Seán Carson Kinsella
Seán Carson Kinsella is a Plains Cree, Woods Cree, Saulteaux, Nakawē, Métis, Bungi, Michif, Irish, Scottish, and French person who is Two Spirit or fluid, trans, non binary, and in some ways still figuring out what all of those terms mean. Seán is also queer, bisexual/pansexual, a poet and sometimes singer, songwriter and plays some instruments.
Sean Carson Kinsella InterviewSeán Carson Kinsella
Interpretations of their own teachings and opinions shared here are the responsibility of each artist.
Written transcript is below.
"As a writer, when I'm writing poetry or fiction or, you know, even like non-fiction or textbooks or whatever, like for me it's about constructing those worlds and creating, you know, this other space where people can see themselves reflected but also can exist in those spaces. And I think it was really, you know, I was very, very lucky to have had people who I think, like, nurtured me and helped create those spaces."
Interview with Seán Carson Kinsella for Kindling
Louis Esmé: Do you want to start?
Seán Carson Kinsella: Sure. So I'll introduce myself in Anishinaabemowin, which is one of the languages that I speak, although some of it will be a little Cree smattering in there too, because that's another language that I'm trying to pick up. So [Sean introduces self in Anishinaabemowin]. So I just introduced my Spirit name, or the names that I carry because there's two. One is Cree and then one is Anishinaabemowin. The one that's Anishinaabemowin is a more recent thing that I fasted for in the fall. And it means essentially the medicine that light brings. And so my nations are Plains Cree, Woods Cree, Saulteaux, so Nakawē, and Métis. And in terms of Métis identity, I always feel it's important to recognize both the Bungi and the Michif side so that it's - so I'm a carrier of both those both those lines, both those nations, which would be the sort of Gaelic and Scotch side Whitford's, as well as Desjarlais, Cardinals and other French ones as well, because that feels important to name. And I think when we talk about complexity of Indigenous identities and we talk about one of the sort of goals of colonization has been, and I think through this interview I can see, you know, really negotiating some of those things, but has been the sort of simplification of our nations and simplification of our identities. And I think it's powerful to push back on what I sometimes see is like Michif supremacy, which is to say that like that one language in that one sort of way is talked about as being the only Métis way, but that there were other nations and other agreements that were made in sharing that, and other languages that are also used. And I think endangered is the other sort of reality of it, too.
Seán Carson Kinsella: So I think those are some of the pieces. How I define that identity: so my grandfather and my grandmother both came from James Bay Cree folks, as well as my grandmother coming from the Plains Cree/Woods Cree Métis people, and Saulteaux. And my father is Irish his family immigrated to Montreal during the sort of famine times, and were originally from the area that is now called Ferns, but used to be called Uí Ceinnselaig (Hy Kinsella] I look the other way that I represent myself is that my father's clan was the Ceinnselaig, or Mac Murchaidh clan originally. So that's the, if we are thinking in an Anishinaabe way, that would be one of my doodems would be my father's clans, and they were hereditary chieftains of that area, too. In terms of my gender identity I would say it's Two Spirit or fluid, trans, non binary, and in some ways still figuring out what all of those terms mean to me and embodying those things. Though, and it's not something I have memorized as of yet, but the one term that I often most resonate with is a Cree term that sort of translates as sort of neither male or female [aayahkwêw], and I think that that's the one that sits for me most because I think it talks about for me how I understand my role and community and how I understand my role in ceremony, which is to really embody both those worlds at various times and their various points and for various reasons, so there's that. My sexual identity is queer. I would say bisexual/pansexual, for me I think it's generally speaking less about a person's gender and more sort of about who that human is as a human.
Seán Carson Kinsella: Location wise we're currently at Centennial College, which is where I'm the Director, the Eighth Fire which is a new position that's been created. This particular location in Scarborough is in a complicated territory because it is like an interesting intersection between the Williams Treaties that were signed by some Mississaugas and the Toronto Purchase and treaty that was signed by some other Mississaugas; it's also a traditional territory that we know the Haudenosaunee had agreements with the Anishinaabe for the/with the Dish With One Spoon up near Montreal; and also that the Huron/Wyandot People and other nations were also here. And so I have - I used to introduce myself as a guest to this territory, but I think what I've talked about more and more lately is talking about being sort of like a refugee of racism, because the reason that my family left the places they left was because of the racism they were facing and they moved into urban settings, and in particular were involved in World War II combat, because of escaping sort of the realities that they existed in. And so there's been consequences, I think, in terms of some displacement. But where I think of as a location for me that I always carry is also the Prairies that my family is from, I'm up here in the Battlefords area (Battle River Cree). So those are the other places that I think of home. I currently live in Mississauga, will be shortly moving to Toronto, downtown near High park, and, as I said, live and sort of work in this territory and have, you know, most of - was born here and have existed within a two-hour radius for most of my life for artistic expression.
Seán Carson Kinsella: So I would say my method of artistic expression, largely as an artist, has been poetry and poetics, language. I also do a little bit of singing and songwriting, and play a couple of instruments. I think why those things are important to me: I don't ever remember a time that I wasn't writing or creating some sort of expression, you know whether that was even when I was a kid drawing cartoons or like other things, I think that artistic expression for me is such a fundamental part of my being. And I think language, especially for me, is like an interesting thing to play with. I think when I think about my gender expression and sexuality a little bit, there's like pieces of that, you know, identifying a little bit as like a little bit of a trickster and person there where I think language can be a lot of fun and humorous and playing with it... You know, playing with convention is a lot of fun. And I think with language it's not as fixed as a lot of folks would have us believe in. So I like to sort of push it and play with it and like the sound, and I like the way it resonates. And I think for me, some of that is also been working to reclaim the languages that that my family grew up hearing, but by my mother's generation people weren't speaking sort of in the house. So I think also using that poetic practice and artistic practice to regain some of those things feels really important to me. In terms of the work I'm most proud of, I think we we talked about it earlier, probably I recently released a zine that was a collection of my poetry that was decorated by a really amazing Two Spirit artist, a Metis artist [Riley Bee], and it was like a neat collaboration that way. So I'm pretty proud to put that work out there. At various points I have submitted for publication some other things, I've also done some work here in creating a textbook chapter on gender expression and Two Spirit folks that I'm proud of, and then some writing on sort of the teaching methodology when I was teaching more. So I think for me a lot of the work that I do is, I think, very collaborative and the ones that I've been able to work on with other Indigenous folks. As I think about it now, you know, I tend to when I write and create work, collaborate with people, even if it's like a weird sort of solo process sometimes where I'm like sitting by myself and like coming up with the things, for me, it's really important to be able to share it and bring it back to community and collaborate with people and sort of work, I think, to build all of this up, because I think that's really important.
