The dismantling of First Nations culture by anthropologists is the next topic for discussion at the Vertigo Voices reading series, Thursday, April 3 at Gallery Vertigo.
Nisga’a writer Jordan Abel will read from his latest book, The Place of Scraps, which poet Ray Hsu has described as “an anthropology of anthropology, done as only an Aboriginal /Indigenous poet could do.”
Described as “a master carver of the page,” Abel’s first collection of poems revolves around Marius Barbeau, an early-20th century ethnographer, known as the “father of Canadian anthropology,” who studied many of the First Nations cultures in the Pacific Northwest, including Abel’s ancestral Nisga’a Nation.
Barbeau, in keeping with the popular thinking of the time, believed First Nations cultures were about to disappear completely, and that it was up to him to preserve what was left of these dying cultures while he could. Unfortunately, his methods of preserving First Nations cultures included purchasing totem poles and potlatch items from struggling communities in order to sell them to museums.
While Barbeau strove to protect First Nations cultures from vanishing, he ended up playing an active role in dismantling the very same cultures he tried to save, said Abel.
Drawing inspiration from Barbeau’s canonical book Totem Poles, Abel explores the complicated relationship between First Nations cultures and ethnography. His poems simultaneously illuminate Barbeau’s intentions and navigate the repercussions of the anthropologist’s actions.
Abel will be joined by poet Claire Lacey and fiction writer Thea Bowering at the reading.
Lacey is the winner of the Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry, while Bowering’s first book, Love at Last Sight, is a collection of stories characterized by urban outsiders who wander parts of Europe, Edmonton, Vancouver, and occasionally the Okanagan Valley.
It was nominated for the 2013 Alberta Reader’s Choice Award.
Doors to Thursday’s Vertigo Voices open at 7 p.m. and readings begin at 7:30 p.m. at Gallery Vertigo, 3001-31st St. #1 upstairs. All are welcome to attend. For more information, call (250) 503-2297.