INDIGENOUS VOICES AWARD RECIPIENTS
a celebration of Indigenous literary arts
On the evening of June 4th, 2019, the Indigenous Voices Awards celebrated the very best in Indigenous literary art at the University of British Columbia on Unceded Musqueam (xʷməθkʷəy̓əm) Territory. Awards totalling $16,000 were presented in seven categories:
PUBLISHED PROSE IN ENGLISH
Tanya Tagaq, Split Tooth (Viking Canada/Penguin Random House Canada)
PUBLISHED POETRY IN ENGLISH
Smokii Sumac, You are Enough: Love Poems for the End of the World (Kegedonce)
PUBLISHED WORKS IN FRENCH
Joséphine Bacon, Uiesh, Quelque Part (Mémoire d’encrier)
Pierrot Ross-Tremblay, Nipimanitu (Prise de parole)
WORK IN AN INDIGENOUS LANGUAGE
Francine Merasty, Iskotew Iskwew
UNPUBLISHED PROSE IN ENGLISH
Francine Cunningham, selection from “Teenage Asylums”
UNPUBLISHED POETRY IN ENGLISH
Elaine McArthur, “Brush of a Bustle”
WORKS IN AN ALTERNATIVE FORMAT
Tasha Spillett (with Natasha Donovan), “Surviving the City” (HighWater Press)
The First Nations House of Learning at the UBC became a dramatic backdrop as winners and finalists took to the stage and, sometimes in whispers and sometimes in shouts, often with laughter, delivered short performances of their work, showing the depth, breadth, and complexity of Indigenous literary arts. Significantly, not just the winners had an opportunity to read from their work—every finalist had the opportunity to share their work in the spirit of community building and collective celebration. A stand-out performance came from Smokii Sumac, a two-spirit member of the Ktunaxa nation, and winner in the category of Published Poetry in English for his collection, You Are Enough published by Kegedonce Press.
The evening began with Elder Larry Grant, who gave a warm welcome on behalf of the Musqueam Nation, while Miss Christie Lee Charles, Vancouver’s first Indigenous Poet Laureate, brought down the house with a hip hop performance incorporating traditional knowledge, stories, and Musqueam language (or hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓). The soulful mcee’ing team of Daniel Heath Justice and Tenille Campbell nurtured the evening’s celebratory tone with hilarious antics and their obvious affection for both the literature and the artists that create it.
The IVAs Gala capped off a day of mentorship, professionalization, and community building for the emerging Indigenous writers, who had opportunities to work with and learn from some of the biggest names in Indigenous literature in Canada, including jurors Jordan Abel, Jeannette Armstrong, Joanne Arnott, and Warren Cariou, as well as representatives of the publishing industry. The mentorship opportunities were supported generously by Penguin Random House Canada. (Other jurors for the Awards this year included Margery Fee, Gabrielle L’Hirondelle Hill, Francis Langevin, and Jean Sioui.)
The IVAs were founded in 2017 to support Indigenous literary art in all its diversity and complexity, carving out space for Indigenous literary expression and connecting writers across generations. Begun as a crowd-funded campaign seeking to raise a few thousand dollars to support emerging Indigenous writers, the IVAs have raised over $140,000 to date from over 1,500 different donors.
We express our sincere gratitude to the supporters of the IVAs: Scholastic Canada; Penguin Random House Canada; Centre for Equitable Library Access (CELA); Ontario Arts Foundation (OAF); Pamela Dillon; Robin Parker; and the countless supporters who have donated to the IVAs crowd-sourced fund over the past two years. Further donations are always welcome and deeply appreciated: please visit indigenousvoicesawards.org for more information.