Seán Carson Kinsella: And then artists and art movements I've been influenced by... Jeez, so many. I think I think one of the ones I can think of for sure is a relative of mine, Greg Scofield, and in particular, I think his work on erotic poetry, and I think some of the work of Kateri, and Kegedonce Press, some of the like work that was done to compile things like Me Sexy, as an example. I think the work that I'm most proud of and have most fun with is, I think, sort of more, if you will, like erotically charged poetry and stuff that uses humour, and so I think that sort of piece. I think I'm also very influenced and inspired by the folks that I collaborate with here in Toronto and as part of the Bluejays Dancing Together Collective, you know, and I think the work that we all collectively create and skillshare that we do. So I think it's like an interesting thing 'cause I feel like I'm very influenced by some of the like Chrystos and other queer Indigenous writers of, you know, earlier generations and the space that they created. I'm really inspired by some of the new folks coming up, too, you know, the Billy Ray Belcourt and Joshua Whitehead and Tenille Campbell and some of those other ones that are doing some really cool work as well. But I think to me, like, I'm just really I think, you know, anyone who is trying to grapple with how do we restore sort of like those senses of humour and sense of fun and sense of play and sense of the erotic into the work that we do, because I think that's really important.
Seán Carson Kinsella: And I think it's something that's missing sometimes from the stereotypical way that we're presented. And I think the way we've been allowed to be and I think particularly [as] a Two Spirit queer person, and it's really important to to push back on some of those normative pieces around what, you know, gender roles and the ways that we were allowed to to exist. And so, you know, I think those are the kinds of things that inspire me and those are the kinds of art and art movements. So, yeah, and I think that I have like a pretty extensive library of - as I'm packing it, because we're moving. So I'm reminded of how many books that I have, all the - you know, like a pretty extensive like Indigenous literature collection. You know, I think, like Daniel Heath Justice and others who do the more like speculative fiction work, I also really love that, you know. So I think like being able to see those voices, and like to see that there's just, you know, more folks in that can be named, I think. You know, and I think it's important to recognize the way that those collaborations and those influences and inspirations like happen constantly, because I'm also really inspired by the youth that we work with, and like, you know, we've talked before about this weird like - not middle age, but this weird like between-age that we are a little bit. But, you know, between like being an older, you know, knowledge keeper, Indigenous person and the youth, and I think I'm really inspired by the work that youth do and the way that they take no shit about language and reclaiming things and really like inspire: "this is who I am, and this is how I'm going to write, and this is the way that it's going to go," you know, and I think that gives me a lot of hope for the future and also inspiration to kind of push to create space for them and use what privilege and power I've been given, you know, sitting in this institution to be able to, again, create more space for folks and I think take inspiration from their bravery, because I have a lot of respect for - you know, I think sometimes for me, sharing my work and sharing my writing feels like a very... Can feel really daunting, and so I'm really inspired by people who are, like, putting putting themselves out there, and, you know, I think trying to grapple with: how do we, you know, especially as Two Spirit queer folks, exist? And show people we exist? Smokii Sumac is another one that comes to mind, and other folks who are, I think, you know, trying to push the envelope; while also, I think recognizing the work that is happening on the ground in the community, too, because I think sometimes the like, know, working as a poet and a writer, I think, in the literary world, sometimes it can feel a little bit separate from community too. So I'm really inspired, I think, to keep pushing of: how do we give [that] space, how do we give that space back, and how do we create spaces for youth to find their voice and do that too?
Seán Carson Kinsella: Yeah. So (reading) how does land and water where I am influence my work? So, something I talked about in some of my writing is this sort of like the theme of displacement. So as I said earlier, like for me, I feel like I grew up not on my territories because of racism and because people felt pushed out of those places. Where I was fortunate, I think, is that I grew up on what, as I understand, used to be called Silver Lake, but is now known as Lake Simcoe, or currently I'm going to say that it's Silver Lake. And so for me, I was very fortunate to grow up on the water. you know, we had a creek running through our backyard, and so I was very lucky to grow up really inspired by and spending time with all of those relatives, you know, like we had cranes and herons and snapping turtles and fish. And, you know, I think it was really - I feel very, very fortunate to have, I think, really had an opportunity to grow up on the land and I think playing on the land. And, you know, when I was a kid, we were more or less left to our own devices. We had a little paddleboat, and the sort of rule was as long as we didn't go on the lake, we were able to go anywhere with it. So, you know, we go up and down the creek and and do some of those - like observing animals and occasionally sneaking on the lake sometimes - you know, and the lake being a bay, so it's like not... You know, but it's I think for me, you know, that was a really - I feel really, really honoured and privileged to have grown up there and to recognize, I think - you know, when I was in high school, it's pretty close to the Chippewas of Georgina Island, like they're right across the bay. Sort of growing up, I think, really aware of those folks, and especially in high school because where my high school was - it was the only high school in the area so all the sort of kids from the island would come over and went to school there. And so, you know, I think I was lucky to to grow up. I think what was hard was that that's not my people.
Seán Carson Kinsella: And so I think what was challenging is, you know, I could understand what it was to be an Indigenous person, so to speak, but I think that that displacement felt challenging. And I think I was lucky to be able to, you know, when I was a kid and a teenager travel to where my family is from and where they've existed since as long as our family remembers - on the prairies. And so I feel really honoured to have gotten to spend time there, too. And I think that influences a lot of my work. That was, I think, a big thing for me last year. I took a long road trip and drove out there and, you know, really tried to trace, you know, the migration patterns of my ancestors, knowing that they were folks who were mobile. And, you know, it's - I think it's interesting to think about how both those worlds and both those things have influenced my understanding of life. And I think also, you know, like most of the - like I can think of... My grandparents had a trailer in Brantford and it was on the Grand River there, and so water I think for me has always featured into the way that I understand myself, and so have always tried to like, relatively speaking, live closeish to water. You know, and I'm excited, I think, in moving to Toronto to be a little bit closer to High Park and a little bit closer to some of the, like, sort of natural settings there.
Seán Carson Kinsella: And I think, you know, from a ceremony perspective, you know, where I - the place I often do ceremony is in Havelock and - or what's now called Havelock, and is up by those teaching rocks. And so, you know, those connections, I think are also connections that I carry with me and spending that time, that very concentrated time with askîy, the Earth. And those are pieces I think about in terms of the land and water, because I think those are - you know, it's that reminder of where we come from and that connection to everything and that we're not separate from everything, and that all of those four elements that come together to build us and all of those things that allow us to be alive are connected to those things. And so it can be hard, I think, working in institutions the way that I do to remember that some days. You know, I'm grateful, I think, for the blue walls that we're sitting in right now. The office is very blue, which reminds me of both the sky and the water, which I think was probably partially the intent, because this was set up as like a space for knowledge keepers to work in. And so I feel grateful for that I get to have, like, this little sort of like little spot in a building that's otherwise, I think very colonial and trying to decolonize and work through that.
Seán Carson Kinsella: (reading) How do my gender identity and/or sexual orientation influence my early years and how has influenced my work?
