At the Bar with Cecelia LaPointe

Readers may recognize Cecelia LaPointe as blogger Anishinaabekwe and fellow bar patron, know for her soulful, haunting writing style and up-to-date posts on Native American news. It was a great honor to complete this interview with her.

You’ve commented at the bar a few times, and some of the readers know who you are and visit your blog.  But we get new patrons all the time, so tell us a few things about yourself.

I am a proud Anishinaabekwe of mixed heritage and I strongly identify with my Ojibway/Anishinaabe roots.  As an Anishinaabekwe I have a huge responsibility to the Great Lakes, water and land as a “keeper of the water.”  I am a jingle dress dancer which is a healing dance.  I identify as gender non-conforming and Two Spirit.

I am an author, poet, writer, and healer.  I am a lifelong activist.  Prior generations paved the path of activism in my family and this includes a union organizer, civil rights activist, and being raised in a union blue collar home.  My activism started at age twelve when I spoke out against gentrification in my hometown at city commission meetings.  Currently my activism spans Native American rights, preserving Anishinaabemowin (the Ojibway language), women’s rights (specifically Native American women’s rights), and GLBTQ rights.  I have participated in peace walks, take back the night walks and mobilized others in get out the vote in the 2008 Presidential election on reservations in rural South Dakota.  Personally I believe that there is always a way to “take action” whether it is advocating for yourself, attending a rally, signing petitions or calling your representatives.

In my leisure I enjoy running, hiking in the Michigan forests, writing poetry, reading, and drinking tea. 

Keeper of the water? Two-Spirit?

As an Anishinaabekwe of mixed heritage I have a huge responsibility. This responsibility means I am a "keeper of the water." These waters are the beautiful Great Lakes. My Ojibway roots keep me most connected to Gitchee Gumee (Lake Superior). Here is a poem about the responsibility to the waters.

Anishinaabekwe, the Daughter,
You are the keepers of the water.
I am Nibi...water...the sacred source,
The blood of Aki, Mother Earth,
The force filling dry seeds to great bursting.
I am the wombs cradle.
I purify.

Nibi, the life giver,
Forever the Circle's charge
I have coursed through our Mother's Veins.
Now hear my sorrow and my pain
In the river's rush, the rain...

I am your grandchildren's drink,
Listen, Daughters, always.
You are the keepers of the water.
Hear my cry,
For the springs flow darkly now
Through the heart of Aki.

American Indian Poem,
Ojibwa, Minnesota


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I identify as Two-Spirit which is a term used in the Native American community for GLBTQ people, gender identity and gender variance. Additionally, it can mean that the person houses a masculine and feminine spirit. The term varies from tribe to tribe and there are different roles and values held for Two-Spirit people. Since I was about 16 years old I considered myself bi-sexual. As I grew more into my sexual identity I also began to identify with the terms gender non-conforming. In my mid-twenties began to reclaim my Native heritage and identity and instead of identifying as bi-sexual I began to identify as Two-Spirit. Here is a video on what Two-Spirit means in Ojibwe culture - http://youtu.be/JBXIskRSt0U

I met you when I came across your exceptional blog and found myself awestruck by your poetry.  Your work has a way of rendering the reader speechless.  How would you describe your poetic style?

My poetic style is a conglomeration of various styles.  My goal is to sink into some of the depths of darkness in the human experience while simultaneously shedding light on areas such as invisibility of Native American issues, oppression, pain, trauma, class issues, mixed race identity.  I write about topics that many people shy away from.  Poetry is healing and there is a lot of healing that needs to be done on ourselves and in our communities.   Poetry is also a way for me to be bold, brave and fierce!

Do you have any poetic influences in terms of style or subject?

Louise Erdrich, Heid Erdrich, Joy Harjo, Chrystos, Wendy Rose, Paula Gunn Allen, John Trudell and Audre Lorde.

You also write prose; your words come across sort like letters or journal entries.  Tell us more about that.

