Field Notes from a Fulbright Scholar: In Kahnawà:ke Territory

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 Cam Terwilliger is a Fulbright Scholar at McGill University, working on a project titled Yet Wilderness Grew in My Heart, a historical novel set in New York and Québec during the Seven Years War. His fiction has appeared in a variety of publications, such as West Branch,Post Road, and Narrative, where he was selected as one of the magazine’s “15 Under 30.” He tweets at @CamTerwilliger.
This article first appeared on Electric Litand is reprinted here with permission.

Seeing into the Past at the SPIE 2014 Conference

My name is Patrick McGarey and I am a Fulbright Canada STEM Scholar (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) studying space robotics at the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies. It was my pleasure to be invited to present a poster/paper at the SPIE 2014 Conference  (International Society for Optics and Photonics) in Montreal this week. I presented a recent publication entitled  “A 16 Channel Flex Circuit for Cryogenic Microwave Signal Transmission”, which introduces a new and  improved method to transmit multiple high frequency signals from a telescope sensor array that is both flexible and small.

Fulbright Canada - STEM
Fulbright Canada – STEM

Essentially, using an instrument like this, we can get higher resolution images of interstellar gas clouds radiating in the radio frequency. These celestial remnants offer clues to the origin of matter in the universe moments after the big bang and prior to the star forming period. In a way, a telescope is a time machine that allows us to peer back in time billions of years. My circuit design improves upon prior methods of connecting camera components which were costly in both time and money.

Presenting my poster at SPIE 2014
Presenting my poster at SPIE 2014

Montreal was the perfect host city for the biennial event, and after talking about space all day it was relaxing to partake in the sights and sounds of the world famous Montreal Jazz Festival. Of course, I have to thank Fulbright Canada for the continuing opportunity to collaborate internationally with top researchers from Canada and around the world.

 

 

 

Post by Patrick McGarey, 2013-2016 Fulbright Canada Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Scholar

Patrick McGarey graduated summa cum laude from the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University. His focus concerned the development of interdisciplinary solutions to complex systems design problems, especially in robotics. Patrick has made significant contributions to many projects including the ASU Lunabotics Mining Rover, High Altitude Turbine Survey, Stereo Near-Infrared Camera, Exploration Geology & Geophysics Sensors, and the Kilopixel-Array Pathfinder Project.

 

Experience Beyond the Veil of the Sorrow Songs – A Multimedia Production Workshop by Fulbrighter Quanda Johnson.

Culminating discoveries made exploring Eastern Canadian culture (i.e. Atlantic Canada and Quebec), and specifically, African-Nova Scotians as they define themselves, and are defined by the greater Nova Scotia community, it chronicles escaped slaves’ journeys to Eastern Canada via the Underground Railroad.

As a catalyst, this history stimulated community discussion on race and diversity challenges in Nova Scotia, during the past, and currently.  The entire event was dedicated to Aiden Cromwell, a young African Nova Scotian facing a ten year second degree murder sentence for defending himself against a racist onslaught while he, aged eighteen, and his girlfriend were on a date.

 Bound, by Quanda Johnson

The workshop occurred in two parts, over three weeks.  In the first week, the community took part in a series of panels, Beyond the Veil of the Sorrow Songs: Symposium.  These panels were facilitated by local experts/scholars/talent: The Fugitive Slave Narrative – Dr. Afua Cooper (sociologist and African Diaspora expert), Dr. Isaac Saney (Historian), Dr. Chike Jeffers (expert in DuBoisian Philosophy); Dr. Afua Cooper ; The Lucky One Returns

Of the Sorrow Songs (an intimate look at the Negro Spiritual) — Delvina Bernard (Musical Artist, Composer, Singer), Dr. Linda Carvery (Gospel/Jazz Artist); My Ways Cloudy

Speaking Truth to Power – El Jones (Poet Laureate of Halifax), Dr. Phanuel Antwi, Juanita Peters, Dr. Afua Cooper; El Jones Swing Low

The Art of African Drumming – Dr. Henry V. Bishop (Master African Drummer), D’Arcy Gray (expert in African Diaspora Drumming, Toria Aidoo (Ghanaian Drummer); African Drumming

What is Fiddling? (an exploration of Scots/Irish Fiddling and its importance in the dominate European culture of Eastern Canada) – Shari Clarke (classically trained violinist and fiddler), Scott MacMillan (guitarist traditionally accompanying fiddlers), David Mac Isaac (Master Cape Breton Style Fiddler);  Dress Rehearsal 1