I think what I can remember, and I think it goes back to the earlier question about feelings of displacement, is I think, you know, I was taken from an urban setting when I was a kid and moved to a small town. And so while the land itself and the water for me was like I think a very... Like I almost think of it as like a person, you know? And I think really it is. But like really think about it as like, in my life, like a friend that I spent time with. The environment, the sort of school environment, and the environment of intolerance in the town made my young life a lot more difficult. And I think the erasure too, so I think like where I grew up there was like a specific way that it meant to be Indigenous, and that was that you came from the island and that you were Anishinaabe and that there was a specific sort of Indigenous person that people were used to, and, like, that's not the narrative that I carry, that's not the - we're related to that nation, but that's not my nation specifically, or the community I come from. And so for me it was about trying to find a place.
Seán Carson Kinsella: And I think the gender identity and sexual orientation stuff... You know, I think my sister said it best to me when I was visiting. She lives in Cambodia now but lived in Hong Kong, and I'd went there to visit her and her kids for a few weeks. And I remember she was trying to explain to a friend of hers who was I think having trouble with I think wrapping their head around my sister having a sibling that didn't fit into a gender binary. And my sister sort of like, you know, this person was walking ahead, my sister sort of slowed down a little bit and was walking beside me and just sort of said, like, "you know, I've never thought of you as a man or a woman or whatever, like you've just always just been you," and she's reiterated that a few times; and I think about how within my family, you know, that was, I think, something that I was always trying to find and I think, you know, has various levels of complexity, I think. For my mom, I think my mom, because of her parents being influenced by the colonization and Christianization of our nations, you know, my mom, I think, has accepted the kind - the different sort of gender and sexuality that I - that are portrayed, but I think struggles with it and like ironically goes to my sister a little bit for like, well, like sort of "oh, Sean's doing that thing. What do you think of that?" And my sister will be like, "well, that's just Sean being Sean, like I don't..." you know. So I appreciate, I think, a lot of the labour that my sister has done. I sort of joke that it goes both ways because my sister lives far away and has also like - I mean, that's a whole other story of like how we've supported each other, but I think, like, it feels like a pretty equitable trade. But I think it's also like, you know, my sister is also queer and is also someone who I think doesn't fit into gender norms and, you know, doesn't fit into, you know, I think mentally the confines of like compulsory monogamy in the same way that I, you know, that I don't. And so we have a lot of alignment that way. And I feel really honoured and grateful to have grown up with someone - and we've reflected when we were kids about how like in some ways, like those things came very early and like together we were, I think, very not - like I - we've talked about stories where, you know, we used to have very complex... You know, we used to play Barbies together and we'd have these very complex sort of like - I mean, it's very much me being a writer that we create these very complex scenarios, and like people would be marrying other people, and it didn't matter what their gender was. And like all sorts of like, you know, like it was very queer. It was very sort of like, you know, like looking back like a combination probably between like the L Word and Melrose Place, like these very complex, sort of like drama-laden - people interrupting weddings to be with, like, their like same sex partner, like, very, you know, and I think, you know, very playful and curious and trying to, like, figure those things out.
And I often talk about I think for me, one of the times I remember most profoundly, because I think for me there's often questions around like, you know - and I think about this, like in that way that memory is sort of fluid and flexible. And I think about when I was a kid that, you know, I don't remember a time when we weren't talking about what it was to be Indigenous. I don't remember a time when I wasn't queer or wasn't non binary. But I spent a lot of time trying to fit into those boxes because it was safe. And I remember vividly like being in grade six and I remember looking through a comic book, it was like a comic book - like a book about comic books, and a book about I think like Marvel Heroes or whatever, and I remember there was like a pinup of both genders because at that time they were trying to recruit, like, I think girls into, you know, being interested in comic books and that kind of stuff, too. And I remember looking at one of the photos and I remember asking, you know, "well, where's the - where's the boy? Like, where's the guy?" And immediately realizing I had made a horrible social mistake as someone who was socialized/assigned as male at birth in those circumstances, because immediately I was called the fag. And immediately - and I was already like dealing with like some interesting - I look back nowadays and interesting things around like: what does it mean to be queer, and what does it mean to be queer in those spaces? And I think like this weird like over sexualization of children. So I remember probably about that time, grade five, or grade six, I remember that someone accused me of like masturbating in class or something like that, like and it kind of stuck. And it was a weird thing looking back to think about, because then I'm like, okay, well that makes sense under the aspect of queerness, because in the sense of like, it's - you're making - you don't feel safe in your own what you're dealing with. And so therefore - or something you don't understand, and therefore being able to like dismiss or, you know - and I think it relates as well to me for disability, and like all of these things for me, particularly in I think a grade school context, kind of like overlap in the sense of like who were allowed to be and who were not allowed to be. And, you know, I often think about one of the reasons that I probably wasn't as exposed to as much probably direct racism is because I was already dehumanized as a queer person. And so because my disability was physical and because it was, you know, since birth and was made more accentuated as I got older, you know, that became, I think, a very key thing to focus on.
Seán Carson Kinsella: And so the other parts of my identity, whether that was sexuality or whether that was being Indigenous, you know, being Native at that time, I think, didn't really play in as much. So there's an interesting nuance there, I think, in my writing about how do you reclaim all of those parts of yourself, and how do you exist as, you know, more than just this one thing that people have deemed you, or more than just this one thing, because that's to me, like dehumanization comes back to you figuring out the thing about you that is most different from other people visibly, and then focusing on that as a way to dehumanize and I think discount your perspective and viewpoints and degrade your self esteem and all those other things. So I think for me, I can remember never fitting into the construct of what was expected of a boy. And I think really rebelling and pushing to more of a nonbinary place, and when I think about it, you know, in retrospect now and I think currently, where I am most happy existing is just as the human that I am without gender constraints or what is expected of gender constraints being bound on me. And so that's where, when I said earlier, when I introduced myself, where I talked about my understanding of myself has really evolved, you know, and this is where naming can become really important because that term has really helped me to understand that that's more likely and more like where I've always sat, which is in a place of like, you know, some days I wake up and feel this way, and some days I wake up and feel this way. And, you know, I think a lot about from a traditional teachings, however, that, you know, the limitations of that term, you know, I think about what it means if we are a spiritual being that is having a physical experience and if we make the assumption that as humans we've been able to come back, you know, as spirits we're able to travel, and maybe we've been back more than once, that maybe there's many lives that we've lived as different genders and different orientations and different people.
