During the months of May and June we asked Winnipeggers to write and tell us about their favourite piece of writing by an Indigenous writer from Turtle Island (North America). The past few years have seen a real surge in new materials by Indigenous writers being published and our goal was to get the word out about all these amazing talents.

We had some terrific entries: you wrote to us about classic titles (April Raintree), new talents (Waubgeshig Rice‘s Midnight Sweatlodge ) and established writers (Will’s Garden by Lee Maracle). Your entries were touching and powerful and made for some great reading themselves!

In the end we managed to narrow it down to two winners: one in the adult entrant category and one in the youth (ages 12-17) entrant category. Each winner received a Sony eReader (so they can start using the Library’s e-book collection!) and a starter “library” of print books full of great Indigenous literature.

Thank you to all our entrants. We hope everyone continues to read and enjoy these writers. If you are stuck on what to read next remember that we are just a visit, phone call or click away! (Tip: try looking through this one search of our catalogue for some good suggestions for adult literature by Indigenous writers.)

And the winners are…

Adult category
photo of Jocelyn Boileau Adult winner of First Words contest with her entry about Blue Marrow


Name: Jocelyn Boileau
Entry: Blue Marrow  by Louise Bernice Halfe

Blue Marrow is one of my favourite narrative poems. I return to its pages to hear the voices of the ancestors speaking through Sky Dancer Halfe’s lyrical poetry. The images, unsettling and at times disturbing, come to life under a vast prairie sky. The land itself calls me to wake up and listen with – Up At Dawn Woman; Frying Pan Woman; Many Fingers Woman; Bundle of Bitches Woman; nohkomak and nikawiy, as “the women’s blankets spiral into the Northern Lights” and the Eternal Grandmothers speak. This is a story of love and betrayal, of healing and forgiveness. The beauty of words, Cree alongside English. The surprise transformation of rote prayer-responses brings hope, “Thy Creation come.” I love these lines by acimowinis [narrator]:

“When we weep her tears get up, become Blue Butterflies.”

Whenever I see a blue butterfly I think of the grandmothers’ abiding presence. Of tears turned to joy. Because this is also the earth’s story, Halfe’s particular details hold a universal truth, and I am drawn to remember with gratitude my own grandparents: my Welsh ‘Nain’ with her indomitable will, my maternal Grannie, stone deaf and crazy. Both gave me their unconditional love.

If you haven’t already discovered Blue Marrow, this haunting poetic meditation has my heartfelt recommendation. It will bring tears to your eyes. May it also bring you blue butterfly smiles. Blue Marrow sings of the resilience of life even through pain and injustice. It is a deeply moving tribute to the poet’s own grandmothers.

Youth category
First Words Youth Catagory winner Dakota and his entry of the play fareWel


Name: Dakota B.
Entry: fareWel by Ian Ross

The play fareWel by Ian Ross is very funny. The characters are very interesting and stuff they do is pretty crazy. They talk, fight and try to borrow money from each other while they wait for their welfare cheque.

I really liked the character of Sheldon Traverse. His story is intense because he has been through so much. He has been cut by a chainsaw, bit by a dog, hit by a police car and been punched in the mouth to remove a bad tooth.

I think the language used in the play is really funny. All the characters laugh at each other and all the ridiculous stuff they end up doing. I think this play is very good and people should read it. The characters encourage the reader. Even though they are in a bad situation, they keep laughing and trying.

Other titles suggested in the Last Word on First Words Contest:

An archive of this post, along with its additional reading suggestions, can be found in the new Aboriginal Services section of our website.  Head there to find out all that we’re up to as we serve and celebrate First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities in Winnipeg.  The section also features a great set of research links and listings of organizations in Winnipeg and Manitoba serving First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples.

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