(COURTESY IMAGINATIVE FILM FESTIVAL)
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Everything about “Ego of a Nation” works.
This video poem by Kanien’keha’ka and Tuscarora poet Janet Rogers is extremely powerful.
It will be premiering at the ImagineNATIVE Film and Media Arts Festival tomorrow. Do yourself a favour and check it out.
In a mere three minutes, Rogers gives a poignant critique of the systemic racism that exists in the Canadian justice system.
More specifically, the acquittal of Colten Bouchie’s murderer Gerald Stanley.
In 2016, 22-year-old Cree man from Red Pheasant First Nation Bouchie, was killed by a gunshot wound to the head. After Stanley’s acquittal, the story garnered international attention and raised questions about the systemic racism within Canada’s legal system.
The festival is the world’s largest Indigenous film and media arts festival.
The festival focuses on the film, video, radio, and new media work of Indigenous Peoples from around the world and includes screenings, parties, panel discussions, and cultural events – obviously affected by COVID-19.
The video starts with Rogers standing in a wheat field, her back to the camera; the sky grey, painting with melancholic mood.
Suddenly, she starts reciting her poem, and the camera cuts to an image of a brook.
Our blood is rich with
by territories cycles come
our blood spill back
weapons of them who
pay not their dues
but speak in untruths
born without an
ounce of remorse
The poem is part of Rogers’ seventh poetry book, also called Ego of a Nation, with some critics already calling it a classic.
Rogers was born in Vancouver and lived in the traditional lands of the Coast Salish people on Vancouver Island until 2019, when she moved to Six Nations and started her own book press Ojistah Publishing and the Six Nations Inaugural Literary Award.
With the racial reckoning sparked by the killing of a Black man, George Floyd by a police officer in the US, and with the violent incidents happening in Nova Scotia over Indigenous fishing treaty rights, “Ego of a Nation” could not come at a more appropriate time.
Her words on the racism and injustice experienced by generations of Indigenous people and other people of colour resonate so deeply.
Our guts turn gray like
the ashen skin of
the murdered man
slumped over the wheel
His spirit now wanders
property and when his
family calls him
Come home! He makes
he has been trying every
door to escape
The poem and the young Cree man’s story behind it will pull at your heartstrings.
The video will be in the short film category, and is definitely a must-watch.