And so in the current reality, we find ourselves, I think about a lot about how I think there's like a physical reality to what our bodies do that we need to learn and understand, but also in that same way that everyone's body is different. And so I think it's about, to me, it's about allowing people to have that ability to choose what that body is for them and to realize that can change over time and and that it's, you know, that it is a shell. And, you know, and I think about, you know, that's where even for myself like trying to understand, you know, when I was older and hearing these terms like nonbinary and trans and figuring out, you know, "oh, those are things that I think resonate with me," like trying to understand both how that understands like in a Euro-Western way that those things are defined, but that also trying to really drill down as to what that means, like as Indigenous folks, and as a Cree/Anishinaabe/Metis person around what those rules are and what those things look like; and then also I think of it from a sexuality perspective, you know, I think a lot about the principles of non-interference and the fact that you, like, as I have been taught, like cannot - and I see this - the way this is enacted in my family, you can't tell another person what to do. And so if you can't tell another person what to do, you can't tell them who they're attracted to or not attracted to, or who they should love or who they shouldn't love, and you can't tell them what clothes they should wear or what role they should take in society, like that's for an individual to decide with the support of the community. And I think when I think about my work and I think about colonization, like part of the unbreaking or the mending of our nations is really like pushing back on those notions of people trying to define or tell us who we are and allowing us to have space for us to tell people who we are. And I think that's grounded to me in ceremony. It's grounded to me in the land, and in teachings, and in fasting, because for me, like when I'm out in those locations, like, you're just a body and you're... Like, you know, it's an interesting thing because, like, my experience is like your like gender and who you're attracted to and all those things actually matter a lot less because you're just out there on the Earth, and you're just out there with the animals and like, you know, I think, and the other beings and like, they don't necessarily like care and they're not telling you what you're supposed to be. So I think there's some really important lessons there to be learned about the Earth. And, you know, and I think the way that we've set gender up and been influenced by I think by like Euro-Western society, or any of those things.
Seán Carson Kinsella: (reading) What role did art play and how has that influenced your work? I would say, you know, in all seriousness, art saved my life. So, you know, it's particularly like fantasy and speculative fiction, but poetry and other like visual art like it really did in a very visceral way for me save my life, because it allowed me to imagine other possibilities that could exist. And I think a lot about like Daniel Heath Justice's work around sort of like creating these like - like I've often said, like, I wish that that kind of literature was accessible and existed when I was a kid because how that would have allowed me to see myself presented and understood around some of those characters and some of those like worlds. But for me, it was really about being able to see that we can build our own worlds and we could build our own spaces. And we weren't constrained by this current time and place that we found ourselves in. And I think very literally, like, you know, one of the things that saved me from bullying in grade school, at least, was because I was really good at reading, because I was really good at writing. And so I was able to, like, be out of class and I was able to volunteer in a library. And I literally, like, read the shit out of that library and like, it was like a playground for me. Like I was like - the worlds that it could take you in and the amount of knowledge that was like visible at your fingertips was just amazing.
And I think, you know, I think that that's - there's something very Indigenous about that, that you're just like absorbing and sponging as much knowledge as you possibly can from everything around you. You know, I think in high school I worked in a library as well. That was my like, you know, from the time I was 14 until I left for university. And again, it was the same thing where, like, it was a refuge and a community space. And, you know, I often think about - this a little bit tangential, but I think it plays in my work, like creating those - like seeing yourself reflected in those spaces, but also recognizing that there are these community spaces like libraries that exist that are for everyone. And it doesn't matter what your income level is, it doesn't matter what your level of ability is or what your gender expression is or what your sexuality is like. Everyone, you know, can be welcomed in those spaces when they are done properly and correctly and like are actually welcoming because I know, you know, they're also influenced by the reality of society and exclusion. And I'm thinking of the Toronto Public Library right now. You know, like they're just - like they're not, you know, they're not - they're not free from those biases. But, you know, like a lot of community things to me, like at their core, you know, if we're able to really understand them, like they can exist as these spaces. And I think in that they're these gateways to these wonderful worlds that people have created.
And so I think as a writer, when I'm writing poetry or fiction or, you know, even like non-fiction or textbooks or whatever, like for me it's about constructing those worlds and creating, you know, this other space where people can see themselves reflected but also can exist in those spaces. And I think it was really, you know, I was very, very lucky to have had people who I think, like, nurtured me and helped create those spaces. And I think a lot about my mom, especially my mom when I was a kid, you know, my parents both worked in downtown, like they were both - they worked for the phone company, like a multinational conglomerate now, you know, they worked downtown and they commuted for like an hour and a half a day. And I remember, you know, every night when I was a kid, my mom would - probably exhausted and having commuting and all that kind of stuff would come home and we would read until I was able to read, you know, to my mom and then read on my own. And so I think, like, you know, I think about that legacy of storytelling and that legacy of having that time cuddled up with my mom. And I see that replicated with my sister's children as well, that we all do that collectively as a family. So, like, we all take turns when the kids are there reading to them and creating those worlds. And I think, you know, that there's a tradition of storytelling in our nations. And I think, you know, it's written down now. But I think, to me, it's like a direct correlation. So I think that was a lifeline for me. And I think what I hope to do in the writing that I do is to give that back a little bit too, and, you know, for that to be a place that people can also see themselves reflected.
Seán Carson Kinsella: (reading) How does the generation you grew up and influence your ideas about art?
I think I spoke about that a little bit. I think there was a lack of representation. There was a lack of being able to see my self reflected. I think we cling to what is available at the time, which certainly I did. And I think one of the reasons that I really, you know, still have such a soft spot for sort of like sci fi and fantasy, I think in the same way that I have a soft spot for like 90s Canadian pop rock is, I think, because those were things that were available to me in that time, in that space. And I think allowed, you know, for the speculative fiction, like it allowed there to exist a space and a time and a place that was beyond this one where we could examine it and imagine the possibilities of equity and imagine possibilities where, you know, kids aren't bullied because of their sexuality or gender or because they're disabled, or even redefining notions of what it meant to be, you know, able that I think are really important that art does. So I think that, you know, what gives me a lot of hope and a lot of like - jealousy is the wrong word, but envy, I think, is, you know, is the generation that's growing up now that doesn't seem to have those constraints. And it gives me so - such a, like, makes my heart so full to see, you know, some of these young ones, I think, like breaking out and like having these massive successes, you know, and there's like complexities to that, too, around like whose voice is perceived as successful and who gets a voice and who, you know, like who's on all the shelves and like who is perceived as being sort of successful in those ways. But I think, you know, there's just such a massive amount of, I think, Indigenous literature and Indigenous art that is available now. And I think it's probably, you know, accessible and in places like that it wasn't when I was a kid, which is not to say it wasn't happening, but I think like for someone who is displaced from their land and didn't grow up on our first nation like some of those things, I think, were, you know, a little bit removed. And so I think, you know, I think there's efforts that are being made to bring those things. And that makes me really happy.
Louis Esmé: Which aspects of your Indigenous identity influence your art practice?
Seán Carson Kinsella: All of them..? I think..
Louis Esmé: So two.
