DA Lockhart on Big Medicine

This that Must Be Sung

In 2013, we packed up our home on Indianapolis’ eastside and moved back to my hometown of Windsor, ON. This moment in our lives marked a critical change in both who we were and the arc that our lives are to take. I mention this because almost two centuries previous, my ancestors followed Tecumseh and his men north from Prophetstown and the threat of murder at the hands of William Harrison and his men in what is now the state of Indiana. Their migration was one of multiple waves that would send refugees from not only our southern neighbour, but also from around the world. We followed this similar migration in our lifetime not out of habit, nor desire, but because we had to. Clearly not as threatened as my ancestors were, we still nonetheless realized a need to move that came from pressures far above us. There is something of this physical place that we again call home that welcomes us, greets us as individuals cast into a world that often does not have our best interests at heart.

I start here because that movement is what is fundamentally at the heart of the work in Big Medicine Comes to Erie. Here is the world cast from the standpoint of a non-Euro Canadian viewpoint, both in the historical and contemporary sense. I’m fascinated with history. The land itself whispers stories to us. But we as people take those whispers and our experiences and build our stories, our history from them. As a Lenaape, my ancestors were forced to flee with everything they could gather first to the rich hunting lands south of Lake Erie, then to proposed Indian Confederacy land, and finally to the Western District of Upper Canada. We were not alone in that flight in terms of First Nations. But of all those stories and histories that came to this place, I believed that fundamentally our stories mattered. And when I looked around, after my return here, I found these stories lacking in the way people talked about here. So I set to work on the thing I was trained to do: write.

In terms of my work, I am primarily a poet. It’s that old music lover in me that sees the world as glimmers of existence, snapshots of experience that can be woven together into larger creations, bigger statements. I also believe that the way we say things is also just as critical as the things that we say. As such, I determined that poetry was the best vehicle for exploring this absence in our record of our place. Medicine in terms of my culture is not the treatment the human body takes when it is injured or diseased. It is the energy that surrounds all of creation in its various forms. It is both good and bad, both big and small. Because we are part of creation we, too carry medicine with us. We exist in our forms because of it. My ancestors brought it with them when they crossed over to this place. We have carried it to this day. It transforms us and those around us.

You should understand from this that the very work that we propose to do in reconciliation for First Nations and Non-Indigenous peoples on Turtle Island stems from this notion of medicine. Big medicine came to the shores of Erie when my ancestors reached the relative safety of this place. Whether or not others recognized its presence it was now here. This one collection of poems is a call to recognize this in the familiar. Big Medicine Comes to Erie is a voice for the history and worldview that has all too often been left out of local and national dialogs and history books. It is work that must sing in the fashion of the medicine we carried all the way from the shores of the Delaware River to the high ground above the Wabash River and to the straits of Detroit. It is the work that must be heard by others to witness our time in this our shared portion of creation, the work that this poet had to do.

Join Black Moss Press tomorrow at Storytellers bookstore in Windsor, Ont. as we launch D.A. Lockhart’s Big Medicine Comes to Erie and other books. See the link for more details.

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