My style is to be free and so that the reader can enjoy the piece more.  I think that telling stories in a letter or journal entry form sets a different feeling and tone.  In addition to my stories coming across as a letter or journal entry, they also come across as a poem.  The style of a story doesn’t have to be in a typical story format.  I like to push beyond boundaries this way.

Some patrons may not realize this, but you’ve already been published, multiple times!  Tell us about your work, and how you went about getting your it in print.  

Wounding of Our Womb appears in the amazing anthology Voice On the Water: Great Lakes Native America Now.   I learned about this anthology posted at our tribal college on the rez.


A short story of mine is forthcoming in It's All in Her Head: Women Making Peace with Troubled Minds. Release date Spring 2013 - Seal Press.  I was googling away searching for places to submit my work and stumbled upon this call for submissions. 

Indigenous Is appears in this amazing multi-cultural, goddess inspired, and earth-spirited astrological datebook We'Moon 2012: Chrysalis.  I have been using We’Moon as my planner for several years.  I noticed that for several years they never had anyone from Michigan in their planner. So I was happy that this poem was included in the 2012 planner. 

Blood Memory appears in Yellow Medicine Review: A Journal of Indigenous Literature, Art and Thought (Fall 2011).  I found out about the call for submissions through a friend.


Online publications, zines, booklets and chapbooks include: Native Literatures: Generations, Revista Ixchel, Honouring Indigenous Women: Hearts of Nations, and DIY Life ZineI found out about all of these online.


What current projects are you working on?

I am currently trying to get a book of poetry published. I have thousands of poems ready to be published and just have to find the right publisher who loves my work and how I write. I am also helping get an Indigenous grass-roots led organization get off of the ground in Michigan. The main goals of this organization are: To unite common Anishinaabeg environmental and cultural struggles in the western Great Lakes region. To engage youth, adults and Elders to advocate for the conservation and protection of our homeland, Nibi (water), and way of life. I am also thinking of starting an organization that serves, empowers and offers a healing space Native women in Michigan.

And what does the future hold for the great Anishinaabekwe?

The future holds many great things! I am owning the fact that I am leader but in a different sense of what a leader means in the dominant culture. My leadership is non-hierarchical and based on traditional leadership for Native women, Anishinaabekwe. Decolonizing leadership and living a matriarchal way.

I would also like to write a novel or two. I have a few ideas brewing. I would like to publish a few books of my poetry too.

In my activsim I focus on Native American rights, preserving Anishinaabemowin (Ojibway language), women's rights, GLBTQ rights, reproductive justice and pro-choice activism.

My motto - be bold, be brave, be fierce! I'll keep on challenging existing systems and paradigms as much as I can.

Cecelia, you are too awesome. Thank you for stopping by the bar!

Comments

  1. What an excellent interview. I learned some things, which is always, always good. I love that you're a healer.

    Cecelia, I know the word "beautiful" is overused when describing your poetry, so I shall make it my mission to devise a new word that will succinctly describe and define your awesome poetry, because "beautiful" just doesn't work anymore. Awe-inspiring is good, but I think you deserve your own descriptor.

    *hunches over computer and starts thinking*

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  2. Thanks Amaya! My poetry is many things, I try to keep it very real.

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  3. Cecelia your poem "Indigenous Is" is amazing. I love 'We'Moon'! I'm a professional Astrologer (I also work with crystals)So I'm always pleased to read works by healers/light-workers. You have a new fan! <3

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  4. Glad you like the poem, "Indigenous Is." Yay, a new fan and thrilled to connect with another healer! :)

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  5. Thank you so much for this interview with such an extraordinary woman.

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  6. Replies
    1. And thank you! I was so glad you agreed to do this. I want more people to know about your work.

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    2. Yes it was fun and I hope to make new connections out of this interview!

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  7. It's nice to learn more about you. I don't stop by your blog nearly often enough. Migweetch for all the work you do!

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