Seán Carson Kinsella: Just two. I think in terms of probably the... I would say that makes this my identity and I think grappling with that, I think, the like growing up with those, with the kinds of teachings that my family has instilled and has internalized. And I think, you know, the kindness and that sort of way that they approach the world is sort of like carefulness and love. And I think those are things that I try and embody in my work and my art practice because I think it's about trying to find a place. So I think like one of the the real issues around, I think in particular, like Cree/Metis/Saulteaux history, is recognizing that we had a very strong confederation and a very strong sharing of cultures and nations. And we created that. And that existed, you know, for as long as those nations were interacting with each other. And then there was this giant disruption that was the creation of the Canadian state and then the resistances that came to that and that like displacement of a lot of like Cree/Metis people that were not willing to sign treaty or we're not willing to sort of toe the line. And so grappling with those realities and grappling with coming from a family that, you know, signed treaty under duress or - and didn't get reserve, you know, and we're also mixed, like all of those things, I think factor into so much of my art practice because it's I think trying to grapple with what does that mean to be growing up away from territory and what does that mean for community now? And what does that mean to reclaim those things and to try and grapple with those those sort of spaces? So I think that that influences a lot of my art practice.
Seán Carson Kinsella: I think cultural teachings around gender and sexuality... I think I touched on this a little bit earlier, I think around just the sort of like rule of what does it mean to be human. And I think a lot about what does it mean, you know, when we think about even the notions of like sexuality and gender, I really think of those as very colonial constructs. And I think about how do we as a community understand our responsibilities to one another and our place in community? And, you know, I think a lot about the notion of inclusion versus exclusion and that so much of our clan systems and nation building and, you know, that was all about how do we find a place for each person and that everyone matters and everyone has a role and everyone has gifts. And everyone, you know, is really given those gifts by creation and by the different relationships they have with all of those different like spiritual and physical beings. And so for me, I think focusing on it from an advocacy perspective is really important. But it's also talking about how do we get past these colonial notions that bind us in those things? Because I think, again, to me, anything that limits complexity and creates more simplicity, you know, it can have its place and purpose, but I think it's about having these, like, very, you know, sometimes difficult conversations around how each of us understand our roles in these things and not - you know, I think about that notion, that Cree notion of pêyatik where it's like thinking carefully and giving things consideration, you know, about how we integrate, how we engage with other people. And like, you know, not telling people what we think that they should be or what they are, but allowing us to exist, you know, fundamentally as we see ourselves. And so I think for my art practice, like it's really, again, trying to give a platform to that and grapple with my understandings of that, my understandings of myself, as I understand, you know, why I'm here as a human being for this go round. And I think, like, what does it mean to be a spiritual being first? So what are my responsibilities to creation and to my nations and to my community?
Seán Carson Kinsella: (reading) How does my gender identity and/or sexual orientation influence my art? I think it's just all there. I mean, I think I like talking about sexy stuff and I think - and sexy stuff to me, you know, is about like not performing that in one particular way, but allowing for like an openness. I think that's where for me a lot of that understanding comes from is, it's about being open to the possibility of relating to people in different ways. And I think that's where, you know, for me as an ethically non-monogamous person, that's also something that comes through is like, you know, I really try and live in non-hierarchical relationships with everything; and I think about that, when I talk about that to people and in my art, you know, I'm sort of like, you know, your relationship with a particular being or rock or tree doesn't make that rock or tree or being any better or any worse than the relationship you have with any other one. And it doesn't preclude that you can have a relationship with any other one, right? So, like, you know, it's not like a rock is going to show up and be like, "you can only - like I'm your only friend and like you can only have a relationship with me," like that's not how creation works. You know, it's kind of like the sort of like piece around the sun or the rain or like other things, like it falls on everyone, like that doesn't exclude or discriminate, right? So I think about that is, you know, how do we push the boundaries of those things and how do we talk about those things and how do we create those spaces where there is that openness? And so for me, it's about when I meet people and relating people in my art, it's also about like really figuring out how do we create abundance and how do we create space and how do we create relationship and kinship and how do we, you know, allow things to exist as they are and not try and put them in categories?
Seán Carson Kinsella: And I think, you know, that's my - all of my identities and sexual identities and gender pushing back to kind of say, like, I don't like to be boxed. And I think some of it's a little bit about like also this sort of like Cree word otipemisiwak like the Cree word for Métis people is also about like people who own themselves. And so I also think about that notion of like owning myself and owning my own being and like not wanting to be ascribed into certain patterns of behaviours or attractions or like all those sorts of things. And so that comes through pretty clearly in my art, because a lot of it's about, you know, you know, those little moments - like I think a lot about what does it mean to be ceremonial and what does it mean that to me it's like a practice that is every day. So like, you know, like, you know, kissing a new person or relating to another Indigenous person on maybe a romantic or sexual or just like whatever level, you know, like that's ceremony too; and creating, you know, nations based relationships with folks who are non-Indigenous is also about ceremony, right? It's all ceremony to me. So allowing those things to be as they are feels really important, and so not wanting to restrict or bind those things.
And so, you know, I think asking those questions informs all of the stuff that I write. And a lot of my writing is very much based in, you know, imagining a situation or reflecting on a situation or, you know, thinking about processing feelings or processing experiences. And, you know, those are inextricably linked to to who I am as a human. So I don't think a lot of my writing is particularly abstract. I think a lot of it's like very much grappling with these, like, very complex questions around like queerness and sexuality and non-monogamy and how do we not exist in compulsory ways that, you know, Euro-Western society has tried to oppress on us that we resist.
Louis Esmé: (unclear) but you identify as Two Spirit (unclear) conflict throughout that in a lot of ways.
Seán Carson Kinsella: Yeah.
Louis Esmé: So we - is it okay to just keep going, or..?
Seán Carson Kinsella: Yeah, I think yeah, I think on the piece there, it is a way I identify, I struggle with it a little bit, like I struggle with the language because I think, again, we're using English, which is admittedly limited language, to be able to describe these things that I think have other understandings to them. So I use it, I think, in a shorthand way. And I use it because I think it's useful. But I am also not a huge fan of the way that, you know, and there's lots and lots of writing on this, the way that that gets, I think, drilled down or understood, and I think it's up for each individual person, like, I think to determine what that means to them. So definitely queer and definitely Indigenous LGBTQ. And then I think Two Spirit and I'm still understanding what that means for me, but I think it can be useful as a shorthand as the way we understand ourselves, and I think to signal to each other that like that there's a community out there and that there's people out there that are like us, which I think can be super useful because I think - you know, and I think about like doing my work here, it can feel really isolating when you feel like you're the only person that's engaged in a particular community or space or what have you.
Seán Carson Kinsella: Do you want to go into the art scene questions?
Louis Esmé: Mhm, do you want to talk about your experience in mainstream art scenes?
