The past two years I’ve been doing this thing where I try to take personal photographs with more intent. I want my photos in my life to carry some meaning – just because we can snap 100 images in a minute doesn’t mean we should. I take the time to look through the lens, to check composure and lighting, to see what kind of mood I can capture my kids in, to try and slow down in this intimate process o capturing time. It works for me, and it gives me a solid collection to pick fro for sending out candid prints and to throw into our yearly photobooks (we get big year ones made by Blurb).

These are a few of my fave’s from throughout the year.

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It’s been a minute. I’ve been good. Busy. Is busy good? I don’t know, but it feels both good and busy, so I guess that’s something.

School is school. I’m struggling with the big ideas – how do we decolonize an inherently colonized institution? – and I’m struggling with the studies as memorization and regurgitation does not come easy to me. But my exams are set for end of January and I’m in review and update mode, so that explains a large part of my absence.

Writing has been amazing. The book launched. And it’s been a whirlwind of support and love and laughter and joy. I have some amazing images to share from our party launch – you know I never do anything halfway – and I have alllll the stories. Neechies are lovely, I adore us. And being published poet with my own collection is a dream come true. It kind of still surprises me that it’s real and here and something I can drag around – and I do, I bring it everywhere – and that people connect with it so strongly, but it’s here and I love it. I’m already working on a second collection, and thinking I should also enter some writing contests and such, get my writing out in other forms.

Photography has been hella busy. It kind of kills me that my art practices have taken off just as I need to get into solitude mode and study, and I’m finding the balance hard, but it’s a good problem to have. I travelled to Toronto/Guelph/Walpole Island/Whitehorse and Vancouver in the last few weeks, and all for photography and writing, and I am blessed beyond belief. This life of travel and art and kinship and laughter – it’s something that just makes my heart happy.

And Aerie – oh, Aerie. She is thriving. She spent the summer with her grandparents and I even had her Dad stay with us for a month to help me out while I was studying and working, ha. So she is surrounded by love and family and aunties and that’s all I ever wanted for her.

She is in Grade 1, is slowly learning to read, and likes math. She is still on again and off again with her sweetie from Daycare (I kid you not, they have been ‘dating’ since they were 4) and she is hilarious the way she talks about them. She still besties with Lily, and she still thinks every woman is an Auntie to her. She wants to go on a plane with me now, and she told me I can’t go anywhere without her again, ha.

So yeah, is good, is good. Longer update coming soon, try to throw some of my fave pics up, lots of adventures were had, but for now, back to work.

 

 

 

I cannot believe I got a book. This has been the dream since I was eleven. I wanted to be a writer or a ballerina.

Never mind I was living on the rez with no ballerina classes in sight.

But this is a dream come true – excuse the cliche – and I wanted to hella celebrate this. I know I was supposed to be humble as it ‘s only my first book but fuck that on so many levels. It took so much to even get here that I wanted to go big. We planned a big event at the Gordon Tootoosis Nīkānīwin Theatre. I had my cousin T-Rhyme host the night (as she is also the cover model) and my niece Dakota Ray Hebert graciously did an opening act for me (she’s hilarious). My other cousin Breanna photographed the event (my heart!) and I even had some raunchy macaroons custom made for me by Little Bird.

We had a packed house.

There was so much laughter and love that night. We grinned, blushed, read, giggled some more, and it was everything I wanted.

I am blessed.

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I’m heading to Vancouver early next month for the Converge Con, which is “a gathering about sexuality, relationships and activism; a place for conversations that inspire us to take action and effect change in our own communities.” And I’m pumped, I’m extremely excited. This is something that I never thought would happen – the whole presenting on my own, as a somewhat ‘expert’ (ha) – but that brought me into my favourite dilemma: what business card?

Stationary, to me, is hella important.

I have some amazing and beautiful cards for both my sweetmoon and tea&bannock sides – they are niche markets, and my cards reflect my branding on both. But after attending a few conferences and not having anything for myself as the academic (and now *blushing* as the writer), I knew this was something to have.

And this is fun for me, I’ma nerd that way. Branding is fun.

I made my way through my archives, and picked images that relaxed me, made me sigh with happiness, and made me grin. I used images from my northern Dene lands to the farm, on my Metis side. I wanted to represent. I used images from the fields overlooking the valley where I grew up, and I used a few from behind the scenes of secret sessions. Turns out I am thisclose to becoming a nature photographer.

I ordered from Moo, and they should be here by the end of the month. It was interesting to think about what I should put on there, as ‘labelling’ myself is awkward. Poet – yes, but I do more than that, I think. Storyteller was my first choice, but what I do isn’t traditional storytelling, and I didn’t want to confuse people. And ‘academic’ -well, I am somewhat of one, and will be done my comps (fingers crossed) and be a PhD Candidate by this time next month, so here’s hoping. And photographer… natch.