Dancing in the Spirit (examining dance in the African Diaspora tradition – as worship, expression, communication) – Liliona Quarmyne (choreographer/modern dancer), Jayla James (sixteen year old African-Nova Scotian dancer); I Paint My Soul  (focused on Media/Visual Arts in relation to the challenges of racism and dealing with diversity) – Dr. Sylvia Hamilton (documentary filmmaker/media artist), David Clark (Professor of Media Arts NSCAD/ head of Media team for Beyond the Veil of the Sorrow Songs), Sobaz Benjamin (filmmaker/media artist exploring the African Diaspora), Craig Baltzer (Master Visual Artist and Painter – specialization architecture and genealogy); The Sum of It All (taking the lessons of the creative and performance arts into the broader community to address moving beyond tolerance to a place of compassion and a closer look at the travesty of Africville) – Kimberley Berry (expert Social Worker), Sunday Miller (curator of the Africville Museum/Activist), Eddie Carvery (warrior activist for Africville – as lived on the confiscated property in a trailer for forty-five years, since its demolition).

The following two weeks consisted of performance.  Our closing presentation at Alderney Landing Theatre was immediately followed by a reception to which the entire community was invited to break bread together and discuss the impact/content of the concert and symposium, with the visual artists placing the art they created, during the concert, on display.  These works were then given to whomever in the community first showed interest in owning them.

 My Lawd, What a Morning

Beyond the Veil of the Sorrow Songs was successfully presented at both the Dalhousie Arts Centre, Murray Studio, May 12 – 24, 2014 and at the Alderney Landing Theatre, Friday, May 30, in Dartmouth.

The project was supported by the Fulbright Canada-U.S. Embassy in Ottawa Community Leadership Program. Project participants included Fulbrighters Quanda Johnson, James McNiven, and Cambria findley-Grubb.

Rural Studies and Fighting Littering: CLUB ERV Begins!

by

D. Stiles, T. Amero, N. Amin, B. Hodgson, C. Jackson, O. Moyles,

J. Nicholson, V. Oliver, S. Raithby, L. Ross,  E. Walker, A. Webster,

Y. Werner, J. Yool, and Z. Zhang

Introduction

CLUB ERV (Changing Littering’s Unkind Behaviour in the East River Valley) began as a way to protect the beauty of the East River Valley (ERV) of Pictou County, Nova Scotia.  CLUB ERV, organized by Fulbrighter and Eco-Leader Deborah Stiles, and supported by students in the Faculty of Agriculture at Dalhousie University, aims to find ways to address the problem of littering in this beautiful river valley.

Rural Studies and Fighting Littering – CLUB ERV Begins!

Littering has become a serious problem. Identifying littering as an “Unkind Behaviour” highlighted the act’s negative impact and raised several questions. How do we start thinking about how to change the behaviour that causes littering to happen?  Why do people litter?  How much of littering is accidental and how much is intentional?  What most often ends up as litter?  What types of anti-littering interventions work?  What research has been done on the issue of littering and behavioural change? How can we go beyond cleanup and focus on prevention?

As students from Dalhousie University’s Faculty of Agriculture, we wanted to find answers that could guide decision-making and prevent the continued defacement of the East River Valley. A Rural Studies course with a service learning project component provided the impetus to get involved in CLUB ERV. The project aimed to help the communities of the East River Valley with a litter pick up and analysis.  The Litter Pick Up Project (LPUP) Day, as it was dubbed, took place on May 10th, 2014.

Students and volunteers arrived by bus at Sunny Brae, in the East River Valley of Nova Scotia.  While the day may have been gray, the CLUB ERV group’s enthusiasm was infectious! Seen here, from left to right, are Victoria Oliver, Yvonne Werner, and Lindsey Ross.
Students and volunteers arrived by bus at Sunny Brae, in the East River Valley of Nova Scotia. While the day may have been gray, the CLUB ERV group’s enthusiasm was infectious! Seen here, from left to right, are Victoria Oliver, Yvonne Werner, and Lindsey Ross.

Two teams scoured the East River on the Litter Pick Up Project Day. One team took the East Side Road, and the other took the West Side Road. The two teams covered a distance of approximately 18 kilometers, from Sunny Brae to Springville.