Seán Carson Kinsella: Sure. Complicated would be the way that I would describe it, I think. I think that, you know, I think I've helped and supported folks who are engaging in mainstream, you know, situations that are harmful. I've seen a lot of harm done in mainstream art scenes. I've seen a lot of harm done without recognition of harm. And I think there's a lot of - you know, and I view it a little bit like the institutional work that I do now around like education. And I think there's a lot of pieces there around... That there's people who are very well intentioned, but I think don't know our histories or stories or ways enough that they're, you know, are causing harm, whether they intend to or not. And I'm an advocate for the fact that impact is what matters. Like intent is also important, but if someone who is Indigenous is coming and saying to you that you have impacted them in a negative way, that your responsibility as someone engaged in a mainstream arts scene, whether you're also another Indigenous person or not, needs to listen to that and to take that into consideration and make change in your art scene or in your sort of institution. I think that, as I said earlier, like, visibility is really important. So I'm deeply conflicted by it in some ways because I think there's complicated pieces around like who gets held up as poster people for various institutions, and that when someone has power in institutions, particularly art ones, that their work is held up as some sort of like banner or standard, and that work that deviates from that is not necessarily then taken as seriously. I mean, there's like real issues with the art scene and literary establishment around some of those things around who gets to... Who gets to participate and who gets to be like, you know, like media darlings and who gets to have their voices projected. And one of the real complicating factors to me, and I'm thinking of a particular artist that is currently exhibiting at the Met, is like when when there's like call outs or when there's, like, harms that are happening or when they maybe didn't hit the mark, you know, that - do they still have accountability and responsibility to our community or do they still feel like they do because they've achieved a certain level of success within the mainstream institutions?
So, you know, and I think a lot about that celebrity, which is where people, you know, are basically just told yes all the time because they - people want to work with them and people want to use them for their own means in some ways. And I think we have to be really careful with engaging with any mainstream institution, whether that's educational, art, or whatever, that we're really engaging in reciprocal nation building ways and not transactional because I think celebrity to me is transactional. It's about: you do this art, it gets a bunch of people there, makes a bunch of money for the institution, the institution gets to put your name on a poster and circulate it, and it creates a cycle I think that can be really harmful because it then also creates exclusion so then, you know, our mainstream institutions committed to diverse voices, and not just in like on a document, but like actually like voices that challenge. And, you know, maybe if the folks that they're working with are largely like, you know, cis het Native folks that are able, that when you are bringing in artists that don't exhibit those particular kinds of privilege, that there may be some learning to do, there may be some pushing back that needs to happen around accessibility, around needs, around timing, around space, around process. And that, you know, I'm like a real advocate for when we have those conversations and do that labour, like universal access, right? So like the more inclusive we make spaces for everyone, the better it is for everyone.
But I don't want to degrade how difficult that work actually is, because often, in my experience, the sort of like calling in or the the accountability piece tends to fall to the kinds of people who are being interviewed for this project. So it tends to fall to the like Two Spirit and femme and women and trans folks and queer folks that exist in these spaces. And, you know, as folks who are often most marginalized, like it's unfair and unjust that labour has to fall on those folks. So I think what's been useful is to have other folks like me in those spaces that we can form solidarity with each other and that we can talk we can have real conversations with each other about how difficult those things are to exist in. And so I think where it's been good, you know - and I use the example I think of like I saw some good some good work with like the Naked Heart festival is where, you know, those kinds of scenes are being led by BIPOC people. Not that that is also not complicated because our nations and our communities can also be like notoriously anti-Black, and there's also some real issues, I think, around like the learning of like some folks of colour around, you know, if they're like recent settler folks or immigrants that, you know, they also may not know our histories and so may also cause harm, again, maybe approaching it from like a bit of a different lens, but still happening. And so, you know, I think - but those are the spaces that I think I have felt comfortable in, because we can have real conversations because, you know, they are also folks trying to create room in spaces that are not designed for them either, and so there's a lot - I have a lot of laterality and there's a lot of room for nuance to have difficult conversations because, again, I think we're trying to create a space that's inclusive for all of us and that each of us is different, right. So, like, that's where, again, I think even using that acronym, you know, like some folks will just be like "people of colour" and I'm like, "right, but we need to pull that apart a little bit to try and deal with how those different histories create different nuanced legacies,".
Seán Carson Kinsella: So I think in terms of how art scenes can better support Two Spirit, trans, non binary and/or women Indigenous artists, I think paying us is good. And I think like paying us equitably, and what you would pay, you know, like a cis het dudebro who's been in the art scene, who's been allowed to have those kinds of access to those kind of - access to education and access to, you know, the kinds of things that makes people be perceived as serious artists. I think paying for the additional labour that is required in bringing our identities into those spaces and creating space within those spaces for us, because I think that's not something that's often considered, you know, and I think like enough of this like - I don't want to harp on it, but, you know, I mean, it's top of mind, I think, for my - because of my job right now. But like the notion of reconciliation and the notion of - like that reconciliation means more than just like going to political leaders and reconciling with them or the folks that are perceived as being, you know, the representatives of our nations, but it's about how do you create space for all of us and how do you deal with the complexity that we all come from different nations and different experiences and different genders and different sexualities and different ways of walking through the world, and that each of those is just as valid as the other. And I think institutions are really good about simplifying and existing in a space that allows for like a limited amount of perspectives and voices.
And some of that is time. So some of that is like when you're designing like, you know, a workshop or when you're designing an exhibit or when you're designing a literary festival, that to make sure that you have enough voices it's about giving the time and conversation and asking and pushing and like having a time to be able to really engage with it on the level where it's about relationship building and it's about building relationships with artists and with people, and that it's not transactional. So it's not like, "you come do this festival and then we don't talk to you again for a year and then we get in touch with you again to do the festival," you know, or "you do this exhibit and then that's it," and that sort of benefit that you get from it as an Indigenous artist is that you were in this exhibit as opposed to an ongoing relationship. And I think relationship is what allows us to humanize other people, which allows, to me, what I see, allows change because people talk about each other and people are able to, like, exile people and call people out when they don't - when they don't know them. Because when you know someone and when you see them as a human, it's a lot more complex because you have feelings wrapped up in that person. And so I think for institutions, it's about building relationship, like true relationship, with Indigenous people and recognizing that that may feel hard and difficult sometimes because reconciliation work should be.
Seán Carson Kinsella: And so my art practise does involve some non-Indigenous artists. I would say I'm fortunate, I think, in the sense of like because it's poetry for the most part, like it's pretty - and writing, it's like fairly solitary. But, you know, but I have like - a good example is when the zine was printed, like it was a non-Indigenous ally person who did the printing for me and that was great, and has reached out for with some context for publishing and like was really, really enthusiastic and encouraging. And so, you know, I think it's about, again, building those relationships, like that was something where I had done a literary festival and they saw me speak and thought, "this is a person that I want to bring in and do more work with and build a relationship with,". And so, you know, that to me is a best practise, and it's about again, when we do that we can see each other as humans and we can see each other in terms of like - and find out what each other wants and find out how we can work with each other to create reciprocal relationship and reciprocal community and communion I think, in the sense of like, you know, the sort of like feasting that happens in our way of understanding one another and spending time.
