With vulnerability and bravery, Jordan Abel mines his past in relation to Canada’s legacy of colonialism and residential schools to ask difficult questions about Indigeneity and Canada that don’t always have clear answers. Framing his project (the book grew out of his doctoral thesis) in relation to “research creation”—an innovative form of cultural analysis that troubles the book or thesis—Abel takes an innovative approach to addressing what it means to be dispossessed and disenfranchised as an Indigenous person. Abel is known for his concrete and conceptual poetry—The Place of Scraps won the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize and Injun won the Griffin Poetry Prize—and NISHGA applies his same creative skill to rework the memoir into something wholly unique, mixing and remixing art, legal documents, personal narrative, photography, transcriptions of talks, and concrete poetry. The book opens and closes with “An Open Letter to All My Relations.” These letters invite readers into a space of healing and prepare them for the painful subjects of “intergenerational trauma, Indigenous dispossession, and the afterlife of Residential schools.” While these are difficult subjects to write about, especially from Abel’s subjectivity as an intergenerational survivor of residential schools, as well as his dislocation from his Nishga’a community, he does so with a level of deftness and care that makes the book essential reading for everyone living on Turtle Island.
Read my full review at The Malahat Review.