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Media Club of Ottawa      quil-pen                                

the Media Club of Ottawa presents monthly programs of significance
to professionals in all branches of the communications field. 
Our program offers a stimulating variety of speakers.

Qais-Ghanem Dani-Elle Katelin-Belliveau
  Alexandra-Pope - speaker            Qais-Ghanem - speaker                    Amira Eghawaby - speaker                      Dani-Elle Dube - award winner                       Katelin Belliveau - award winner                 Bruce-MacGregor - speaker

Janary 2021


COVID-19 restrictions

Our program has been switched  to
publication of articles by our scheduled speakers on their topic

Publication dates 
Tuesday September 22
Tuesday October 20
Tuesday November 17
Tuesday December 15 - Frances Itani
Tuesday January 19 - Suzanne Keeptwo
Tuesday February 16
Tuesday March 23  - Baico - Projects
Tuesday April 20 - Matt Wood
Tuesday May 18 - Bobbi Graham
Tuesday, June  22 - TBA

 - -

Suzanne Keeptwo
speaks to us, virtually, in writing

Suzanne Keeptwo

 afrance            Photo Credit: SK Lafrance                                      

Since we still can’t gather for in-person meetings the Media Club will continue to share something written for us by a communicator as we did last spring and autumn.

This month’s contributor is freelance writer, editor, consultant, and recent author Suzanne Keeptwo. She has sent attachments of her biography, a story about her journey writing the book, and a photo of the cover of her newly published book. Of that cover photo Suzanne explained,  “This cover image is not the final draft as I  “corrected” one phrase that did not meet my approval (the copy on the cover was not written by the author). The last line on the left side of the image should read “This is a narrative for truth sharing and knowledge acquisition".

How My Book, We All go Back to the Land, Came to
 Suzanne Keeptwo January, 2021

I was angry. I was hurt. I had been excluded. The Algonquin Land Acknowledgement was being discussed at my workplace without me, the only employee of Algonkin heritage. I had long been delivering Land Acknowledgments; I had been consulted about Land Acknowledgments; I was a nationally renowned facilitator of Cultural Sensitivity Training, and an Indigenous content consultant. I had been called upon to provide opening prayers and traditional Teachings for over three decades.  Why, would the organization in which I work suddenly exclude me from this discussion? 

I had previously been consulted on many Indigenous issues at the office, from Indigenous languages and identities, to Idle No More and Truth and Reconciliation’s Calls to Action, to issues dealing with cultural appropriation, systemic racism, cultural protocols and now, this business of Land Acknowledgments. The latter becoming an embarrassing issue of increasing concern. I had been working in professional Indigenous contexts for decades, so these were not just hallway chats, but formal invitations for purposes of serving Indigenous clients. My colleagues, and many others across the arts and academia, were becoming bothered, bored, or confused by the new trend of Land Acknowledgment.

 My supervisor – a guest to Algonquin territory – asserted his authority and assumed sole responsibility for the organization’s territorial acknowledgment. The end result was lightweight and inaccurate. It was misleading to those who didn’t know anything about Algonquin turf and insulting to those of us who did. I brought the matter to my supervisor’s attention – to no avail. So, on behalf of my ancestors, I addressed it further.  It was then I realized a veritable form of workplace bullying was already underway. Meanwhile, my good colleagues were doing their best to understand the Indigenous worldview and societal issues while the Algonquin Land Acknowledgment was being exploited for political posturing. These acknowledgments were never about the land or ancestral connection. Instead, they sounded like empty, performative and repetitive colonial statements delivered and controlled by representatives of a white-led institution. 

A new rule circulated at my place of employment: no one could approach me about Indigenous issues without my supervisor’s consent. My superior could then choose to inform me of such requests – or not. An approach for consultation could be permitted – or not.  It became clear that my colleagues’ access to my cultural, historical and traditional knowledge was being denied. This was happening while I was working in an Indigenous-specific department that purported to support all things Indigenous: peoples; rights, treaties; practices and protocols.
So, angry and hurt, with the proverbial sock placed firmly in my mouth, I decided to write a book about the subject. There was a void in the publishing industry I felt I could fill so, I contacted a publisher with my pitch and signed a contract soon after that. 

Having to take an Elder Care Leave to support my 88 year old mother who was caring for my 91 year old father, I was relieved to get away from the workplace harassment that intensified with time.  Subsequently, with my parents to tend to and time on my hands between their naps, doctor’s appointments, and early evenings, I researched and wrote. When I woke too-early-to-stir while staying at their home  – waiting for that fateful call that would place my dad in a long term facility – I reached for my laptop to write while waiting for the sun to come up.

When my father was placed, I had every intention of writing while sitting with him as we passed away the days in his semi-private room. But, I did not once have the opportunity to work on the manuscript while there. I was kept too busy: fetching ice water; sorting laundry; adjusting articles of clothing; calling for staff; navigating a wheelchair stroll or, playing – and getting beat at – backgammon.

