X is for X.alatsep
August 14th, 2015
Joseph Dandurand is a member of the Kwantlen First Nation for whom he has worked as Heritage/Lands officer for 20 years. He recounts his struggles to overcome physical, emotional and sexual abuse in his first book of poetry, I Want (Leaf Press $20). Dandurand expresses his love of the land, his connections to his ancestors, his endurance and his deep desire to foster his children so they grow up without abuse. “I am here / this pen to paper / proves it yet again.”
Asked why he writes, he has responded:
“They say we are each born with a gift. Some take care of the fires, some are great cooks and fishermen. Others can carve wood. I truly believe that my ability to paint pictures with words is a gift. Even my Indian name X.alatsep means written down. This gift has both its wondrous side and also its tragic side.
“I write to release both demons and angels onto paper. Most times when I am writing I am filled with emotions and images that I have stored somewhere inside of me. This provokes memories and stories that I have carried all my life and when the moment comes and I cannot stand it anymore …I write.
“Today I have no poems but I do have a new play in my head that is begging for release. But it is fishing time and also time to spend with my children. So the play sits somewhere inside of me and I will release it when I just cannot stop it from appearing onto paper.
“This is all good but most times for me it is both good and bad. I sometimes hate the fact that I can paint pictures on paper and tell of things that I both hate and love about myself. These cathartic episodes of creating take their toll on me. And after I am done I sit there quietly wondering what to do next so I get up and go and work on my fishing nets or I take my kids out somewhere or I light a smoke and cry a bit to myself. This passion of words inside of me is both a gift and a wondrous side equalled sometimes with the tragedy of who I was, am, and will become.”
Having graduated in performing arts from Algonquin College, Dandurand studied theatre and direction at the University of Ottawa and has since produced produced plays at the Red Path Theater in Chicago, the Algonquin Theater in Connecticut, the Debajemejig Theater in Ontario and the Autry Theater in Los Angeles. Dandurand was Playwright-in-Residence for the Museum of Civilization in Hull in 1995, for Native Earth in Toronto in 1996, and for the National Arts Centre in Ottawa in 1998. His script, St. Mary’s, was produced by CBC Radio in 1999, he published a play in 2004, Please Do Not Touch the Indians. 978-1-926655-79-6