On this first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, we honour treasured elder and tireless community-builder Theodore Niizhotay Fontaine with Niizhotay Stories, an annual event which calls on us all to forge a healing path in the spirit of “two hearts.”
We are thrilled to initiate this series with readings and conversation featuring two deeply thoughtful Cree poets: Louise B Halfe – Sky Dancer, currently serving as Canada’s Parliamentary Poet Laureate, and Dallas Hunt, newly settling into an academic position at UBC. This event is presented as part of THIN AIR 2021 in partnership with McNally Robinson Booksellers.
Award-winning poet Louise Bernice Halfe – Sky Dancer was raised on Saddle Lake Reserve and attended Blue Quills Residential School. Her newest book is awâsis – kinky and dishevelled (Brick Books). Burning in This Midnight Dream (the recipientof the 2017 Saskatchewan Book Award and the Raymond Souster Award, among numerous other awards) was also recently republished by Brick Books. Halfe was awarded the Latner Writers Trust Award for her body of work in 2017 and was awarded the 2020 Kloppenburg Award for Literary Excellence. She was granted a lifetime membership in the League of Canadian Poets, and currently works with Elders in the organization Opikinawasowin (“raising our children”) and lives near Saskatoon with her husband, Peter.
Dallas Hunt is Cree and a member of Wapsewsipi (Swan River First Nation) in Treaty Eight territory in northern Alberta. Dallas’s first children’s book, Awâsis and the World-famous Bannock (HighWater Press) was nominated for several awards. His debut poetry collection, CREELAND (Nightwood Editions), is concerned with notions of home and the quotidian attachments we feel to those notions, even across great distances.
Theodore (Ted) Niizhotay Fontaine (1941-2021) was a member and former chief of the Sagkeeng Ojibway First Nation in Manitoba. He attended the Fort Alexander and Assiniboia Indian Residential Schools from 1948 to 1960. Theodore worked extensively in the corporate, government and First Nations sectors, including eleven years with the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs as an advisor and executive director. He served in leadership and voluntary roles with many organizations and was a regular speaker and media commentator on Indian residential schools, presenting his bestselling memoir, Broken Circle, to hundreds of audiences in Canada and the United States. Theodore broke new ground by supporting other survivors and by seeking reconciliation directly with those who were perpetrators of his abuse, part of his lifelong path toward self-discovery and healing. Much of that work is evident in the anthology, Did You See Us?: Reunion, Remembrance, and Reclamation at an Urban Indian Residential School (University of Manitoba Press). Theodore made a home in Winnipeg with his beloved wife Morgan.