From Squa’lets to VPL
June 25th, 2019
“The Kwantlen people used to number in the thousands,” says Joseph Dandurand, “but like all river tribes, 80% of our people were wiped out by smallpox and now there are only 200 of us.” His new poetry book, SH:LAM (The Doctor) (Mawenzi House $19.85), tells the story of a medicine man who has the ability to heal others, but is himself a heroin addict among derelicts and prostitutes. “This is the truth of what has happened to my people,” he writes. “… I believe the gift of words was given to me so I can retell our stories.”
Also new this fall, Joseph Dandurand’s Th’owxiya: The Hungry Feast Dish (Playwrights Canada $17.95) is a 50-minute play that teaches the Kwantlen First Nation lesson, When you take something from the earth you must always give something back. The story emanates from the Kwantlen First Nation village of Squa’lets.
Th’owxiya in an old and powerful spirit that inhabits a feast dish of tempting, beautiful foods from around the world. Th’owxiya herself craves only the taste of children. When she catches a hungry mouse named Kw’atel stealing a piece of cheese from her dish, she threatens to devour Kw’atel’s whole family, unless she can bring Th’owxiya two child spirits.
Ignorant but desperate, Kw’atel sets out on an epic journey to fulfill the spirit’s demands. With the help of a sqeweqs, two spa:th, and a sasq’ets, Kw’atel endeavours to find gifts that would appease Th’owxiya and save her family.
As Indigenous Storyteller in Residence at Vancouver Public Library, Joseph Dandurand is also the new Director of the Kwantlen Cultural Centre which opened in 2013. He has previously published I Want (2015), Hear and Foretell (2015) and The Rumour (2018).