Soapbox Stories Presents – A Digital Bundle: Protecting and Promoting Indigenous Knowledge Online – A Book Review

“A Digital Bundle: Protecting and Promoting Indigenous Knowledge Online”
by Jennifer Wemigwans
Published by University of Regina Press
Reviewed by Ben Charles
C$29.95 ISBN: 9780889775510

“A Digital Bundle: Protecting and Promoting Indigenous Knowledge Online”, written by Jennifer Wemigwans and published by the U of R Press is an outstanding example of how the knowledge dissemination of revolutionary Indigenous research is done correctly. In the field of Indigenous research, technology is hardly discussed, especially in the context of Indigenous sovereignty to language and information. Wemigwans, an Anishnaabekwe woman from the Wikwemikong First Nation, the president of Invert Media, and an assistant professor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto challenges the reader to change this discourse and begin to evaluate how modern technology can be an invaluable asset to the retention of Traditional Knowledge.

The namesake of the book, the “Digital Bundle”, refers to Wemigwans online project www.FourDirectionsTeachings.com. This website was designed as an online tool to promote the Traditional Knowledge and worldviews of five distinct Indigenous Nations through the teachings of Elders and Traditional Teachers. These five nations include Blackfoot, Cree, Ojibwe, Mohawk, and M’ikmaq. If you were to go to the website, and I highly recommend that you do, you will find an interactive experience that will educate and inspire people of all ages. The website also contains a plethora of teaching resources and tools to increase its interactivity and keep people of all knowledge levels challenged and engaged. In the book, Wemigwans discusses the Digital Bundle including its inception, the Indigenous context in which it was created, and its implications on Storytelling, Traditional and non-traditional teaching, and decolonizing the internet. The book discusses much more, I am simply scratching the surface of the themes and sheer information discussed within. This is not only because of the vast amount of standard academic research that Wemigwans had utilized for this project, but also due to the significant consultation that Wemigwans had documented from Indigenous Elders, Knowledge Keepers, Traditional Teachers, Chiefs, artists, activists, and a wide-range of other Indigenous stakeholders with valuable Knowledge and worldviews. Quite frankly, it was very refreshing to read about an Indigenous research project that was both Indigenous-led and upheld Indigenous sovereignty and principles.

The internet is becoming a progressively more censored place. What was once a beacon of hope for the free exchange of knowledge and ideas is becoming riddled with threats to net-neutrality, corporate meddling, and the self-imposed censorships of echo-chambers found both on social media and in the deep pockets of obscure forums. Do Indigenous Ways have a place on the World Wide Web, or is the closing window of opportunity leaving only space for more misinformation and invincibility of Indigenous people? Wemigwans believes in the former, and after picking up a copy of this highly informative book so will you.

 

THIS BOOK IS AVAILABLE AT YOUR LOCAL BOOKSTORE OR FROM WWW.SKBOOKS.COM

 

 

 

Gonna

I’m gonna,
you’ll see.
That’s all that I’m gonna,
because gonna is easy.

I don’t need to be bogged down by goals,
I just need a dream,
I don’t need the sum of a whole,
I just need parts of a ream. 

Why can’t the haters appreciate what I’m gonna do?
Why are they so selfish to only care about what I’ve done?
Why can’t they look to the future,
to see my time in the sun?

You’re gonna be sorry that you doubted me,
when I do what I’m gonna do.
I’m gonna be rich, successful, and happy
while you’re gonna be blue

Day-to-day with head in the clouds
as high as I’m gonna be.
While you’re down there on the ground,
planting those tiny little seeds.

Someday, it’s gonna happen.
Someday, my dreams will come true.
Someday, I will.
Someday.

Worth

You know that you have to hustle and network
to increase your net-worth.

To be in the black
you must first be in the red,

you need to be behind,
in order to get ahead.

Paying loans with loans
for things we don’t even own.

Like AC/DC, Money Talks,
but nobody told me that it never stops.

We buy and buy,
and just get by.

We always ask how,
and never ask why.

We always know our checks and balances,
it is the center of our Earth.
We always know our deals and debts,
but we rarely know our worth.

Time To Write

Time to write,
after a shower and a bite.

But then again,
I should first clean my den.

Ok, that’s done.
I have to sit down, write a ton.

But wait,
I got time to masturbate.

Sorry for the TMI,
I really shouldn’t – I gotta write my “Life of Pi”.

