Our mission at Hidden Timber Books is to promote a culture of literary citizenship, inclusion, and diversity through publishing, mentoring, and collaboration. One way we carry this mission forward is by building a masthead of diverse voices. Last week, we introduced you to our new Poetry Editor, F. Douglas Brown. This week meet Danielle Roulette, an Ojibwe artist, book blogger & aspiring writer from Dog Creek First Nation, who will introduce readers to an important literary landscape.
Connect, Examine, and Rejoice
If you were to ask what I cherished most in the world as a child, I would’ve answered easily: my family and books. My mother heavily implied I was named after her favourite romance novelist, Danielle Steel, which always elicited a skeptical eye-roll from my father, Daniel.
Danielle Sally-Anne Roulette is the full English name assigned to me at birth. I was given my Ojibwe name years later by my aunty through ceremony. It’s a long, strong name and in it White Thunderbird Woman is dancing. I cherish both. My English name ties me to my parents, to my beautiful aunty in the Spirit World who I would never get the chance to meet, to my relatives and community. My Ojibwe name is the one I consider my true name, the name I will take with me when its my time to make my journey to Kichi Kishigong. It is my connection to the land, to sacred language, ceremony and Creator.
This is the duality I and many other Indigenous folks balance everyday in colonial society. It wasn’t long ago that our traditional names were forbidden by colonial institutions. Naming ceremonies themselves were illegal. I often remember these truths as I say my traditional name before smudging, in ceremony, or in conversation with other Indigenous folks.
Throughout my early years, intergenerational trauma and racism chipped away at my spirit. I sought solace in the books my mother read to me as a child and our trips to the downtown Winnipeg library were a great source of comfort. For many years, I was surrounded by non-Indigenous literature. In my ninth grade English class, I read my first Indigenous work: April Raintree by Metis author Beatrice Mosionier and it wouldn’t be until my early twenties that I seriously assessed my literary choices and made a firm decision to focus primarily on consuming Indigenous works. It was this decision that I believe helped heal my spirit.
I devoured works by Anishinaabe authors and doing so resulted in what I can only describe as a sort of homecoming, something akin to ceremony. Of course, I didn’t stop at Anishinaabe works. I read far and wide tribally. Much of colonial society sees Indigenous peoples as a monolith and this is apparent in how Indigenous literature is discussed by many. A common occurrence amongst non-Indigenous readers and reviewers is to say a book is written by “an Indigenous author,” which is of course the truth, however its crucial to recognize and acknowledge which tribe the author is from, not only when reviewing or discussing a book but prior to reading it as well. Different tribes have different methods of storytelling and teachings. I believe a primary part of reading Indigenous literature respectfully and effectively is through tribal recognition.
To share my words and thoughts on Indigenous arts & literature, to converse with Indigenous artists on their work is a gift I don’t take lightly. There have been so many Indigenous voices silenced and there is a slow shift taking place. Indigenous arts are blooming and new artists are emerging every single day. I look forward to exploring every facet we can get our hands on, together. I want this to be a space where my words welcome Indigenous people into a safe space where they are represented and cared for. I want non-Indigenous folks to deepen their understanding here and share what they’ve learned with those around them, thereby lessening the emotional and mental labour that’s often placed upon Indigenous folks. I want this to be a space to connect, examine and rejoice. Miigwech!
- Kichi Kishigong – Spirit World
- Miigwech – Thank you
Danielle Roulette is an Ojibwe artist, book blogger & aspiring writer from Dog Creek First Nation who goes by the username Thunderbird Woman Reads online. Danielle is the co-founder of the online bookclub The Indigenous Reading Circle which was formed in 2020 and highlights12 works by Indigenous authors throughout the year. Danielle is also a Literature Selection Advisor for Hyphen Reads Books.