When covid-19 shut us out of my father’s world, I wrote full time in my own home between phone calls to my dad’s facility to check up on him. Previously, I had suffered night stress on the days I did not spend at his residence to ensure he was safe and sound. Now, I suppressed my worries about his own institutional nightmare by incessant and unwavering writing. I had to catch-up on my overdue deadline; I had previously informed my publisher I was running late. He understood, as he also had an elderly father to worry about.  Besides, he said, like any good publisher would, no use rushing.  Why would the publisher want anything less than a completed manuscript from an author whose project he firmly believed in?

I researched and wrote We All Go Back to the Land: The Who, What and How of Land Acknowledgments in four and a half months with, at first, my father’s life held close. And then, through the first long weeks of the pandemic that ultimately claimed him. 

As my father had enjoyed a successful career in publishing, he naturally modelled reading for pleasure in our home, displaying a particular fondness for history. He was also a brutal critic of any elementary school book report or high school essay. Honestly, I felt his strong spirit brought the clarity and energy required during those frenetic days after he passed. I spent an uninterrupted average of twelve hours a day on that damned computer, before returning to full time work. Thankfully, the pandemic made it such that I could work from home.  I was grateful not to have to waste up to three hours a day to prep and travel to and from the office each day. I could write instead. It was the perfect pandemic – at least for a writer.

So, after several weeks of writing a minimum of twelve hours a day, seven days a week, I now had to fit in my full time job. I awoke at 4am to write until 8:30am. I then switched to my telework. I wrote on my lunch break, and then I wrote from 5pm until about 10pm, with a quick break to eat. My suppers were often bowls of cereal or crackers and cheese. My eyes were now on that screen for up to eighteen hours a day, every day of the week, although the weekend allowed me a reprieve of an uninterrupted average of fourteen hours per day. It was both intense, and electrifying. My brain was exploding with a capacity to synthesise my research into culturally grounded, historically driven writing with contemporary relevance and, I felt, a strong narrative. However, the otherwise thrilling process took a toll on my body: my posture, my eyesight, my bones, my girth. When a completed manuscript finally landed in the hands of the publisher, I took two weeks off from my day job – and the computer. I stayed outside and spent most of my time in my canoe. Canoeing was the only therapy that worked out the crunching in my bones.

Then, the editing process began. Working with a non-Indigenous editor who had little relationship with the content was the most arduous period of manuscript making. The editor approached my work as a literary technician rather than allowing for a creative and cultural voice. She followed all rules listed in The Chicago Manual of Style religiously. This caused relentless back and forth. For example, “sundance” and “sweetgrass” are compound words, not to be broken in two; “non status” is a word that just did not look right without a hyphen or space; there was little understanding of my reference to “blood memory”; and, the term “White Inuit” is not racist.

To be fair, my writing style would be challenging for any editor as my writing style itself made a political statement. I used capitalization to emphasis a sacred Teaching or ancestral perspective.  I applied capitalization to the word “Land” throughout and, in contrast, I refused to capitalize, for example, the “bible” or the “crown” (as in the state and its government). As a result, I had to edit the edits and consistently justify or explain my choices and content. My editor had to adjust to an innovative literary style and cultural perspective. It was gruelling; she was like a sergeant major whose army was the collection of words in my book and I was just a squeaky cadet.

The mapmaking and photo collage required of the publication also brought much angst. Contracted designers were working on the manuscript, so it cost the publisher for each draft of their process. I was too often tasked to manage the visuals of the layout. Perhaps the managing editor wanted to ensure their author would be happy with the final results but, I felt overloaded by the process. I kept reminding them, I am not a mapmaker or a graphic designer, I am a writer. 

This grueling procedure, that had to fit into my forty hour work week, lasted a couple of months including every weekend. I could not be driven any harder; I would die. I was living on the river with my recently widowed mother at this time, to supposedly provide her support; meanwhile, she is the one who took care of me.

I finally signed off on the manuscript and breathed a great sigh of relief. Throughout, I was simultaneously navigating a harassment complaint along with a human rights complaint adjacent to the failings of a blatantly unsupportive – if not corrupt – union to which I paid dues. It was an intensely challenging time. But, I survived despite regularly warning my mother I could drop dead of cardiac arrest at any moment. I advised her to report to any authorities enquiring about my sudden death to say: “Her employer tried to break her spirit but, instead they broke her heart”. 

The release of my publication aligns with my decision to depart from my day job. My experience of workplace harassment is a microcosm of the injustice of crown and Indigenous relations explored in my book. That was an unintentional parallel. Without the harassment, I would not have been prompted to write this manuscript, so I am thankful in a sardonic way. In hindsight: an interestingly, meaningful twist of fate. 

I hope all organizations and individuals across this nation state, from all four directions, will heed my advice to honor customary practice by way of Indigenous-led Land Acknowledgments. The time has come for Indigenous peoples of this land to truth-tell. Perhaps then all peoples within the nation state of Canada will unite and achieve true reconciliation by way of respecting the Earth Mother, as per our Original Agreement, and save our ailing planet. For the Land Acknowledgment is ultimately about the Land.

And, that is how my book was born.


Media Club of Ottawa
 Executive  2020-21
President,  June Coxon
Secretary-Treasurer, Iris ten Holder



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