Read and revel in the poetry of Janet Rogers and you will see that she offers an idea that now is the time to renegotiate the terms for “Peace”.
As Indigenous artists, how do we get away from colonial descriptions of Indigenous art depicting a feral animism? Well, we claim that essence and transform our voices through expression with precision. Defending our essence we strike down the tenets of assimilation. If early settlers were eloquent and sophisticated in their approaches to assimilating and eradicating Indigenous essences, then Janet Rogers is equally eloquent and sophisticated in her reclaiming those connections to nature. Her delivery of the stories inherent in the experiences of her Mohawk-Tuscarora lineage and the intimate connection she shares with the Land, Culture, her Poetry and Politics of colonial lands.
Peace in Duress is a statement on the nature of the Two-Row Wampum treaty agreement between the Haudenosaunee or Six Nations peoples and the Canadian State, as Rogers sees it. Rogers’ poems attest that the agreement does not fare well, that there are many troubles brewing under the surface, it is these things that she brings to light through her powerful words.
Take for instance an excerpt from Three Day Road, where descriptions of canyons, dusty roads, and tumbleweeds are intermingled with hints of colonialism, consumerism, and the harsh yet sacred connectedness of the land in mid-western states.
broken barriers land borders.
unbelievable scenarios that put people in their place
traced back to somewhere fake
where the idea of original is absolutely lost
but tell it like legends cobbled from inaccuracies
nationalism is a blank buffet feeding the starving
it’s ok to forget who we are for a while
not forever never forever
Her words inspire pictures of the west at sundown, a fierce land where even more tenacious people thrive on the beauty of the land. How some take these relationships for granted, and how others have tried to claim that beauty in the name of nationalism.
Peace in Duress speaks to many elements of the Two-Row Wampum, about which Rogers mentions in Forever: a cultural poem that describes the intent and delivery of the Guswenta (Guswenta is the name of the Two-Row Wampum), and describes how far the relationship has strayed from that original intent:
they navigate a boat down a similar river
we paddle a canoe packing values
Rogers also references the Residential School apology and takes a strong stance on the response from Canada in Here’s the Deal. This line sums up the experience perfectly: “Does the money offer healing,” and the sentiment behind the last stanza talks about the vast differences between interpretation of the words Truth and Reconciliation:
Money Not a new relationship, nothing reconciled
Dollars to wash our hands with
“You’ve been paid, now go away”
It appears that one solution is to throw money at the problem hoping it will solve the issue; we can see that this approach to reconciliation clearly does not sit well with Rogers. She brings to light an idea so important to the future of repairing the relationship with Indigenous peoples, and that indeed the problem is far greater. It is a problem of denial or an inability to acknowledge pain and suffering in a human way—with compassion and understanding.
Perhaps with her powerful voice and creativity she will tease out that compassionate strand in her readers. And through her poetry, and performances people will begin to understand that “Peace” with Indigenous Peoples of these lands was indeed wrought under duress. Read and revel in the poetry of Janet Rogers and you will see that she offers an idea that now is the time to renegotiate the terms for “Peace”.
Copies can be purchased from Talon Books.
Peace in Duress by Janet Rogers
ISBN 13: 9780889229112 | ISBN 10: 0889229112
5.25 W x 8.75 H inches | 128 pp pages
$16.95 CAN / $16.95 US
Janet Rogers is a Mohawk/Tuscarora writer from the Six Nations band in southern Ontario. She was born in Vancouver British Columbia and has been living on the traditional lands of the Coast Salish people (Victoria, British Columbia) since 1994. Janet works in the genres of poetry, spoken word performance poetry, video poetry and recorded poetry with music and script writing. Janet has three published poetry collections to date; Splitting the Heart, Ekstasis Editions 2007, Red Erotic, Ojistah Publishing 2010, Unearthed, Leaf Press 2011. Her newest collection “Peace in Duress” was released with Talonbooks in September 2014. Her poetry CDs Firewater 2009, Got Your Back 2012 and 6 Directions 2013 all received nominations for Best Spoken Word Recording at the Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards, the Aboriginal Peoples Choice Music Awards and the Native American Music Awards. You can hear Janet on the radio as she hosts Native Waves Radio on CFUV fm and Tribal Clefs on CBC radio one fm in Victoria BC. Her radio documentaries “Bring Your Drum” (50 years of indigenous protest music) and Resonating Reconciliation won Best Radio at the imagaineNATIVE Film and Media festival 2011 and 2013. Ikkwenyes or Dare to Do is the name of the collective Mohawk poet Alex Jacobs and Janet created in 2011. Ikkwenyes won the Canada Council for the Arts Collaborative Exchange award 2012 and a Loft Literary Prize in 2013.