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  • Madeline Kerr

Tête-à-tête to challenge Indigenous narratives

T’áncháy Redvers feels like they can’t exist without writing.

The two-spirited Métis and Dene writer, performer, and activist recently spoke with The Low Down ahead of their appearance at the Wakefield Writers Festival at the end of May. Reflecting on the importance of writing in their lives, Redvers says, “I’m an inherent storyteller…I write to create new narratives, and to shift existing narratives about Indigenous people, specifically queer Indigenous individuals and communities.”

In 2016, at the age of just 21, Redvers co-founded a national non-profit organization called We Matter which is dedicated to supporting the mental health of Indigenous youth. In 2019, they published a work of poetry, entitled “Firewood”, and later this year they will publish their first children’s book, “Fluffy and the Stars”. At the root of their work, Redvers says they are focussed on “creating space for authentic stories about Indigenous joy.”

On Saturday, May 27th, Redvers will be sitting down with Tomson Highway, the Cree playwright, author, and musician, in a “Tête-à-Tête” conversation mediated by the Ottawa-based journalist and former CBC anchor Adrian Harewood.

The festival’s website explains that during their discussion, both authors will be prompted to share their perspectives on “Indigenous culture, pride and gratitude—and how they approach their own authenticity and joy to unite and create community.”

“I think it’s going to be a very fruitful, a very meaningful, and – knowing Tomson – a very funny conversation,” says Redvers.

Tomson Highway has been internationally celebrated for his writing for decades. His best-known plays include: “The Rez Sisters” and “Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing”. He has authored a novel, “Kiss of the Fur Queen”; a memoir, “Permanent Astonishment”; a trilogy of children’s books, and an album of country songs written in his first language, Cree. Last year Highway was chosen to deliver the 2022 CBC Massey Lectures with a series he called “Laughing with the Trickster: On Sex, Death, and Accordions.”

Redvers anticipates that, coming from different backgrounds and from different generations, they will naturally have different perspectives: Redvers is Mètis and Dene and grew up in the Northwest Territories; Highway is Cree and spent his childhood in northern Manitoba; Highway is more than 40 years older than Redvers.

“What I’m most excited about is the fact that Tomson has been in this business for decades and I’m just emerging as a writer, so I’m looking forward to the intergenerational aspect of this conversation and what might come out of it,” says Redvers.

For his part, Highway says he is looking forward to making audiences laugh during the Writers Festival event.

“I live for laughter. There is no more beautiful sound in the world than human laughter,” he says. “I will do anything to hear people laugh, and so the audience should know they are going to laugh a lot,” he promises, adding, “I know a lot of jokes! I’m the kind of person who remembers every joke they’ve ever heard.”

Copies of Highway’s memoir will be for sale at the event, along with the chance to pre-order Redvers’ upcoming children’s book.

There is a display of books connected to the festival in the Wakefield Library. Tickets for this event are now sold out, but free online streaming is available through the Festival’s website.

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