Strong Indigenous presence at Sask Book Awards
- Andréa Ledding | May 14, 2015
The 22nd annual Saskatchewan Book Awards once again sported a strong Indigenous representation. Dawn Dumont’s Rose’s Run was nominated in four categories and won the Fiction Award, while 7: Professional Native Indian Artists Inc. curated by Michelle LaVallee swept the publishing categories as the year’s big winner.
“It was so exciting, it's the best feeling when you write something because there are so many distractions out there, and to have someone to notice: it's not like you're yelling into a tornado, it's a great feeling to have people reading your work,” noted Dumont. “People will sometimes write to me or send me private messages and every single message I'm so grateful they took the time to read the book, and then to write me.”
While her primary goal was entertainment, she also hopes her fictional truthfulness will either spark recognition or bring deeper insights into First Nations culture. An avid runner herself, Dumont’s character Rose is very much a different person who initially appeared to Dumont in a dream about a woman from a reserve running a marathon.
“That feels like a goal for an upper class lady - not something others consider when they’re down and out, because they're already running one every day and so it adds to that layer of difficulty - for this woman it was a way of pulling herself out of her problems, and grew from that idea.”
When Dumont was notified, both about the nominations, and later the win, she was thrilled and is both grateful and encouraged as she works on a sequel - and awaits the birth of her first child.
“Every little bit of attention your book gets can increase your readership,” she noted, expressing gratitude for Thistledown Press and her team, including talented editor Donald Ward who not only won a national CBC fiction competition, but read all her columns to get a sense of her writing style. “This is my second book and it’s amazing how much you learn with each book.”
“We are very honoured and surprised to have received a Saskatchewan Book Award,” noted Angie Caron, who with her father Ken Caron, received the City of Saskatoon Book Award for Manny’s Memories. “We are grateful to the publishing team at Gabriel Dumont Institute for their support and encouragement. Their commitment to bringing Métis peoples’ stories to life is a gift to our community. We would also like to acknowledge Donna Lee Dumont for the beautiful illustrations, Norman Fleury for the Michif translations and telling the stories for the CD in Michif, and Cort Dogniez for telling the stories in English for the CD.”
Ernie Loutitt received five nominations and took home the Aboriginal People’s Writing Award for Indian Ernie: Perspectives on Policing and Leadership, published by Purich Press.
Michelle LaVallee says she wasn’t expecting any of this let alone all three publishing awards.
“It’s always good to get recognition for work you've done, even a nomination, so the McKenzie Gallery had a few publications that were up for awards: so that was really great, we were really excited about that,” said LaVallee. “It’s pretty validating when your work is recognized by organizations, awards, and your peers.”
Of the beautifully produced book itself, she said so many people are not familiar with this history, but these seven feature artists are the frontrunners and incredibly important to Canada and Canadian art history along with contemporary Indigenous art.
“It was a huge project with lots of people involved in production and publication,” LaVallee said, noting not only did she work on it during her maternity leave, having already spent seven years researching, but there were seven other established colleagues from various areas who contributed scholarship to the catalogue, including her maternity leave replacement Hilary Knutson, designer Russ Portico, and three of the feature artists themselves. “I love all these guys and was so fortunate to spend a lot of time with [the artists] Alex, Joseph, and Daphne in particular. They were so amazing, generous, kind and supportive through this whole thing. It was important to include perspectives from the artists themselves, including the four who had already passed on, to make sure their voice and perspectives were included.”
Like others in attendance, she found the event and awards beautiful, exciting, and humbling.
Or in Dumont’s words: “Writing is like labour - you never know how it's gonna go but you know the end result is going to be a part of you - a part of you that the world gets to hear screaming on the plane.”
Congratulations to all our storytellers past, present, and future: you do us proud.
Related story: Rose's Run nominated for 4 Saskatchewan Book Awards
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