ELP_Stiles_2
After a hearty locally-sourced breakfast that included blueberry muffins with blueberries produced right in this valley (prepared by Sunny Brae resident Carole Robinson and other volunteers), the whole crew suited up in safety vests for the litter pick up and analysis. Although it was May, the wind was chilly and the group had to wear gloves, mittens, and toques in order to stay warm! The students, an engaged and diverse group that hail from four continents (Africa, Asia, Europe, North America), are in several different programs in the Faculty of Agriculture at Dalhousie University.

At the same time, a third team began the litter sorting and composition analysis.  This rather painstaking process took place first on the gravel driveway at the Bridgeville Hall and later at the East River Valley Volunteer Fire Station, when the winds proved too fierce to sort the litter outside.  This group analyzed the contents of what was picked up that day and what had been picked up by Stiles in a sample section of the East River East Side Road during Pictou County’s annual Get Clean Go Green campaign on April 26th.

Kevin Stuart (right) is the chief of the East River Valley volunteer fire department.  He quickly sprang into action and cleared out one bay so that the litter analysis could continue when high winds forced the volunteers inside.  George Durning (pictured left) assisted the students by driving the 18 kilometer loop and picked up the bags of collected litter.
Kevin Stuart (right) is the chief of the East River Valley volunteer fire department. He quickly sprang into action and cleared out one bay so that the litter analysis could continue when high winds forced the volunteers inside. George Durning (pictured left) assisted the students by driving the 18 kilometer loop and picked up the bags of collected litter.

All the litter was taken to Pictou County Solid Waste Management, where it was weighed and disposed of.  Over 70 kilograms had been picked up by the group on May 10th. The most prevalent single item? Coffee cups from a certain iconic coffee shop. They have been contacted.  (A second article is currently being drafted that will report more comprehensively on the results of the litter pick up and analysis).

Although questions asked about how to stop littering have not yet been addressed, what can definitely be acknowledged is that the littering is unkind to ‘Mother Nature.’ Littering harms humans, animals, and the broader environment in numerous ways. It also poses a serious obstacle for tourism, for the area’s economy, for the declining rural population, and for facilitating the general enjoyment of all who work, relax, or live in the rural ERV communities.

The East River Valley (ERV) of Pictou County, Nova Scotia, is a picturesque farming and lumbering community made up of the communities of Bridgeville, Centredale, Churchville, Elgin, Eureka, Foxbrook, Glencoe, Hopewell, Irish Mountain, Iron Rock, Lorne, Marshdale, Mountville, Millstream, Plymouth, Island East River, Riverton, St. Paul’s, Springville, and Sunnybrae.  Here is the sign for Glencoe/Gleann Comhann (all signs in Pictou County are in both English and Gaelic).
The East River Valley (ERV) of Pictou County, Nova Scotia, is a picturesque farming and lumbering community made up of the communities of Bridgeville, Centredale, Churchville, Elgin, Eureka, Foxbrook, Glencoe, Hopewell, Irish Mountain, Iron Rock, Lorne, Marshdale, Mountville, Millstream, Plymouth, Island East River, Riverton, St. Paul’s, Springville, and Sunnybrae. Here is the sign for Glencoe/Gleann Comhann (all signs in Pictou County are in both English and Gaelic).

 

The East River in early spring.
The East River in early spring.

Project Followup

Roadside littering and illegal rural dumping have re-emerged as serious issues facing rural communities.  Kenneth Tunnell notes in an article in Southern Rural Sociology (2008:31-32) that, “600 miles of Kentucky’s roads showed…950 cans and bottles had been discarded per road mile” and that a “cruel irony is that a roadside cleaned up today will require cleaning up again tomorrow.” Despite the fact that there are robust waste management, bottle deposit, and recycling programs in Nova Scotia, roadside littering, as in other rural jurisdictions like Kentucky, continues to cause “social, economic, and environmental harm” (32).

This has to stop! An astonishing 70 kilograms of trash was picked up by the CLUB ERV volunteers. Student Jena Nicholson captured a particularly distressing sight of what goes beyond littering to illegal rural dumping. The group was surprised to note the amount of household waste comprising what they found.
This has to stop! An astonishing 70 kilograms of trash was picked up by the CLUB ERV volunteers. Student Jena Nicholson captured a particularly distressing sight of what goes beyond littering to illegal rural dumping. The group was surprised to note the amount of household waste comprising what they found.

