I was not born into Winnipeg and thus, while I have been here for many many years, I am not yet good at parties where various geographies are played out that begin with “Remember when” and “Do you know what happened to?” I arrived here having traveled a bit of an arc. Born in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario (the lands of four perfect seasons and the St. Mary’s River which is and will always be magic for me), I went to universities at Western and Calgary, before finishing off at Manitoba.
In the midst of that circuit, I lived on Fisher River Reserve in the Manitoba’s Interlake for ten years and learned a great deal. First and foremost, I learned that I would never be a very good elementary, junior, or senior high public school, language arts teacher though I was a very hard try- er. I also learned, however, that I could live and learn by looking and listening on the reserve which re-set the course of my understanding of mostly everything I subsequently do and think about. Ironically, this development meant that I would spend seven years travelling back and forth from Fisher River to Winnipeg to do a doctorate in English Literature, sometimes with babies on board, sometimes without. I use ironic here, because while I no longer taught in Fisher River School, my life on the reserve taught me how I could bring a sense of difference and differently—justice denied, history misrepresented, education misdirected, peoples silenced, land rights wronged—into every space I might inhabit or co-create in any university setting. I spent the next 30 years or so in those settings co-learning in courses, committees, projects, actions, and imaginings.
Having now retired from the University of Winnipeg’s Department of English, I find myself ongoing , creating in new media, and for the very first time, grandmother to the most thrilling Sybil Inez. I return to my opening reference to my arrival in Manitoba years ago. Whenever anyone said they were going to “The Lake,” I wondered “which one” for I came from water bodies that had very specific names like Pancake Bay and Blind River. To this day, I demand to know what the hell peculiar part of any Lake is being cast onto the shore of any conversation, though I respect the fact Manitoba has lakes and often very big ones. It is understood that my two grown, Manitoba-born sons— one of whom is Daddy to the brand-new, Manitoba-made and thrilling Sybil Inez—are far more literate about “The Lake” and What happened to? than I shall ever be. In this, I remain bested as any mother hopes she might be by her offspring.