Rita Bouvier’s poetry collection, a beautiful rebellion, begins with the admission,
“sometimes it’s hard to hide weariness of body exasperation of heart”
Bouvier believes what saves her is that in many ways she had a privileged upbringing. Growing up in the community of Île-à-la-Crosse, Sask., surrounded by family, she was raised by her grandparents who nurtured her culturally. They gave her a language (Cree-Michif, or what is now referred to as Northern Michif), which is woven throughout the collection.
Her grandparents taught her values for living a good life, and while she does despair at times, she thinks back to all that they gave her. She reminds herself to remember what’s good. This worldview is reflected in her poetry.
Throughout the collection, readers can feel the presence of those who came before and the importance of kinship, community, and language. The Idle No More movement resonated deeply with Bouvier, reminding her of the many ways Indigenous communities have persevered and thrived since colonization.
When speaking of the movement, she said, “It was a peaceful movement that centred on the right for self-determination of Indigenous Peoples… it was more than that. It was respect for life—the air, the land, the water, the plants, the animals, the birds, etc.
“Some people think the movement is dead. I don’t think it is. I see it manifesting itself in all kinds of forms, in the courses being taught at universities, in the arts, in the kinds of things that are happening in our communities where people are forging ahead… sometimes making do with very little to create different experiences for the young people in our communities. I’m hopeful,” shares Bouvier.
Her poetry demonstrates the resilience and strength of all Indigenous Peoples around the world. Bouvier thinks globally and feels the pandemic reminded us all just how interconnected and interdependent we are.
She speaks to this interdependence in the poem “the rest of us will carry you along.” The piece was inspired by a story Sue Goyette told about attending a live performance by Jeremy Dutcher, during which he invited the audience to sing along.
“Before they started, he told the audience to carry on, even if they lost their breath momentarily… telling them, ‘the rest of us will carry you along.’”
Each poem observes some aspect of life, and many are teachings, offered in the old way through storytelling. Bouvier reminds us that we are called upon to remember the sacrifices of those who came before.
Louis Riel gave us all the best of our humanity by refusing to plead insanity