Humour is a powerful force which animates our lives and gives us energy. Humour binds us with each other, helps us relax, and helps us to think beyond our ordinary perceptions. It allows us to imagine new pathways to create ourselves. Also, in the wake of various assimilative pressures the nêhiyawak have faced, humour becomes a very important tool for revitalization.
Throughout Neechie Hustle, the characters use humour to question the Indian Act, the pass system and to question the literal and metaphorical boundaries which have been constructed around them.
When I was nine, my late father took me to see the film Apocalypse Now. It certainly wasn’t The Flintstones, but it did leave a deep and profound impression upon me. Through the years, I watched it again and again, including the Director’s cut. I often thought about how the Colonel came to be who he was, and how he completely merged and became part of his new surroundings and home. He abandoned his old way of life for a new one.
There is a character in Neechie Hustle called the wahwâ-man. ê-mamâhtâwisit, and resembles characters for epic Cree storytelling. The wahwâ-man abandons his older ways, tires of wandering the earth, and settles himself into new surroundings (albeit in a peaceful way unlike the Colonel). The wahwâ-man becomes obsessed with learning how môniyâw-people live, and how they do things. The wahwâ-man becomes enmeshed in the “heart of whiteness.”
One of the things that he becomes obsessed with is lawn work, and keeping his lawn in pristine condition. The crushing glow of the yellow of the dandelions causes him to go to great lengths to try and overwhelm them, and to make his lawn perfect. He even invents certain cutters that allow him to cut during the rain. At first, his neighbours admire his môniyâw-ness (whiteness), but in the end, they think he goes to far.
My late father told me a story of our grandfathers who fought in 1885. At one battle, they were greatly outnumbered by the Canadian forces. As they were fighting, as some of them became wounded, they told jokes to each other as a way to deal with the overwhelming situation that they found themselves in.
Humour can help one deal with difficult circumstances that one finds oneself in. Humour can also satirize the conditions of a society, and to imagine other ways the world could be. Humour can help create a space for nêhiyawi-consciousness, and a space for nêhiyawak to emerge revitalized.
môniyâw. white people
ê-mamâhtâwisit. he/ she is spiritually powerful
nêhiyawi- Cree (adjective form).
nêhiyawak. Cree people.
The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book.