Thank you to Sylvia Vardell at Poetry for Children for hosting this week.
I Lost My Talk (Amazon | Book Depository)
Words by Rita Joe Illustrated by Pauline Young Published by Nimbus Publishing (2019)
ISBN: 1771088109 (ISBN13: 9781771088107) Bought a copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.
This year, we are determined to go even deeper into diversity by surfacing #SurvivalStories2021 – see here for more information. It is part of our efforts to decolonize our bookshelves and to feature more narratives (and poetry) by indigenous, first nation peoples and people of colour. Hence, this powerful poem by Rita Joe illuminated by Pauline Young is perfect for our theme. It is also recognized as a poem of healing and reconciliation, which also fits our quarterly theme on Joymakers and Peacebuilders. Each line of the poem is represented by the powerful art of Pauline Young.
It also reminded me of how I was mandated to speak only English throughout my elementary and high school years in the Philippines. In fact, students would need to pay a fine if we were caught speaking in Tagalog.
Slightly similar to Rita Joe’s experience, I studied in a Catholic, all-girls school, ran by Augustinian Recollect nuns. Most of them are Filipinos, a few are mixed race. However, it was my parents’ choice to send me to this private school – as opposed to Rita Joe’s being forcefully sent to a residential school when she was growing up – with indigenous young children snatched from their communities to “take the Indian out of the child.” As found in the “short history of residential schools” at the end of the book:
The Canadian government imposed its Indian Residential Schools program on Indigenous peoples for over one hundred years. It began in the 1870s and ended in 1996, when the final school, in Saskatchewan, was shut down.
In such few words, Rita Joe conveyed dispossession, the ripping out of voice from one’s throat, and the graciousness of finding space in one’s heart to make room for another language while keeping one’s own.
Here is the full poem:
I found the full story behind this poem on Youtube – I hope that you watch it all the way through:
#SurvivalStories2021 Update: 5 out of target 100