance runner.

In 1990, Maracle’s monograph from Gallerie Publications explained her resistance to European academic models. That same year she co-edited the proceedings of a 1988 conference, Telling It: Women and language Across Cultures (Press Gang) and released her first compilation of stories, Sojourner’s Truth (1992). Her 1992 essay for Vancouver’s Step magazine entitled “Goodbye Columbus” recalls that her Métis mother worked up to 16 hours a day at physical labour to feed and clothe her seven children.

Maracle is also the author of Sojourners & Sundogs (1999), Bent Box (2000) and Daughters Are Forever (2002). She has co-authored/edited Telling It: Women and Language Across Cultures (1994), Reconciliation: The En’owkin Journal of First North American Peoples (2002), My Home As I Remember (1998) and We Get Our Living Like Milk from the Land (1993-94).

Lee Maracle's short stories in her collection First Wives Club: Coast Salish Style (Theytus 2012) are about single motherhood, activism, teaching and the experiences of First Nations's women in Canada.

“We’re socially locked in time,” she told Redwire magazine in 2003. “If we are burning sage or saying million-year-old prayers, then we are OK; as long as we are back in the bush or spiritual mode we’re safe. If we’re doing anything else people want to erase us, they want to not see us. So my stories, I think, allow people to see us in a myriad of circumstances and once people see us differently they might hear us differently as well.”

A long-time political activist, Maracle attended Simon Fraser University and became a member of the Red Power Movement and Liberation Support Movement. A recipient of the Before Columbus American Book Award, Maracle has worked at the Barrie Native Friendship Centre in Ontario, performed on stage and taught courses at the University of Toronto prior to her return to the West Coast to teach at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington. She later moved to Toronto to be a Mentor for Aboriginal Students at the University of Toronto and serve as Cultural Director for the Indigenous Theatre School.

"If you are Aboriginal,” she Lee Maracle has said, “you'll face what has happened to you and find some way to reconcile yourself to it, and if you are not Native you will face what was done to us and find some way to reconcile yourself to it personally. I think that's what story does anyway. That's what my hope is."

Daughter of a Métis mother, Maracle is the mother to actor Columpa Bobb who appeared in a production of The Ecstasy of Rita Joe at the Firehall Theatre in 1992.

Self-described as the most published Native woman author in the country, Lee Maracle turned her oratory into essays for Memory Serves (NeWest Press 2015), edited by Smaro Kamboureli. "Canadians must come out of the fort," she urges, "and imagine something beyond the colonial condition -- beyond violence, rape and the notions of dirty people." Maracle has claimed that indigenous people do not control the intellectual maps that determine the worthiness of story; doubtless the same could be said for her political rhetoric as recorded in print over a twenty-year period.

BOOKS:

Bobbi Lee, Indian Rebel, Women's Press, 1975, 1990 [novel]
I Am Woman, Write-On Press, 1988 [memoir, essays]
I Am Woman: A Native Perspective on Sociology and Feminism, Press Gang Publishers, 1988, 1996
Sojourner's Truth, Press Gang, 1992 [short stories]
Sundogs, Theytus, 1992 [novel]
Ravensong, A Novel, Press Gang, 1993 [novel]
Sojourners & Sundogs, Press Gang, 1999 [collected work]
Bent Box, Theytus, 2000 [poetry]
Daughters are Forever, Raincoast, 2002
Will's Garden, Theytus, 2002 [young adult novel]
First Wives Club: Coast Salish Style (Theytus 2012) 978-1-894778-95-4 $18.95 [short stories]
Memory Serves: Oratories (NeWest Press 2015). Edited by Smaro Kamboureli $24.95 978-926455-44-0

Collaborative Works:

Maracle, Lee & Sandra Laronde (editors). My Home As I Remember, Toronto: National Cultural Heritage Foundation, 1998; Toronto: Natural Heritage / Natural History, 2000.
Armstrong, Jeannette, C., Lee Maracle, Delphine Derickson & Greg Young-Ing (Editors). We get Our Living Like Milk From the Land (The Okanagan Rights Committee, The Okanagan Indian Education Resource Society, 1993-94)
Maracle, Lee with Sky Lee, Betsy Warland and Daphne Marlatt (Author-Editors), Telling It: Women and Language Across Cultures, Press Gang Publishers, 1994.
Maracle, Lee & Leanne Flett Kruger (Author-Editors). Reconciliation: The En'owkin Journal of First North American Peoples (Gatherings, 13) Theytus Publishers.

[Alan Twigg / BCBW 2015]

Sundogs (Theytus 512.95)
Review



"White men have become the rootless, the lost, and the ridiculous... I am no longer on the periphery of their world and cut off from mine; they are on the periphery of mine." -- narrator, Sundogs

Lee Maracle's novel Sundogs (Theytus) is the story of a 20-year-old East Vancouver sociology student, Marianne, who wants relief from her wrathful mother's railings at the TV news and insistence that white society is an anti-Native genocidal plot. As the only unilingual sibling of five, Marianne is the "baby" who lacks confidence in Aboriginal ways. Beset by family upheavals, racism and patriarchy, Marianne frequently' feels "tethered to the hot wire of my own rage." Over the course of one summer in Sundogs, Marianne is liberated by Elijah Harper's anti-constitutional stance and the Oka stand-off. "If Elijah upset Canada, he upset me more. His message to us was profoundly simple; we are worth fighting for, we are worth caring for, we are worthy." Marianne has an affair with her boss, an Aboriginal rights lobbyist, but rejects him when she learns he has been married. She joins a First Nations run from Penticton to Oka, collectively carrying a feather for peace and feels inspired by sundogs "impossible images reflected under extraordinary circumstances."

The novel once again shows that Maracle values her role as a leader and educator as much as her role as a writer and storyteller. Didactic asides are not really detours at all; they are necessary parts of her ongoing body of work. "I was born in Vancouver on July 2nd 1950 and raised on the North Shore mud flats about two miles east of Second Narrows Bridge," she writes in her 1975 autobiography. At 14, Maracle, became B.C.'s top high school long distance runner. Now she's in the writing business for the long haul, too. Her first book, Bobbi lee Indian Rebel {Women's Press) was a bitingly honest autobiography, published in 1975, then expanded and re-issued in 1990. It admonishes the rest of Canada to "search out the meaning of colonial robbery and figure out how you are going to undo it all." Her 1988 memoir I Am Woman (Write-On Press) synthesizes her views of the Aboriginal struggle "to climb the mountain of racism" while including poetry and photos of loved ones. It was published by her second husband Dennis Maracle, who also helped Maracle release a collection of poems, Seeds.

In 1990, Maracle's monograph from Gallerie Publications explained her resistance to European academic models. That same year she co-edited the proceedings of a 1988 conference, Telling It: Women and language Across Cultures (Press Gang) and released her first compilation of stories, Sojourner's Truth (Press Gang). Her 1992 essay for Vancouver Step magazine entitled "Goodbye Columbus" recalls that her late Métis mother worked 14 to 16 hours a day at physical labour to feed and clothe her seven children. As a follow-up to Sundogs, Maracle will release Raven's Song (Press Gang), set in the Pacific Northwest of the early 1950s. In Raven's Song, Aboriginal women are forced to choose between saving the lives of babies or elders when their community is devastated by a flu epidemic. The young protagonist, Stacey, is at odds with her mother's adherence to old customs. Circling and touching the storyline are Raven's musings, which poke fun and impart wisdom.

Sundogs 0-919441-41-6; Bobbi 0-88961-148-3; Woman 0-921576-00-5; Sojourner 0-88974.Q23-2; Raven 088974.Q44-5

[BCBW, Autumn, 1992]