On the CLUB ERV blog www.nomorelittering.wordpress.com, Brenda commented, “I thought this  was overcome in the seventies!!” Since that time, an environmental movement has raised awareness of the ecological limits humanity had hitherto been prone to ignore, and several problems such as pesticide mis-use and littering have begun to be addressed.  Many spaces—parks, forests, farmlands, beaches, and river banks have been cleaned up.  Yet, the issue of littering and its related menace, rural dumping, have remained.

The CLUB ERV’s rather unique education, research, and action effort is not quite complete. After the litter pick up day, we shared our experiences with members of the East River Valley Community Development Association (ERVCDA) at an ERVCDA sponsored evening forum.  While the hope is to eventually provide a model for future anti-littering campaigns, connect with Adopt-A-Highway and other key initiatives working to eliminate littering, the first step is a plan to engage the community further.

The students and organizations involved in the litter pick up day have been asked by a member of the government to make a presentation to the county council. The group will continue to post reflections and ideas via the CLUB ERV blog at www.nomorelittering.com, and the results of the litter pick up analysis conducted by the Dalhousie Rural Studies students will be shared via social media and other means over the coming months.

 

History of the Eco-Leadership Project:

CLUB ERV is the somewhat unusual acronym devised by Stiles for this initiative after consulting with a number of the youth organization leaders in the East River Valley. Donna Wilson, another leader of one of the youth organizations in the East River Valley, reflected that the challenge was to change adult behaviour – but starting with young people in order to do this.  An application was made for funds from the Fulbright Canada-RBC Eco-Leadership Program to launch the initiative, and the plan was put into motion to involve youth, of all ages, from both the East River Valley, and the Dalhousie University Faculty of Agriculture. Youth were being looked to and listened to, and the focus was on trying to have an impact on the behaviour of the group that was most likely littering:  adults.

Blog courtesy of D. Stiles, T. Amero, N. Amin, B. Hodgson, C. Jackson, O. Moyles, J. Nicholson, V. Oliver, S. Raithby, L. Ross,  E. Walker, A. Webster, and Y. Werner, J. Yool, and Z. Zhang

Works Cited

Tunnell, Kenneth D.  2008.  “Illegal Dumping: Large and Small Scale Littering in Rural Kentucky.  Southern Rural Sociology 23, no. 2: 29-42.  http://www.ag.auburn.edu/auxiliary/srsa/pages/TOCs/vol23-2.htm.

Fulbright Program wins Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation

The Fulbright Program was announced as the winner of the 2014 Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation on June 12th. The program was deemed to have provided an outstanding contribution to universal education at an international level.

In an interview with Euronews, Jury chairman Gustavo Suárez Pertierra explained why the panel of 17 judges had selected the Fulbright Program. “The jury praised the international nature of the program, their willingness to improve the overall education of our youth by providing access to academic excellence, and the ability to engage civil society in each of the nations in which it is implanted,” he announced.

Established in 1946 by U.S. Senator James William Fulbright, the Program is currently operating in 155 countries and grants over 8,000 scholarships each year. The program has enabled individuals to conduct research, lecture, or enroll in formal academic programs abroad. This exchange aims to increase mutual understanding by growing intellectual capacity, increasing productivity, and assisting in the shaping of future leaders.

In its more than 65 years of existence, the program has grown to include over 300,000 alumni. 53 Fulbright alumni have gone on to win Nobel Prizes and 80 have won Pulitzer Prizes.

The Fulbright Program partners with foreign governments and the global higher education community. John Kerry, Secretary of State of The United States of America said that “it a model of international cooperation, connecting people and ideas across the United States and 155 countries. It thrives thanks to the dedication of the Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, and Bilateral Commissions and U.S. Embassies around the world”.

“Fulbright Canada has been an integral part of the worldwide Fulbright program for nearly 25 years”, noted Michael K. Hawes, Executive Director of Fulbright Canada. “As a Fulbright alumnus myself, I recognize and appreciate the value of educational exchange and the truly transformative nature of the Fulbright program. This award honors all those whose ideas and actions reflect the values and priorities of Senator Fulbright, and whose leadership and accomplishments have resulted in significant benefits for the citizens of Canada, the United States, and beyond.”

This is the 34th year of the Prince of Asturias Awards, held in Oviedo, the capital of the Asturias region in northern Spain.

The awards ceremony will take place in October 2014.

