i was not born into winnipeg and thus, while i have been here for many many years, i am not yet good at parties where various geographies are played out that begin with “remember when” and “do you know what happened to?” i arrived here having traveled a bit of an arc. born in sault ste. marie, ontario (the lands of four perfect seasons and the st. mary’s river which is and will always be magic for me), i went to universities at western and calgary, before finishing off at manitoba.
in the midst of that circuit, i lived on fisher river reserve in the manitoba’s interlake for ten years and learned a great deal. first and foremost, i learned that i would never be a very good elementary, junior, or senior high public school, language arts teacher though i was a very hard try- er. i also learned, however, that i could live and learn by looking and listening on the reserve which re-set the course of my understanding of mostly everything i subsequently do and think about. ironically, this development meant that i would spend seven years travelling back and forth from fisher river to winnipeg to do a doctorate in english literature, sometimes with babies on board, sometimes without. i use ironic here, because while i no longer taught in fisher river school, my life on the reserve taught me how i could bring a sense of difference and differently—justice denied, history misrepresented, education misdirected, peoples silenced, land rights wronged—into every space i might inhabit or co-create in any university setting. i spent the next 30 years or so in those settings co-learning in courses, committees, projects, actions, and imaginings.
having now retired from the university of winnipeg’s department of english, i find myself ongoing, creating in new media, and for the very first time, grandmother to the most thrilling sybil inez. i return to my opening reference to my arrival in manitoba years ago. whenever anyone said they were going to “the lake,” i wondered “which one” for i came from water bodies that had very specific names like pancake bay and blind river. to this day, i demand to know what the hell peculiar part of any lake is being cast onto the shore of any conversation, though i respect the fact manitoba has lakes and often very big ones. it is understood that my two grown, manitoba-born sons— one of whom is daddy to the brand-new, manitoba-made and thrilling sybil inez—are far more literate about “the lake” and what happened to? than i shall ever be. in this, i remain bested as any mother hopes she might be by her offspring.