When the new sxʷiʔe ̕m “To Tell A Story” Indigenous Writers & Storytellers Series launches at UVic on November 10, it will be offered as a gift to the community by the Department of Writing and professor Gregory Scofield.

“My goal is to honor the nations on whose territory we live, and to celebrate and honour the writers and storytellers in our communities,” he says.

To launch this latest offering in Victoria’s literary landscape, the Writing department is honouring two acclaimed alumni: Syilx Okanagan multidisciplinary author Jeannette Armstrong — an Order of Canada recipient and founder of Penticton’s acclaimed En’owkin Centre — and award-winning WSÁNEC poet Philip Kevin Paul, a past Governor General’s Award poetry finalist and former instructor with the Writing department.

Gregory Scofield

“Jeannette Armstrong is a matriarch, an author, a storyteller and an incredible educator working in language revival,” says Scofield. “Philip Kevin Paul is an amazing poet and storyteller, as well as a local knowledge keeper and SENĆOŦEN language speaker. I’m very excited to be able to celebrate these writers and storytellers.”

Indeed, both our Writing department and the Faculty of Fine Arts have a long history with the En’owkin Centre, whose Foundations Indigenous Fine Arts Progam ladders towards a UVic BFA.

An exciting time for Indigenous writers & storytellers

Inspired by a similar series he ran while teaching at Ontario’s Laurentian University, Scofield began working on this new series shortly after joining UVic’s Writing department in 2019.

“It has been and continues to be a very exciting time for Indigenous writers and storytellers,” he says. “There are so many important stories to be shared, told and celebrated across Turtle Island through the mediums of literature, film, music, dance and oral storytelling.”

Armstrong and Paul are among a number of notable Indigenous alumni who have graduated from the Writing department over the years, including the award-winning likes of Haisla & Heiltsuk novelist Eden Robinson and multidisciplinary Tłı̨chǫ Dene author Richard Van Camp — both of whom originally came from the En’owkin Centre program — plus Métis & Trinidadian poet Cara-Lyn Morgan, and Xaxli’p & Métis freelance journalist Jenessa Joy Klukas, to name a few.

“We now have specific generations of Indigenous writers: there’s the writers of Jeannette’s era and the writers of my own generation, plus new writers like Billy-Ray Belcourt, Joshua Whitehead and Shari Narine,” says Scofield. “As more Canadians become aware of truth and reconciliation, more people are reading works by Indigenous writers and gaining knowledge of our history.”

All are welcome to join in the celebration of the new sxʷiʔe ̕m “To Tell A Story” Indigenous Writers & Storytellers Series, starting at 7:00pm Friday, November 10, in UVic’s First Peoples House.