“In 2006, in my last year of grad school, I had the privilege to see a play by dramatherapist Vera Manuel, daughter of Secwepemc political leader George Manuel and Ktunaxa community worker Marceline Paul. The play was produced in Vancouver by the Helping Spirit Lodge Society and when I went to speak to its director, Geni Manuel, I discovered that she was Vera’s niece. It was in that conversation that Geni gave me several unpublished plays that her association had put together under Vera’s direction. I really wanted to do something with these plays for a long, long time, but was overwhelmed when I began my new job in 2007 and by my uncertainty about what to do with them. At the same time, I was working with Metis scholar Jo-Ann Episkenew and Algonquian scholar Michelle Coupal. At one point, Jo-Ann gave Michelle a photocopy of the only play Vera had ever published, in 1986, which had fallen out of print: Strength of Indian Women about residential school experiences. Jo-Ann insisted: “You’ve got to teach this.” In a later conversation, Michelle told me, “We’ve got to get this play back into publication,” and I realized that this was the chance to work together with her on the plays entrusted to me several years previously. This itself was an amazing chance to work together, but then, a few months later, we bumped into Joanne Arnott, a Metis poet I’ve known for years, only to discover that, in the last year of Vera’s life, Joanne had begun curating a collection of Vera’s poetry. At first it was a shock. Michelle and I immediately recognized that we as academics had a lot more access to publishing and power. What could we do to support a project directed by an independent poet? And then of course it just seemed obvious: we should work together. This snowballed when we connected with Vera’s sister, Emalene, who had saved Vera’s archive. Imagine our sense of wonder when we came across some of Vera’s stories that were written in 1988, stories that are drop-dead gorgeous, needing practically no editing. And suddenly what was going to be “The Plays and Poetry of VeraManuel” became “The Plays, Stories, and Poetry of Vera Manuel.” The title of the volume, due in 2018, is Honouring the Strength of Indian Women.”
Deanna Reder in conversation with Sophie McCall, Culturally Appropriate Publishing Practices, p. 35-6, in Elements of Indigenous Style: A Guide for Writing By and About Indigenous Peoples
By Gregory Young-Ing © 2018 Brush Education Inc.