Seán Carson Kinsella: (reading) As an Indigenous artist what was my experience with Indigenous art scenes. So I would say to some extent, like taking what I've just said and like reversing a little bit. So I think my experience has often been - and I think a lot about the work that we've done with the collective, like my experience has been that often those spaces are more inclusive and often those spaces are like, you know, because a lot of us are Crip and a lot of us who are organizing are Crip that like they're very inclusive spaces and people actually ask and check in about what you need. And like there's no assumptions made around ability or accessibility, you know, that people genuinely care for each other and we're about building relationship and that it takes time to do that. So I think about, you know, my experience in being involved in some of those scenes in Toronto was also that there's a vetting process. So like I was coming from outside and, you know, it took time to build relationship with people in the scene and to build those relationships. And as I get to know more people, you know, it's about spending time with people and building relationship and it's not being done with, like an end goal. Like, I don't often feel in Indigenous art scenes that it has the same level of transactional nature. It's about people caring for you and promoting and like creating relationship because we genuinely like spending time with each other, as complicated as that can feel sometimes. And, you know, and I think it's about healing and working through trauma. And we do that as we build relationship with each other and supporting each other. And it doesn't mean that, you know, we agree with the choices or with everything that like a fellow Indigenous artist says or does. But I think that there's this, to me, there's like a support that's there. There's still like a, "I may not agree with that person, and that's not maybe the way that I would choose to do it, but I believe them and support them and have a responsibility to make sure that their voices amplified and magnified, too." Because I think for me, it's really, you know, it's the difference of like - and I think a lot about I think the sort of like - if we think of like, you know, whether it's Dish With One Spoon or Two Row Wampum or some of those other agreements as we understood them, you know, I think about the visual image I've had lately working here I think is like the big sort of like European ship and then the canoes beside it. And I'm like, you know, this sort of standard of like: we don't throw people out of our canoes. So, like, the waves sometimes, sometimes we do, but we give them lots of chances first, maybe we save it for close to the shore so they don't - I don't know.
Seán Carson Kinsella: But I think like there's like - but I think a lot about how, you know, if we think of the mainstream art scenes as a little bit like - and I like this metaphor, you know, as these big ships. Big ships cause a lot of wake and, you know, they can - they're bulky and they're like not nimble. And they take a really long time to turn. And, you know, and a canoe is very agile and very easy. And you can, like, repair it quick and you can like, you know, and I think like and it requires many of them to travel and they all come from different places and have different experiences. And like, one's not better than another. It's like there's lots of like rich metaphors for me there around understanding those two scenes. So I guess what I'm saying is I see the Indigenous art scene as like a series of small canoes, or maybe bigger canoes depending on your nation. And that, you know, each of us is bringing what we have in that to that scene. And it's like - so it's not so much like a, "everyone get on the same ship and go in the same direction and it all has to be the same," it's that we all are going to like probably the same place and we're all going to get there at different times in different ways and different spaces. And we all have our own stuff in our canoe and our own little bundles and the stuff we brought with us. And we may stop off on the way a little bit to pick up something because we forgot, you know, like things like that. So I think there's a lot of care and space and love and kindness and - that exist in those spaces.
Seán Carson Kinsella: That I think is really, really important, and I think support and solidarity, you know, I think that's an ongoing thing to try and do in terms of like creating some of those sort of different lived experiences. And I think using my voice and using the resources I have and trying to create relationship with folks to be able to do that is really important, so. I like all of your examples here a lot.
Louis Esmé: Yeah, they're ours - they're our examples.
Seán Carson Kinsella: Yeah, but it's things that should happen. And I think for me, like I get - I think in metaphors, right? So I think about, you know, it's like that the destination for all of us in those canoes can be different. But like that we all get there. And the whole point to me is like some - you know, and I think especially for, I would say, for like folks of my generation, it feels like there's an impetus to like - we're in the middle, like of the canoes, right? So, like, I think some of it is like making sure that those coming behind us are still coming and those ahead of us are still okay. You know, and that all in our journey that like if someone is going to go visit someone else or stop in that we're checking in with that person to make sure they're okay, but that we're also like pointing out and really helping to signal boost and reflect like all of the beauty and realities of all of the work that people are doing and trying to like be as supportive as we can in creating new initiatives and in brainstorming and in being really excited for each other and, you know, really - like that, it makes my heart so full and happy to spend time in our community because of that, where it's just - it's such, for me, and everyone's experience is going to be different, but I think for me, it's always just felt so supportive and meaningful and kind and loving and challenging and difficult at times and like healing and working through things, you know, and that there's like space for us to learn. And, you know, part of learning is making mistakes and gaining understanding. And I think as long as we're being accountable with one another, you know, that there's like so much abundance that exists. And I think it's really just, for me: how do we, like, allow other people to see that abundance and create opportunities with one another and support each other? And I think about that a lot as like a writer sometimes that like the work that we're doing as artists can feel so isolating, I think at times, and especially as Indigenous artists, where if we're not, you know, like - and I think in the city, especially because we're not necessarily spending time with our community every day, all the time, which I think is like a bigger conversation around, like our modern reality of those things and the consequences of displacement and urbanization. And as more Indigenous folks come to urban settings, that there's a sense of isolation, I think, like a profound sense of isolation that exists. So for me, you know, it's about how do we take those canoes to those camps with the individuals we have, and how do we bring our best to those spaces where we can collaborate and create and be open to those different possibilities that is really, really cool?
Seán Carson Kinsella: I think for the last question: global Indigenous artists. I think because I work - like I think there's probably influence there, but I think because a lot of my writing so far has really focused on sort of stuff that is more, I think, Turtle Island focused, I would say - maybe inter-national sort of like artist work, yes. And I guess in that way, I guess like we could think of, like all of our different nations as different nations and sort of like global in those ways, so. I'm always open to collaborate more, and I think finding new ways to like become excited and you know, and I think nurture - like I think a lot about how, you know, if we think about - and I think probably like it's top of mind I think, because all these things like interplay with each other, but top of mind, with the role that I've taken on, you know, I think if we are really in need of fire, which I think that we are by prophecy, from Anishinaabe perspective, that one of our responsibilities is like we have to nurture this fire. And so to me, the way that I really see a lot of my relationships with sort of my fellow Indigenous artists and people is like as these very generative, like, you know, everyone has their own little fire that we're trying to nurture. And it's like it's being able to go and bring it to this bigger fire that we're all a part of and, you know, get help and get support from each other. And it really feels like I guess a warmth that exists there and like a really - like a nurturing, generative kind of approach.
Seán Carson Kinsella: And so I think for me, it's about, you know, it's - and those are like - those feelings are created in all of these little interactions we have with each other. Like it's sort of like the uplifting that we have of each other or, you know, I use the example of Riley, who I reached out to, you know, since I was doing the zine and was like, you know, I am like looking for art to, like, put on this and, you know, offered to like do this art. And I was like it was not my intention to like have that, like I was literally just like I am struggling with this thing. And there was a solution that was presented and it was like that image that was created was like so much more amazing and beautiful and wonderful than anything I could have even imagined. And so I think a lot about how, you know, for me, whether it's like - like I try and spend a lot of, like, positive, you know, messages and like uplifting things to like other Indigenous artists and things like Instagram where I'm just like, "you're amazing and this art is amazing." And, you know, it's those little things of, I think, about how do we nurture and build each other in those little moments? Because to me, like, those can be the big things that make you feel like what you're doing has value, because so much of the work that we're doing I think in the broader mainstream society is devalued and is not seen as work and it's not seen as important and is not seen as valid.
