Joseph Dandurand is a member of the Kwantlen First Nation for whom he has worked as Heritage/Lands officer for 20 years. He recounts his struggles to overcome physical, emotional and sexual abuse in his first book of poetry, I Want (Leaf Press 2015). Dandurand expresses his love of the land, his connections to his ancestors, his endurance and his deep desire to foster his children so they grow up without abuse. "I am here / this pen to paper / proves it yet again."

His second collection of poetry, Hear and Foretell (Bookland Press 2016), continues with his focus on urban Aboriginal life in Canada. In the poem, A Place Called Kwantlen, Dandurand writes: language is gone/land is gone/fish are gone/ empty abused mind/of mine/gone.

The same poem ends on a positive note: I have the dream of fish/and it is enough/to make me real/in this imaginary/place/called Kwantlen.

Asked why he writes, he has responded: "They say we are each born with a gift. Some take care of the fires, some are great cooks and fishermen. Others can carve wood. I truly believe that my ability to paint pictures with words is a gift. Even my Indian name X.alatsep means written down. This gift has both its wondrous side and also its tragic side.

"I write to release both demons and angels onto paper. Most times when I am writing I am filled with emotions and images that I have stored somewhere inside of me. This provokes memories and stories that I have carried all my life and when the moment comes and I cannot stand it anymore ...I write.

"Today I have no poems but I do have a new play in my head that is begging for release. But it is fishing time and also time to spend with my children. So the play sits somewhere inside of me and I will release it when I just cannot stop it from appearing onto paper.

"This is all good but most times for me it is both good and bad. I sometimes hate the fact that I can paint pictures on paper and tell of things that I both hate and love about myself. These cathartic episodes of creating take their toll on me. And after I am done I sit there quietly wondering what to do next so I get up and go and work on my fishing nets or I take my kids out somewhere or I light a smoke and cry a bit to myself. This passion of words inside of me is both a gift and a wondrous side equalled sometimes with the tragedy of who I was, am, and will become."

Having graduated in performing arts from Algonquin College, Dandurand studied theatre and direction at the University of Ottawa and has since produced plays at the Red Path Theater in Chicago, the Algonquin Theater in Connecticut, the Debajemejig Theater in Ontario and the Autry Theater in Los Angeles. Dandurand was Playwright-in-Residence for the Museum of Civilization in Hull in 1995, for Native Earth in Toronto in 1996, and for the National Arts Centre in Ottawa in 1998. His script, St. Mary's, was produced by CBC Radio in 1999. He published a play in 2004, Please Do Not Touch the Indians. These works have been followed by Th'owxiya: The Hungry Feast Dish (Playwrights Canada 2019 $17.95), a 50-minute play that teaches the Kwantlen First Nation lesson, When you take something from the earth you must always give something back. Th'owxiya in an old and powerful spirit that inhabits a feast dish of tempting, beautiful foods from around the world. Th'owxiya herself craves only the taste of children. When she catches a hungry mouse named Kw'atel stealing a piece of cheese from her dish, she threatens to devour Kw'atel's whole family, unless she can bring Th'owxiya two child spirits. Ignorant but desperate, Kw'atel sets out on an epic journey to fulfill the spirit's demands. With the help of a sqeweqs, two spa:th, and a sasq'ets, Kw'atel endeavours to find gifts that would appease Th'owxiya and save her family. The story emanates rrom the Kwantlen First Nation village of Squa'lets.

In 2019, Joseph Dandurand became Director of the Kwantlen Cultural Centre and also served as Indigenous Storyteller in Residence at Vancouver Public Library.

SH:LAM (The Doctor) tells the story of a medicine man who has the ability to heal others, but is himself a heroin addict. "This is the truth of what has happened to my people," he writes. "The Kwantlen people used to number in the thousands, but like all river tribes, eighty percent of our people were wiped out by smallpox and now there are only 200 of us. I believe the gift of words was given to me so I can retell our stories."

Dandurand's The Sasquatch, the Fire and the Cedar Baskets (Nightwood $14.95) is about a Sasquatch who eludes human hunters, falls in love, fathers a daughter and saves his family from a forest fire by dousing the flames with water stored in baskets carefully woven by his mate from cedar bark. Book illustrations are by Simon Daniel James from the Mamalilikulla/Kwicksutaineuk clans of the Kwakwaka’wakw nation.

The East Side of it All (Nightwood $18.95) draws on Dandurand's experiences as a drug user and single room occupant in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, and his healing through reconnection with his family and traditional Kwantlen storytelling.

Two young Indigenous sisters are sent to fish for a sturgeon thousands of years old with which to feed their village during the winter in Joseph Dandurand’s A Magical Sturgeon (Touchwood $15.95). But they neglect to follow their mother’s instructions to leave something for the river. By learning the importance of sharing and respecting all other living things, the sisters are saved.


A Magical Sturgeon (Nightwood, 2022) $15.95 9780889713901

The East Side of it All (Nightwood, 2020) $18.95 978-0889713802 (Poetry)

I Will Be Corrupted (Guernica, 2020) $20 9781771835060 (Poetry)

The Sasquatch, the Fire and the Cedar Baskets (Nightwood, 2020) $14.95 978-0-88971-376-5. Illustrations by Simon Daniel James.

SH:LAM (The Doctor) (Mawenzi House Publishers, 2019) $19.85 978-1-988449715

Th'owxiya: The Hungry Feast Dish (Playwrights Canada, 2019)

Hear and Foretell (Bookland Press, 2015) $16.95 978-1-926956-96-1; 2017, published in Cree: pihta ekwa wihta (Bookland, 2017) $16.95 978-1-77231-047-4

I Want (Leaf Press, 2015) $20 978-1-926655-79-6 (Poetry)

Please Do Not Touch the Indians (Renegade Press, 2004) (Play)

[BCBW 2022]