READ INDIGENOUS: Unearthing Secrets, Gathering Truths

Jules Arita Koostachin’s debut poetry collection Unearthing Secrets, Gathering Truths (Kegedonce Press) explores the experiences of an Indigenous woman facing a difficult past in order to find her voice. The featured poem “Nanan” and others in the collection look back on pivotal moments that shape a woman’s future and her understanding of herself. 


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From Unearthing Secrets, Gathering Truths by Jules Arita Koostachin (Kegedonce Press) 

Nanan small aged bodylying helplessfetal positionbarely holding her knees to her chestelderly women sit around herwe waitno one comesempty wheel chairsechoes of whisperspraying to the spiritssharing with the ones they once knewmemoriesshadows walk the corridorswaiting for her last breath lines deepeyes fadinghanging on to the world she was once a part ofstrong in her pastvulnerable nowwaiting for care as a child would remembering her haironce long and blackbrown sweet facehands softsecurely holding mestill resting my head on her chestplease don’t leave me Nananwho will I be without you? will I still be me if you leave?I want to follow her into the spirit worldlonging for her to returnreturning to us as she once wasthrough the next generationspirits creep closer and closergently pulling her to the world of ghostsworld of memoriesI beg for more timeHow do I live without you? the room has an odor of life drainedeyes are emptyeach second that passesdeath approaches inch by inchsore tired bodieslost mindstrapped in the pastreaching with broken heartsfor someone piano playingfaintly heardold people clappingforgotten warriorsfull liveswill this nightmare end? once strong and freelocked downfragile bodiessoft cries from the dark hallwayfallenscaredexhaustedwishing for youthfulnesslost in regrets I leave her thereabandonedshe watches me leaveNanan knows I love herI ignore my thoughtsI make myself believeI will see her againit’s overlast day of her life as my Nanan tears escape her sad eyesmy heart painsheavinessplease nostay with me Nanan life stops creator punches a hole through meemptinesspain like no otherI can’t breathevoid bye my NananWatChiano word for goodbye in our languagetill we meet againI love you* * *

The Author 

Born in Moose Factory Ontario, Jules Arita Koostachin was raised by her Cree speaking grandparents in Moosonee, and also with her mother in Ottawa, a survivor of the Canadian Residential school system. Jules is a band member of Attawapiskat First Nation, Moshkekowok territory, and she currently resides in Vancouver with her partner and twin sons. She is a PhD candidate with the Institute of Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Social Justice with the University of British Columbia – her research focus is Indigenous documentary. Jules carries extensive knowledge working in Indigenous community in several different capacities providing support to Indigenous women and children who face barriers; these community experiences continue to feed her advocacy and her arts practice.* * *Remember: buy Unearthing Secrets, Gathering Truths or any of our READ INDIGENOUS books and get this stunning limited-run tote bag featuring colourful artwork from Indigenous visual artists Kaya Joan, Alan Syliboy, Dawn Oman, and Lauren Crazybull until November 15th (while supplies last). And don’t forget to check out today’s other READ INDIGENOUS feature, A Difficult Beauty by David Groulx (Wolsak and Wynn).