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Poems and music videos at imagineNATIVE

(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

rains observed

by territories cycles come

full circle

our blood spill back

premature with

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

upon barbed-wire

property and when his

family calls him

Come home! He makes

them wait

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.

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