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It is in this way that fiction from female aboriginal Canadian writers both empowers the authors and their people and brings to light better understandings of what native Canadians have faced and must continue to face. One native scholar on the subject has been quoted as saying, "our task…is two fold. To examine the past and culturally affirm toward a new future" (Armstrong, in Acoose 227). It is not simply a rumination on past injuries that this literature provides, but a way of analyzing the past that allows for forward movement.
It is also impossible to consider the literature produced by members of this community as pure fictions, but rather some historical knowledge is necessary to fully appreciate the intricacies and events of stories like in Search of April Raintree. The largely negative nature of the events of the novel and the rapidity with which they take place is easily misinterpreted as literary heavy-handedness until one examines some brief statistics and historical details regarding life for indigenous Canadians in the twentieth century (Perreault). In this way, the literature of authors like Mosionier also provide a direct understanding of the practical realities faced by indigenous peoples, directly educating readers while at the same time exploring the human impact that these statistics, events, and realities have in a way that is arguably the hallmark of any decent work of fiction.
Even leaving the details of the works of indigenous authors aside, there is an importance in the fact of their existence as the genre of emerging fiction by Metis -- and especially female Metis -- writers marks an important shift in Canadian fiction. These works present a hybridization or "creolization" that does not maintain a simplistic (and false) concept of "separate but equal" as liberal pluralism might suggest, but that shows the emergence of a new claimed identity, that of the native-in-Canada (Groening 120-3). That is, novels like the Search for April Raintree do not merely show the difficulties of a culture clash and resulting oppression, but they show how these clashes result in the emergence of new peoples, new ideas, and new philosophies that do not belong directly to either culture.
This is the real empowerment that Beatrice Culleton Mosionier achieves in the Search for April Raintree?. It is not simply the fact the she is able to tell her story, or even that her story s well received by literary critics and readers alike, but rather that she has her own story to tell that is at once intimately bound to the histories of her people and her nation and at the same time is personally transcendent of these histories. This is a sense of freedom and self-direction that often goes unnoticed by members of the dominant culture; while aware of historical trajectories, European-descended communities in North America do not seem to notice the particular bonds of that history precisely because it is a history of dominance and choice. When this has not been a group's history, it can be difficult to frame a perspective that escapes the abuses and oppressions the groups has suffered, yet even while recounting these effects of the culture clash between European-Canadians and the native inhabitants of the country, Mosionier and others like her develop full characters that have a life beyond these histories. It is the freedom to have an identity that these authors are claiming.
Canadian literature has had many different dichotomies and juxtapositions due to the nation's history and current geopolitical position. Internally, however, the country also has a split identity that is finally beginning to emerge as a new and unique national voice. This is a voice that transcends the bonds of gender and of history to claim its own identity in the patchwork of Canadian perspectives.
Acoose, J. "The Problem of 'Searching' for April Raintree." In Search of April Raintree. Winnipeg: Penguis Publishers, 1999.
Groening, Laura Smyth. Listening to Old Women Speak: Natives and alterNatives in Canadian Literature. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2004.
Mosionier, Beatrice Culleton. In Search of April Raintree. Winnipeg: Penguis Publishers, 1999.
Perreault, Jeanne. "In Search of Cheryl Raintree, and Her Mother." In Search of April Raintree.…[continue]
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