I’ve got my plane ticket, my hotel booked, a few creative sessions ready, and a few coffee dates set up. I work to keep my nose in Vancouver, as I hope to end up there again for a year or two after my PhD is done. It’s overwhelming to think of “when PhD is done” because for so long, this has been my goal, and now that I’m within years of it, I don’t know what now. Do I write more? Give that a go? Do I teach, see if I’m suited for that life? Do I a make sweetmoon a full time thing? Or do I keep doing what I’ve been doing, carving out my creativity when it suits, and making a living trekking out that way?

I have no answers. But I do have business cards.

Plot:

Part I: The Longhair

House Made of Dawn begins with the protagonist, Abel, returning to his reservation in New Mexico after fighting in World War II. The war has left him emotionally devastated and he arrives too drunk to recognize his grandfather, Francisco. Now an old man with a lame leg, Francisco had earlier been a respected hunter and participant in the village’s religious ceremonies. He raised Abel after the death of Abel’s mother and older brother, Vidal. Francisco instilled in Abel a sense of native traditions and values, but the war and other events severed Abel’s connections to that world of spiritual and physical wholeness and connectedness to the land and its people, a world known as a “house made of dawn.”

After arriving in the village, Abel attains a job through Father Olguin chopping wood for Angela St. John, a rich white woman who is visiting the area to bathe in the mineral waters. Angela seduces Abel to distract herself from her own unhappiness, but also because she senses an animal-like quality in Abel. She promises to help him leave the reservation to find better means of employment. Possibly as a result of this affair, Abel realizes that his return to the reservation has been unsuccessful. He no longer feels at home and he is confused. His turmoil becomes clearer when he is beaten in a game of horsemanship by a local albino Indian named Juan Reyes, described as “the white man.” Deciding Juan is a witch, Abel stabs him to death outside of a bar. Abel is then found guilty of murder and sent to jail.

Part II: The Priest of the Sun

Part II takes place in Los Angeles, California six and a half years later. Abel has been released from prison and unites with a local group of Indians. The leader of the group, Reverend John Big Bluff Tosamah, Priest of the Sun, teases Abel as a “longhair” who is unable to assimilate to the demands of the modern world. However, Abel befriends a man named Ben Benally from a reservation in New Mexico and develops an intimate relationship with Milly, a kind, blonde social worker. However, his overall situation has not improved and Abel ends up drunk on the beach with his hands, head, and upper body beaten and broken. Memories run through his mind of the reservation, the war, jail, and Milly. Abel eventually finds the strength to pick himself up and he stumbles across town to the apartment he shares with Ben.

Part III: The Night Chanter

Ben puts Abel on a train back to the reservation and narrates what has happened to Abel in Los Angeles. Life had not been easy for Abel in the city. First, he was ridiculed by Reverend Tosamah during a poker game with the Indian group. Abel is too drunk to fight back. He remains drunk for the next two days and misses work. When he returns to his job, the boss harasses him and Abel quits. A downward spiral begins and Abel continues to get drunk every day, borrow money from Ben and Milly, and laze around the apartment. Fed up with Abel’s behavior, Ben throws him out of the apartment. Abel then seeks revenge on Martinez, a corrupt policeman who robbed Ben one night and hit Abel across the knuckles with his big stick. Abel finds Martinez and is almost beaten to death. While Abel is in the hospital recovering, Ben calls Angela who visits him and revives his spirit, just as he helped revive her spirit years ago, by reciting a story about a bear and a maiden which incidentally matches an old Navajo myth.

Part IV: The Dawn Runner

Abel returns to the reservation in New Mexico to take care of his grandfather, who is dying. His grandfather tells him the stories from his youth and stresses the importance of staying connected to his people’s traditions. When the time comes, Abel dresses his grandfather for burial and smears his own body with ashes. As the dawn breaks, Abel begins to run. He is participating in a ritual his grandfather told him about—the race of the dead. As he runs, Abel begins to sing for himself and Francisco. He is coming back to his people and his place in the world.

Main Characters:

Abel –  … a young Native American man… grew up in Walatowa, New Mexico, under the care of his grandfather, Francisco … Abel has just returned from war…he is often drunk.

Francisco –  Abel’s grandfather… a farmer, remembers how different life for the area’s Indians in 1945 is from how life used to be years ago. Francisco raised Abel and his brother, Vidal, the way his ancestors raised him, telling them the stories of his tribe and the stories of the land around Walatowa.

Ben Benally –  A Navajo, lives in Los Angeles… does his best to help Abel adjust to city life in Los Angeles when he first meets him on the job at the factory. The novel’s third section, “The Night Chanter,” is written primarily from Benally’s point of view… aware of his Indian heritage but aspires to many of the amenities of the modern American lifestyle.

 


buy the book: House Made of Dawn