Is that movie on Youtube?
I better be sure, I best not assume.

Enough dicking around.
Time to sit down.

I have my tea, I have the motivation.
I have to check my 6 New Notifications.

Is there no one who can see my plight?
When will I ever find time to write?

Soapbox Stories Presents: Second Cousin Once Removed – A Book Review

“Second Cousin Once Removed”
by Bryna Barclay
Published by Burton House Books
Reviewed by Ben Charles
C$20.00
ISBN: 9780994866943

“Second Cousin Once Removed”, written by Byrna Barclay and published by Burton House Books is an incredibly graceful read and a testament to the pure talent of this Saskatchewan author. The novel is a sequel to “House of the White Elephant”, which in itself was a critically acclaimed novel and the winner of the Whistler/Tidewater Award for Best Fiction in 2016. My estimate is that the sequel will draw equal acclaim, as it is a masterfully written historical fiction brimming with Saskatchewan culture, driven by an intelligent plot and an engrossing narrative.

The story follows Jesse Emma Burtonwood, a woman of East Indian descent living in Prince Albert, SK, and is in the midst of mourning the loss of her husband. The story begins in 1953 and follows Jesse as she traverses life in Canada, and forms a relationship with John George Diefenbaker during this tumultuous time in both her life and in Canadian politics. Much of the story also follows Jesse’s granddaughter, Annika Robin, a woman living in Saskatoon, SK. Throughout the story, Barclay masterfully crafts both of these characters in such a way that is wonderfully unique, yet easy to follow. As Jesse and Annika face challenges such as prejudices commonly held in Canada during the time period and constrictive traditions for women living in a new era, the reader can vividly feel their frustrations, emotions, and insecurities in a tangible way. That is not to say that Barclay’s novel is doom and gloom, as the book has a rather eccentric tone, it reminded me of “Still Life with Woodpecker” by Tom Robbins in some places.  At other times, it felt as if I were reading soulful poetry or song lyrics during the course of this novel. This held especially true in my mind during the segments in which Annika and her distant lover exchange letters, not only were the letters exquisitely written, but the narratives that unfold from them tell a story within themselves.

Not only is this novel a perfect guide to how descriptive writing should be done but is also a total time capsule of the period that it is set in. If you or someone that you know is a fan of Saskatchewan history or culture, I would argue that this book is worth the read just for that aspect alone. Everything from the locations and careers of the characters to the brands and even some of the slang are used naturally in this novel. The references all feel like they belong in the plot, and not as if they are shoehorned in just for the sake of having them.

In conclusion, Bryna Barclay proves once again why she is the acclaimed Saskatchewan author that she is. Jesse Emma and Annika Robin are complete delights as characters, crafted in the rarity that is such a unique story built in a familiar setting. This novel is truly a work of art.

THIS BOOK IS AVAILABLE AT YOUR LOCAL BOOKSTORE OR FROM WWW.SKBOOKS.COM

If That Was Your Best

If that was your best,
your best won’t do.

I’ve drank the dirtiest waters,
seen the lowest trenches.
Been cast out by the sisters and daughters,
and cast out by the wenches.
But I found me a girl,
a woman,
a friend.
Found the other part of me,
my beginning and end.

If that was your best,
your best won’t do.

I’ve been hooked on the tar, the smoke, the booze, and the toke.
I’ve done things to get them that I’m ashamed to admit,
I’ve chosen my people, outside the offsale and an inside a familial joke.
I’ve spent life as a quitter, but just could not quit.
But from the ashtray I rose,
When no one cared or supposed,
I now see life from the other side,
I see myself in the red eyes of bar-flies.
As the Bud Light Gallery grabs their 7th can,
and gossips about what a loser I am.

If that was your best,
your best won’t do.

Depression is not an Instagram post
of Lana Del Ray smoking a Marlboro Red,
depression is dirty clothes, a bedroom beyond repair, and a stained bed.
It is when everyone gives up on you. You are lost.
Your best nearly best nearly bested me,
My life was tedious as an old joke,
My life took an arrow to the knee.
But I am still here,
and am here to stay.
I will survive, I will thrive,
I will do what they say is impossible,
Like Goldblum’s female dinosaurs, I will find a way.
Nothing can hold me back,
especially not the word, “can’t”.

If that was your best,
your best won’t do.