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Indigenous Education: Windsor Indigenous Novel Study Guides & Resources

Monkey Beach

From: Styvendale, Nancy Van. “Indigenous Storytelling.” Canadian Literature, no. 219, Winter 2013, pp. 147–148. EBSCOhost,

In 2010, Haisla/Heiltsuk author Eden Robinson delivered the 4th annual Henry Kreisel lecture. Published as The Sasquatch at Home, the lecture revisits ideas raised by Christopher and Anderson's texts such as the role of stories in passing down lessons and cultural values, the importance of relationships to the continued life of stories, and the ways in which place and context shape narrative. Itself a print version of an orally delivered text, The Sasquatch at Home contains three episodic narratives (a common structure of oral tradition, where stories are linked thematically rather than chronologically). The major theme of all three, as the book's subtitle suggests, is "traditional protocols and modern storytelling." In the first narrative, Robinson explains how she came to understand nusa--the traditional way of teaching Haisla protocols--through a trip to Graceland she took with her mother. While traveling to the King's Manor might seem an unlikely place to learn about Haisla tradition, this is exactly Robinson's point: traditional protocols should not be seen as vestiges of the past; rather, they are an active presence in the contemporary world, carried in stories. The second and third narratives in the lecture continue to explore the relationship between tradition and modernity, turning to the importance of land in the continuation of traditional practices. Land holds stories, connects generations, and inspires contemporary writing: Robinson's novel Monkey Beach, for example, preserves Haisla stories rooted in specific places Robinson visited with her father while writing the book. The genius of Robinson's lecture is that it makes the reader/listener "do the work" of making meaning: as in oral traditions, we are called to draw the connections and come to our own conclusions. And as Qitsualik and Tinsley remind us in the foreword to Kappianaqtut, "only an individual who has sought out and actively plucked a lesson from interaction with others is one who has truly learned."


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