Seán Carson Kinsella: So I think the more we can facilitate that with each other and amongst all generations, because I think sometimes there's a perception, I think that like the older generation has been doing this a long time, maybe has this figured out. And I think they need just as much encouragement as we do because like they're - like we're all just trying to figure this shit out and, like, groping in the dark and like, you know, so I think a lot about how, you know, like giving each other that little bit of light is so - I mean, that's also my name I guess, that's where that's coming from. But like giving each other that little bit of light is so important because it just helps you remember you're not alone because I think, again, like, you know, because we can feel that way. And I think that's where, you know, when we talk about some of these like - going into the sort of like the social and cultural issues, it's the isolation, it's the like not taking seriously our voices. It's the like not thinking of ourselves as a community or as generations of people who've done this work. And will continue to do this work in perpetuity, right. So, like, you know, we have a legacy as as Indigenous queer Two Spirit, you know, artists that we've always existed in community and we always will. And, you know, we have an opportunity now, I think, because we're starting to heal from, you know, some of the colonial traumas because I think that the system that is trying to kill us has had to because we've taken it to court so many times, loosened its grip a little bit. I still think it's very much there. But I think as it's loosening, I think we're able to, you know, like we take what space we're given and then multiply it with that abundance and that sort of like magic and that thing that we bring in.
So, I think to me, the social and cultural issues like that's - my work is always trying to work through those things, and some of it's personal, some of it's like, you know, I've written poems about like that started out - there's one poem that I really like that I wrote that was like about like a person who I'm in relationship with, who, you know, finished school and then moved across the country and those like romantic feelings of longing that still exist when that happens. And, you know, and as they were going across the territories of my people, I was thinking about, you know, them and thinking about what those conversations look like as they were going across. And, you know, but then also I was thinking about when I was like on the you know, I tried to visit the lake that my family was on before they came up to the Battlefords. And it was a lake where some of the folks who had resisted treaty signing were still living, who refused to sign, and that's who they were living with. And I wanted to go see this lake because then I wanted to put tobacco in the lake because it felt important to me, but it was all like farmer's land and land owned by oil. And so, you know, I got as close - literally was driving down a road and I'm like, this feels sketchy, I'm alone. I'm an Indigenous person who's out West on the prairies. And this is, you know, in the wake of what had happened to Colten Boushie, this is in the wake of what happens to our people on the prairies, that is our territories. And I couldn't reach the lake. And, you know, and as I stepped out of my car every step that I took I was like I'm literally putting my life at risk to go to this place that, you know, that we've existed on for as long as we remember. And so for me, like it's about, you know - and trying to write back and understand what that feeling is, what that feeling of displacement is, you know, and also, I think recognizing this way of like that people leaving our lives is also like a form of displacement and, you know, but also like this really cool grappling with being non-monogamous and like that that doesn't mean, you know, from a like compulsory monogamy perspective, like someone goes, you have a long distance relationship, and like it ends. But it's this, again, generative aspect of that a relationship doesn't have to look a certain way. And you can still be and are still in relationship with people, no matter how far away from them you are. It's always grappling with ancestral pieces around that and connecting to that land.
And so, you know, a lot of my writing is like, you know, starts out one way sometimes and then ventures, you know - but even like, you know, the queerness and the assertions of sexuality and gender in my writing, like, those are just as political and cultural as anything else. Because, again, I think we're still - our sexuality and gender is still very policed. And we're still told in community that we should or shouldn't be a certain way. And so for me, it's a little bit of like: "I'm queer, fuck you," and I'm going to write that and I'm going to make you uncomfortable and I'm going to, you know, write a poem about seahorses that's actually about getting pegged, and, like, I'm going to do this and I'm going to do this in a public way. And, you know, and I'm going to like exhibit that and I'm going to, you know, talk about those uncomfortable things, because to me, like, you know, it's about decolonizing and about pushing on those things, you know. And I think because I have that opportunity to, and I have the language to, and I, you know, and I think there's like also like a compulsion to it. I think where I just I have to write those things. I have to understand, you know, and that's a way that I work through things, like what I felt - poetics, especially the language, I think it's like a really, you know, it allows me to reclaim language and work through those things at the same time, which for me is like pretty ideal.
Seán Carson Kinsella: (reading) How does my creative practice involve community, and my process. I think as a poet, it's a little bit isolated in the writing, but as I was talking I was realizing that pretty much all my writing though that has been published has involved some sort of like major collaboration with community in every single way, like whether it's like literally co-writing a chapter with someone, you know, in a textbook or whether it was being part of this like, you know, part of the - we did the open source textbook here where that chapter like it was like, you know, that it was then, you know, like putting that out there and kind of saying, here's a thing that I've done, like community folks, like if there's stuff that I've missed or like something, please tell me, because I think to me it's about none of the work that I do is in a vacuum. So, I think because I'm of community and I'm in community like, it has to inevitably involve that every step of the way, even if it's something that is like being created like by myself on my phone or on my computer, you know. And I think it's about like I think, you know, I did like a Smut Peddling reading when I was - the night that the zine was sold and, you know, and there was an Indigenous person in the audience who was right there and they were like laughing their asses off because some of my reference points are like very specifically Indigenous. And it's, you know, it's meant to be very funny to us. It's meant to be for us. And so as much as I like hope, you know, that non-Indigenous people appreciate the writing and appreciate, you know, like performing it is a little bit newer for me and was very liberating. And I want to do that more. But I think, again, it's for us, like my hope is that people see themselves reflected in it and the sense of humour and the sense of play and the sort of like sexiness of it. You know, that these are all things that were taken from us. And, you know, for me that are such important parts of who I am and the way that I see our culture, you know, that I see our culture and our language and I see in ceremony. And that's a very me specifically thing, but I think those are things that I try and bring the community to.
Seán Carson Kinsella: (reading) And then is there anything else I would like to share. No, I think that this work is really important and I think the collecting of these stories and the kinds of like narratives and understandings of ourselves as artists and artistic practices is really, really important and really needed. So I'm really grateful to have the opportunity to sit and do this. And I think to like - like originally, like it's sort of a funny thing, I think, because originally I think when asked, I was like, "oh, but you're sitting down with artists, that's not me," and I'm like, no, that's me. And, you know, so I think that there is pieces around, like even the importance of extending what we mean by that I think is really important because, you know, I think to that earlier point, sometimes the mainstream is what determines like what we think of ourselves as artists and like these lines between being artists and community members and community builders and knowledge keepers and storytellers. And, you know, all of these things are so fluid all the time. And, you know, and our artistic practises are also how we live. So I think, like, I'm really excited to sort of like hear the results and to participate more and to be able to sit in community with people who, you know, are also grappling with some of these very difficult questions and things. So I just wanted to say kinana'skomitin for including me and for coming out to Scarborough and sitting down and doing this.