In honour of National Aboriginal Day, we spoke with Gregory Scofield, the award-winning poet and author of Witness, I Am, published last Fall by Nightwood Editions. Scofield is Red River Metis of Cree, Scottish and European descent whose ancestry can be traced to the fur trade and to the Metis community of Kinesota, Manitoba. He has taught First Nations and Metis Literature and Creative Writing at Brandon University, Emily Carr University of Art + Design, and the Alberta College of Art + Design. He currently holds the position of Assistant Professor in English at Laurentian University where he teaches Creative Writing. In 2016, the Writers’ Trust of Canada awarded Scofield with the Latner Writers’ Trust Poetry Prize.
Scofield is active in spreading awareness of Canada’s Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) on social media, the devastating national issue that is depicted in many of the poems in Witness, I Am. Through both his writing and his presence online, Scofield has given a voice to many who cannot:
This issue is personal for me as I lost both my Aunty and cousin to racism and violence. When I first began looking to add my voice to social media, I decided I would use my Twitter account specifically for the issue of MMIW. More so, I began a daily tweet called Name A Day, which features the photograph and name of an Indigenous women who has gone missing. I also use the account to honour the lives of our sisters who’ve been stolen through homicide.
There are two purposes behind the tweets; one is to create awareness (as a public call-out) about women and girls who are missing. The other purpose is to create a space to honour the lives of women and girls lost to violence. My writing and poetry is very much an extension of this work and advocacy. I use my writing to create awareness of the harsh realities faced by many Indigenous women and girls in this country, to advocate for a meaningful change to improve their lives and the right to be safe.
Follow Gregory Scofield on Twitter @gregoryscofield