The Rumpus Interview with Joseph Boyden

by BY , 2013-14 Fulbright Student
June 10th, 2014

josephboyden
Joseph Boyden, Photo by Kevin Kelly

I never encountered Joseph Boyden’s writing until I moved to Montreal last fall on a Fulbright fellowship. Anytime people here learned that I was at work on a historical novel involving the Native people of Canada, they immediately insisted that I read Boyden, painting him as one of the literary treasures of the country. After I read a few of his books, it wasn’t hard to see why. Of Ojibway and European descent, Boyden is one of the few authors that can spin a heartbreaking yarn at the same time that he pushes his language into lyrical and unfamiliar terrain. In Canada, Boyden is well known for his first novel, Three Day Road, a book about a pair of Cree snipers in the Canadian army during World War I. A few years later, his second novel, Through Black Spruce, tackled contemporary Cree life, following a former bush pilot named Will and his niece, Annie—a story that earned Canada’s version of the Pulitzer, the Giller Prize.

Though Boyden’s most recent novel, The Orenda, only recently hit shelves in the United States, it has been the subject of constant discussion in Canada since it was published here in September. The book dramatizes the story of the Wendat people (also known as the Huron), as they form an uneasy alliance with the French colonists of Quebec against their age-old enemies, the Iroquois, the confederacy of five indigenous nations spanning the area that is now New York state. Lauded by Canadian critics, The Orenda has been nominated for a number of prestigious prizes and taken home CBC’s coveted Canada Reads Award (a charming event where celebrities vigorously argue the merits of five books published that year). Though The Orenda met with overwhelming success, there were also a few critics that raised objections to the book—in particular its depiction of ceremonial torture conducted by Native people.

After reviewing the book for The Rumpus (forthcoming in the books section this month), I was so intrigued by The Orenda and its reception that I contacted Boyden’s publicist to setup an interview as well. In early May, I reached him by phone at his home in New Orleans, a city he lovingly refers to as “a banana republic.”

***

The Rumpus: Like your previous books, The Orenda engages with the struggles of Native people. However, your earlier work took place during much more recent time periods. So what brought you to the subject of the 1600s, which many readers may see as quite distant and perhaps not relevant to today’s world?

bw-books0523

Joseph Boyden: Well it certainly is a distant time. It was before there was a Canada or United States. I’m fascinated by North American history, and I grew up where much of the novel plays out—in the Georgian Bay area. Being a mixed-blood person of Ojibway and European ancestry, I always found that I only heard one side of the story—that was the conquerers’ side, the side of the French Jesuit missionaries that came to live in what is now Ontario. I was actually educated at a Jesuit high school called Jean de Brébeuf so I knew all about the Jesuits who were—as the Catholics call it—“martyred” by Native people. But I’d rarely heard my mother’s side of the story, her people’s side of the story. And to me, that is in many ways more fascinating.

There were incredibly complex societies already existing in North America long before Europeans arrived. So many people think that before European contact it was just Natives huddling around a fire, waiting for civilization to come save them. But that was not the case. I really wanted to explore that side of things, and in order to do that I had to go back to the 1600s.

Rumpus: Did you view this book as an extension of your earlier work? Or do you feel it’s more of a departure?

Boyden: Somebody said that it was a “spiritual precursor” of my other novels, and I really liked that. I think that’s a very elegant way to put it, although not necessarily a way I would have thought about it myself. But the book is certainly a precursor. You see where my characters in novels from later time periods come from. These are their great-grandparents, great-great-grandparents in some cases. And so I certainly look at it as related. Eventually it will be part of a five-novel quintet. I originally planned for Three Day Road and Through Black Spruce to be the first two books in a trilogy. And now The Orenda will the be the bookend of that trilogy, and there will be one other bookend—a companion novel to The Orenda, which will complete the five-book cycle that I see developing.

Rumpus: The mechanics of The Orenda are distinct in that the book repeatedly cycles through three points of view. We have Bird, the Huron chief; Christophe, the Jesuit priest; and Snow Falls, the Haudenosaunee girl taken captive by Bird at the beginning of the novel. Could you address how you came to use those three? Was it difficult to balance them?

