Mi'kmaq Tradition: I Am An Indian On This Land

Transcription

I am just an Indian on this land
I am sad, my culture you do not understand.
I am just an Indian to you now
You wrinkle your brow.

Today you greet me with bagpipes
Today you sing your songs to me
Today we shake hands and see
How we keep good company.

Today I will tell stories
Today I play the drum and dance
Today I will say what is on my mind
For being friends is our goal.

Today I will show I am just like you
Today I will show what is true
Today I will show we can be friends
Together we agree.

Today I will tell about my race
Today I will share what is mine
Today I will give you my heart
This is all we own.

Today I show.
Hello everybody, my name is Rita Joe.

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File Size: 2.06 MB [192 kbps]

Running Time: 00:33

About this Poem

This selection comes from the film footage of Song of Eskasoni (1993, NFB/Morningtide Films). Directed by Brian Guns, the film celebrates the life, poetry and song of Rita Joe.

I Am An Indian On This Land, 1992. Rita Joe/Brian Guns. Song of Eskasoni Collection. Beaton Institute, Cape Breton University.

About the Artist

Rita (Bernard) Joe was born in Whycocomagh, Cape Breton Island, on March 15, 1932. At the young age of ten she was orphaned and shortly after was sent to the Indian Residential School, located in Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia. She later moved to Eskasoni where she met her husband, Frank Joe; they married in 1954. They lived all of their lives in Eskasoni, raising a family of 10 children.

In the 1960s, Rita first began to write poetry, primarily as a mechanism in which to challenge existing negative stereotypes regarding aboriginal people. She wrote about the manner in which the Mi'kmaq viewed the world, about Mi'kmaw traditions, culture and especially about the beauty of the Mi'kmaw language. She believed that her poetry demonstrated a gentle persuasion in changing people's negatives views of aboriginal people.

Rita's poetry became celebrated nationally and through her lifetime she went on to publish seven books. She became known as the Poet Laureate of the Mi'kmaq people for her accomplished writings and also received many awards, including the Order of Canada in 1990 and a National Aboriginal Achievement Award in 1997. She also was known for her two song recordings, The Oka Song, and Drumbeat is the Heartbeat of the Nation.

Rita Joe died March 20, 2007 at the age of 75 after a long struggle with Parkinson's disease.