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

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).


"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

Born as Marguerite Aline Carter on July 2, 1950, Lee Maracle, of Salish and Cree ancestry, was a member of the Sto:lo First Nation. Lee was a nickname derived from Aline. Her father was Bob George, and therefore she was the granddaughter of the Oscar-nominated actor Tsleil-Waututh Chief Dan George, but her father did not acknowledge paternity until she was an adult. She grew up with a stepfather, Phillip Carter, and was mainly raised by her mother, Jean (Croutze) Carter, a nurse and social worker, on the North Shore mud flats about two miles east of Second Narrows Bridge. Maracle wrote that her mother 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 but she left formal education in grade eight.

Two of her most formative influences were the elders Andrew Paull, a North Shore elder and intellectual, and Chief August Jack Khatsahlano. In her story 'Goodbye Snauq' which appeared in West Coast Line in 2008, Lee Maracle also recalled 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 wrote, "Khahtsahlano dreamed of being buried at Snauq. I dream of living here."

Self-described as the most published Indigenous woman author in the country, Maracle was one of the first Indigenous writers in Canada to publish fiction. (Mourning Dove much preceded here.) 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."

She was married twice, first to Raymond Bobb in the 1970s and to Dennis Maracle in the early 1980s. She had two daughters from her first marriage, Columpa Bobb and Tania Carter; and a stepson from her second marriage, Jaret Maracle. I Am Woman (1988) was first published by Dennis Maracle. Including poetry and photos of loved ones, it describes Maracle's struggle to "climb the mountain of racism." Dennis Maracle also published her little-known collection of poems, Seeds. In 1990, Maracle's monograph from Gallerie Publications explained her resistance to European academic models. She co-edited the proceedings of a 1988 conference, Telling It: Women and language Across Cultures (Press Gang 1994) and released her first compilation of stories, Sojourner's Truth (1992). Her 1992 essay for Vancouver's Step magazine entitled "Goodbye Columbus" recalled her Métis mother.

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 Sto:lo boys who are becoming men. Other titles included Sojourners & Sundogs (1999), Bent Box (2000) and Daughters Are Forever (2002), 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 Nation 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 in 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."

Maracle turned her oratory into essays for Memory Serves (NeWest Press 2015), edited by Smaro Kamboureli. "Canadians must come out of the fort," she urged, "and imagine something beyond the colonial condition -- beyond violence, rape and the notions of dirty people." Maracle claimed that indigenous people do not control the intellectual maps that determine the worthiness of story. Maracle's novel Celia's Song (Cormorant, 2014) was later shortlisted for the 2020 Neustadt International Prize for Literature

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 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. Maracle was the mother of four children including actor Columpa Bobb who appeared in a production of The Ecstasy of Rita Joe at the Firehall Theatre in 1992.

"If you are Aboriginal," Lee Maracle once 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."

In 2017, Lee Maracle accepted the Order of Canada, when she was lauded as “one of the most influential Indigenous voices in Canada’s literary landscape.”

Having recently returned to British Columbia from Toronto to accept a teaching position at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Lee Maracle died in Surrey of heart failure complications at age 71 on November 11, 2021. An obituary article appeared in the New York Times.


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) $18.95 978-1-894778-95-4 [short stories]
Celia's Song (Cormorant, 2014) $20 978-1770864511 [novel]
Memory Serves: Oratories (NeWest Press, 2015) $24.95 978-926455-44-0. Edited by Smaro Kamboureli
My Conversations With Canadians (Book*hug, 2017) $20 978-1771663588

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.
Maracle, Lee with Columpa Bobb and Tania Carter, Hope Matters (Book*hug, 2019) $18 978-1771664974. [Poetry]

[Alan Twigg / BCBW 2021]

Lee Maracle with mentee author Waubgeshig Rice.