Boyden: The balancing was interesting. It wasn’t as difficult as one might imagine. It gets a little bit complex, but it’s really fun when you have three characters, when you have a trinity, because there’s going to be constantly the ganging up and the switching of alliances—the two-against-one kind of scenario. The back and forth of that makes for some really fun conflict and good tension for a fiction writer. Also, on a simple level, in the region that I wanted to cover there were three different cultures in conflict: the Huron as represented by Bird, the Europeans as represented by the Jesuit Christophe, and the Haudenosaunee (or the Iroquois) as represented by Snow Falls. So it was an interesting way to look at three different cultures through very personalized and personified ways.

Rumpus: Many of the details in The Orenda are recognizable from The Jesuit Relations, the accounts that the Jesuit missionaries kept of their work in North America. I’m curious to hear about your relationship to doing research for this book. What kinds of sources were useful as you moved through the stages of the project?

Boyden: The Jesuit Relations played one part of it, but really only a very small part compared to my other research. The Orenda is a book that is part of my DNA. It’s a book that I’ve really thought about. I’ve been fascinated by the story all of my young and adult life. So the research has been long and pretty steady.

Elisabeth Tooker was very interesting. Bruce Trigger was very important. Conrad Heidenreich, as well as David Fischer, who wrote Champlain’s Dream. But what really opened my eyes was reading Georges Sioui. He’s a Wendat, a Huron scholar, and poet at the University of Ottawa. I thank him in the back of the book—as well as the others—but he’s somebody who is really amazing and became a personal friend. I realized that I had to go to him because I was writing about a people outside my own direct relations. So I went to him with tobacco. I flew up from New Orleans to Ottawa to nervously ask him, “Can I do this?” So that was a really big and helpful thing. He read many drafts and really walked me through the process. It was a huge gift.

Through Black SpruceAnd then I really became close with a guy named John Steckley. He’s an amazing professor and ethnographer and he’s almost single-handedly brought back the Wendat language. Everyone that I approached was helpful. Emma Anderson is another one at the University of Ottawa. As well as Allan Greer, a historian at McGill. I know Allan took some issues with the published novel in a small review he gave of it. But as a fiction writer, of course, you need to take some leeway with certain aspects of history to make the story work. The history needs to serve the story, not the story the history. But at the same time you can’t stray too far. And I don’t think I did stray too far.

So it was an amazing group of people. I found all the experts and approached them. And to my amazement and gratitude, every one of them read different drafts of the manuscript and gave me wonderful notes and commentary and their best wishes on it working.

Rumpus: Returning to the prose style of the book, I noticed that there’s a running theme of the narrators addressing someone as they relate the story. For example, Bird addresses his lost wife. Snow Falls addresses her lost father. And Christophe addresses his superior or—at times—Christ himself. Why did you choose to write in this mode?

Boyden: From a craft standpoint, telling a story in the first-person present tense over the course of 500 pages is a daunting challenge. I’ve always found that first-person narration can become really internalized and navel-gazing. It’s often overly introspective and refuses to open up. But I found that one wonderful device to address this problem was to give each of the narrators somebody to speak to, somebody that they’ve lost or who they are reaching out to. That gives a sense of purpose, a sense of mission to the first-person narration. In terms of the Jesuit missionary, Christophe, he’s unique, and he fits this technique especially well because he’s an outsider in the world of the novel. He’s feeling very, very isolated, and he must speak out to somebody or something to keep his sanity.

Rumpus: For the most part, The Orenda is very realist. However, there’s key moments when the spiritual world asserts itself, and the supernatural takes center stage. How did you balance those two modes?

Boyden: I’m fascinated by the magic realism used by many writers. I think it goes hand-in-hand with the Indian experience. It’s a very different way of viewing the world. For example, there’s the concept that dreams are as important—if not more important—than reality. The attention that one pays to those things in the shadows is very much a part of the Indian experience. I wanted to explore that, to step away from the Christian worldview that focuses on this guy dying, then coming back to life three days later. The beliefs of Native people are no less powerful or important just because they focus on a different “form of magic.”

Rumpus: Could you speak a little about the italicized interludes between each section of the book, which are told in the voice of an unspecified “we”? What kind of effect did you wish to elicit with those?

Boyden: I’m intrigued by the classic Greek tragedies, as well as by the idea of the Greek chorus. So I thought, Why can’t I do my own Native chorus? I picture those sections as being narrated by nervously departed souls as they watch the events of life from the sidelines, the things that their living counterparts are going through. That’s great drama. I thought it would be such a fun way to introduce things.

