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Festival of Readers Explores Indigenous Decolonization and Veganism

This November, Short Hills Provincial Park will again become a site of political turmoil. Tensions between Indigenous reconciliation and local protectionism concretize each year when Indigenous hunters exercise their treaty rights to a traditional deer harvest, which the park’s neighbours argue destroys the sanctity of the park. It is on this backdrop that the 2017 Festival of Readers (FOR) presents the workshop, Reading the TRC in Niagara, as well as a topical Dine with the Authors.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission [TRC] was a government initiative to investigate experiences of Indigenous people in residential schools. Their final report was released in 2015, and is a foundational text in the Niagara region. Reading the TRC will feature this text, as well as an audio work entitled Graciously Pleased, by Elizabeth Chitty. Chitty’s work explores the meaning of the 1701 Nanfan Treaty, which governs the Short Hills harvest. Reading the TRC will be led by Celeste Smith, Haudenosaunee, Oneida of the Six Nations of Grand River Territory.

These texts are relevant to FOR given the geographic and temporal proximity to the Short Hills harvest. Since 2013, the Haudenosaunee Wildlife and Habitat Authority and Parks Canada have negotiated agreements for Indigenous people to exercise their treaty hunting rights. These agreements ensure that hunters have access to their land and traditional practices. Each year, participating hunters are greeted at the entrance to Short Hills by a small group of vocal protestors with a “not in my backyard” approach to the treaty harvest. These protestors have the support of local police authorities, and they cause significant inconvenience. Their tactics include graphic posters, extremist chants, targeted individual harassment, intimidation tactics such as counting the number of people in vehicles entering the park, and, at times, maintaining illegal blockades to delay access to the land.

The racist tone of these protests is thinly veiled under a guise of animal rights activism, which is the cause of significant debate for those involved in veganism and animal rights work, settler and Indigenous alike. It is for this reason that FOR has teamed up with Niagara VegFest to present this year’s Dine with the Authors on Saturday, November 4 at Oddfellows. This dinner will feature vegan food from local favourites Rise Above and Mahtay Café, and live ukulele folk rock from the Leafy Greens. A panel discussion will accompany the meal, featuring Métis scholars Lisa Monchalin and Renée Monchalin (featured in image). Joining them will be the artistic director of FOR, Gregory Betts. The discussion will explore ethical tensions between the vegan ethos and (de)colonialism.

Two Montréal-based authors will have the final word. Kaie Kellough is “word-sound systemizer,” interested in challenging colonial legacy by attending to material properties of language, and Will McClelland is the author of The Minted, his first novel, which is a Canadian-to-the-core dystopian novel about a futuristic animal rebellion.

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