From Griffin Poetry Prize winner Jordan Abel comes a groundbreaking, deeply personal, and devastating autobiographical meditation that attempts to address the complicated legacies of Canada’s residential school system and contemporary Indigenous existence.
As a Nisga’a writer, Jordan Abel often finds himself in a position where he is asked to explain his relationship to Nisga’a language, Nisga’a community, and Nisga’a cultural knowledge. However, as an intergenerational survivor of residential school – both of his grandparents attended the same residential school – his relationship to his own Indigenous identity is complicated to say the least.
NISHGA explores those complications and is invested in understanding how the colonial violence originating at the Coqualeetza Indian Residential School impacted his grandparents’ generation, then his father’s generation, and ultimately his own. The project is rooted in a desire to illuminate the realities of intergenerational survivors of residential school, but sheds light on Indigenous experiences that may not seem to be immediately (or inherently) Indigenous.
Drawing on autobiography and a series of interconnected documents (including pieces of memoir, transcriptions of talks, and photography), NISHGA is a book about confronting difficult truths and it is about how both Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples engage with a history of colonial violence that is quite often rendered invisible.
This is the second edition of award-winning Nisga’a poet Jordan Abel’s second collection of poetry, Un/inhabited, which maps the terrain of the public domain to create a layered investigation of the interconnections between language and land.
Abel constructed the book’s source text by compiling ninety-one complete western novels found on Project Gutenberg, an online archive of public domain works. Using his word processor’s Ctrl+F function, he searched the document in its totality for words that relate to the political and social aspects of land, territory, and ownership. Each search query represents a study in context (How was this word deployed? What surrounded it? What is left over once that word is removed?) that accumulates toward a representation of the public domain as a discoverable and inhabitable body of land.
Featuring essays by Project Space founder Tracy Stefanucci and independent curator Kathleen Ritter – the first pieces of scholarship on Abel’s work – Un/inhabited reminds us of the power of language as material and invites us to reflect on what is present when we see nothing.