I had to fight for it, actually. One of my publishers was resistant, but I knew these sections were important in terms of setting a tone, allowing the reader to enter into a world that isn’t quite what you might expect. I think these voices were a welcoming, open, and honest way to set the scene. With this book, I loved starting it in media res, right in the middle of the action, and not explaining it. I never want to play down to the reader. I think readers are willing to go along if they’re intrigued, and I wanted to intrigue the readers with the italicized sections. But I also wanted to use them to make a statement. These sections have actually gotten me in trouble in some quarters with Native people. There’s a few scholars that object to how the italicized sections suggest that Native people are to take some part in the blame for how colonization occurred. But I say, “Yes they are.” Not nearly as much blame as the colonizers, of course. But we are not just victims. I hate this idea that we are all just victimized and oppressed and etcetera etcetera. It’s dehumanizing in its own way.

Rumpus: So are you thinking of the criticisms of The Orenda published by Hayden King (an Anishinaabe scholar at Ryerson University)?

Boyden: Yes, that was very interesting. I disagreed with ninety percent of what he had to say, however. The idea that Christophe is the main player in the novel simply isn’t true. And then he somehow came up with the idea that I only used The Jesuit Relations for my research. Where did that idea come from? Just because I went to a Jesuit high school? I understand the danger of just using one source, and The Jesuit Relations was just one small, small part of my research.

But otherwise he does make a valid suggestion, that the Haudenosaunee are made out to be the bad guys. And sadly, in some ways, they are in this novel. They’re the enemy. But, also, Snow Falls is a Haudenosaunee, and I think she’s the strongest character in the whole book. So she humanizes the Haudenosaunee people from her perspective. And this was a time of war, we have to remember. This is a novel about war as much as Three Day Road was.

Rumpus: Another item about The Orenda that has been debated at length by Canadian critics has been the scenes depicting torture conducted by Native people. It’s surprising in a way, considering all the violence in contemporary media already. Why do you think this incarnation of violence struck people as controversial?

three-day-roadBoyden: I was shocked! There’s more violence in one episode of Game of Thrones than there is in my whole novel. And yet people are like, “Oh my gosh. The violence is just out of this world.” There’s certainly violence, but if you look at the 500-page novel there’s maybe twenty pages devoted to scenes of torture. It’s a tiny part of the novel. I think people might have reacted the way they did because the threat of violence is always looming in the book. I think that puts people on edge.

But as for the actual violence itself, it’s a small part of the novel. It’s certainly there. It is a threat. But that’s the way it is during war, you know? I’m fascinated by the reaction in Canada, really. Whenever people say, “It’s so violent,” I want to ask, “Have you ever read a Cormac McCarthy novel?” Still, in The Orenda, none of the violence is gratuitous. I could have gone far, far further, but I soon realized that I didn’t need to.

Rumpus: From my experience living in Montreal, it seems there’s an enormous gulf between the USA and Canada—particularly when it comes to the understanding of our shared history. Even though we have much in common culturally, it’s like there’s an invisible wall between us. Do you find that’s true as well?

Boyden: Canada and America are very, very different. It’s true that we share a language and many customs. But Americans have a very different view of the world. I’m interested to see if Americans find this book horribly violent. America seems to celebrate its more violent past, but Canada doesn’t like to recognize those things. The willingness to accept the existence of violence separates our two countries. In Canada, this can be very strange. For example, during World War I the Canadians were the shock troops. In many historical cases, Canadians have been very proficient at killing, and doing what we have to in order to survive. But no one wants to acknowledge that fact. People will say that Canada, unlike America, was not birthed from violence. But I want to say, “What are you talking about?” It’s just not true.

So perhaps that’s why the issue of violence has been such a large part of the discussion ofThe Orenda among CanadiansIt’s interesting. Compared to Americans, Canadians are often more gentle in their approach to things. They’re much more apologetic. There’s less room for conflict.

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Featured image of Joseph Boyden © by Kevin Kelly.

Cam TerwillingerCam Terwilliger is a Fulbright Student at McGill University, working on a project titled Yet Wilderness Grew in My Heart, a historical novel set in New York and Québec during the Seven Years War. His fiction has appeared in a variety of publications, such as West Branch,Post Road, and Narrative, where he was selected as one of the magazine’s “15 Under 30.” He tweets at @CAMTERWILLIGER.

This article first appeared on The Rumpus, and is reprinted here with permission.