Author Tags: Aboriginal Authors
Sarain Stump’s only book, There is My People Sleeping (1970), was described for marketing purposes as the Ethnic Poem-Drawings of Sarain Stump but its minimal text mainly consists of notes that served as captions. Dedicated to Mrs. George Chattaway of the Bar-S ranch “who has always been interested in the art and welfare of my people,” the drawings and fractured narrative reflect a sad yearning for a reprieve from suffering and subjugation. “Sometimes I’d like to fall asleep, too,” he writes, “close my eyes on everything.”
The Cree-Shoshone artist was born in 1945 on the Shoshone Reservation near Fremont, Wyoming. He received the name Sock-a-jaw-wu, meaning “the one who pulls the boat.” Stump began drawing at an early age by using grocery papers and watching other Aboriginal artists. After he moved to the Bar-S ranch in Alberta in 1964, he accumulated a collection of original drawings and commentaries that he brought with him to Vancouver Island. Sidney-based publisher Gray Campbell, also from Alberta, had had considerable success promoting George Clutesi, so he took a calculated gamble that Stump’s work was also saleable. He produced three printings of Stump’s book. Some artwork by Sarain Stump and George Clutesi can now be found among the papers of Gray Campbell at the University of Victoria’s Special Collections.
Despite a lack of formal training, Stump became the director of the Art Department for an Indian Art program in Saskatoon in December of 1972. As a teacher, Stump stressed awareness of Aboriginal history to his students and keenly promoted pride in Aboriginal culture. A member of the American Indian Art Historic Society and co-editor of the Weewish Tree magazine, Stump exhibited his carvings and paintings in Banff, Wyoming, Montreal, Calgary and the Royal Ontario Museum. He also portrayed a half-breed scout in the film Alien Thunder produced in Saskatchewan and released in 1973.
Stump died by drowning near Mexico City on December 20, 1974. The enigmatic yearnings of his protracted writing style are haunting in retrospect. “It’s with terror, sometimes / that I hear them calling me / but it’s the light skip of a cougar / detaching me from the ground / to leave me alone / with my crazy power / till I reach the sun makers / and find myself again / in a new place.”
An attempt to establish a Sarain Stump Award, to be presented annually “to a Canadian Indian for his achievement in poetry,” was made with the publication of Many Voices (J.J. Douglas, 1977), a landmark anthology of Canadian Aboriginal poetry edited by David Day and Marilyn Bowering.
There is My People Sleeping: The Ethnic Poem-Drawings of Sarain Stump (Sidney: Gray's Publishing, May, 1970; December 1970; 1974)
[alan Twigg / BCBW 2005]