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PEN is mightier than the sword

Lenore Keeshig-Tobias is one of four authors who gave readings Wednesday evening at Canadore College.

Lenore Keeshig-Tobias is one of four authors who gave readings Wednesday evening at Canadore College. Photo by Phil Novak

PEN Canada presented four authors Wednesday night at Canadore College. PEN Canada helps writers from around the world find exile in Canada.

The organization paid respect to imprisoned Beijing journalist Jiang Weiping by placing his picture in an empty chair next to the podium in the Weaver Auditorium.

Weiping, who reported about corruption in the Chinese government, has served eight years in jail so far, even though the corrupt people he reported about are locked up with him.

One of the authors presented at Canadore is Lenore Keeshig-Tobias, an aboriginal woman from Cape Croker Reserve on the Bruce Peninsula, who used stories to talk about discrimination towards Natives though.

Keeshig-Tobias, 55, a poet, children’s author, and storyteller, has worked as editor of The Ontario Indian, Sweetgrass, and The Magazine to Re-establish the Trickster.

Her writing reflects her life as a Native woman, and other struggles that all native people must face. She has won the Living the Dream Book Award for her publication Bird Talk, and has a Fine Arts degree from York University.

Keeshig-Tobias said there’s a revival of storytellers around the world. She believes that television and radio are a modern form of story telling.

“I think when people started putting a lot of dependence on the printed word is when the art of storytelling was lost,” Keeshig-Tobias said.

Her favourite work is a poem she wrote called The Minotaur, which came to her in a dream.

“I was cheesed off that I dreamed about a Minotaur, instead of an eagle or a bear, it wasn’t something native,” Keeshig-Tobias said.

“I just like the flow of the poem; it worked really well for me.”

Keeshig-Tobias’s writing has moved from fiction to non-fiction. She has a strong interest in Native rights and Native land rights.

“All because that man got lost in 1492,” she said while explaining the history of how Natives lost their land.

“I think all people who call themselves Canadians have benefited, because you’re living in our homelands,” Keeshig-Tobias said.

“Canadians need to come to terms with their Canadian history with aboriginal people, and the land claims need to be honoured in a good way.”

Canadians, Keeshig-Tobias added, should come to the people of the First Nations and ask them if they want to be part of confederation.