Sunday, May 20

Mi’kmaq poet Rita Joe 1932 - 2007

Many great women have passed in recent months: Callwood, Anderson and Wilson.

Another great, Rita Joe, died March 2007 at age 75. She was known as the poet laureate of the Mi'kmaq nation for her powerful portrayal of Canadian natives. A quiet force who took up the pen to challenge stereotypes about aboriginals, Rita Joe became an icon for a people she felt were widely misunderstood.

Rita Joe helped to spearhead aboriginal intellectual resistance to the announced plans of the federal (settler) government to assimilate First Nations peoples. She did so with her pen. In her poetry, she documented the unfulfilled — but unforgotten — dreams of empowerment, the reality of continued oppression, and the beauties of recovered history and culture.

Her first book, The Poems of Rita Joe, appeared in 1978, and established her trademark subversive subtlety, gentleness, reverence, and religious resolve — to stimulate respect for aboriginal peoples, endorse traditions and languages, and bend the English language to accept earthen philosophy and the truly native tongue.

Certainly, she was one of the harbingers of the new wave of ‘original’ Canadian voices, simultaneously enriching our culture and naming the unsettled injustices that yet require redress.

Joe heard the voice of the wind; she gave voice to fire.

I was only a housewife with a dream to bring laughter to the sad eyes of my people and trusting the anchor we live by to complete the woven tale we are still telling. Quoted from the back cover of her recent book, We Are the Dreamers.

LINK: Tribute to Dr. Rita Joe
LINK: CBC Tribute
LINK: Halifax Chronicle

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