Bury My Heart at King and James, a small collection of essays and poetry by Danielle Boissoneau, explores the intersections between gentrification and colonization. It was produced during Boissoneau’s residency at Hamilton Artists Inc. between April to August 2019, where she was “asked to write openly and creatively about, around, and beyond her experiences with gentrification in Hamilton.”
Boissoneau is an Indigiqueer Anishnaabekwe from the shorelines of the Great Lakes. Published in various magazines from across the country, she sees her words as tools to rebuild possibilities. Danielle is a mother, a writer, a seedkeeper, waterwalker and according to her daughter, quite infamous. She loves the land and the water.
The Inc. is celebrating the publication of Bury My Heart at King and James on Tuesday, January 19 (on Zoom) during an evening of storytelling, poetry, and music, featuring live music by Hamilton-based musicians Piper & Carson.
Leading up to the event, we chatted with Boissoneau about her chapbook.
Can you tell me about the title Bury My Heart at King and James? How did you arrive on it and what do you hope it evokes among readers?
As a young Anishnaabekwe reader, maybe 19, I was struck by the string of words Dee Brown used for his book, “Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee” (1970). Not only the title but the words inside the book that told the histories of settler colonial violence awakened something in me. It was an instrumental text in raising awareness of the brutal truth of how these countries were founded. So when I say “Bury my Heart at King and James” I’m conveying the grief I feel because before gentrification, there was colonization.
I hope folks can reflect on the impacts of colonization, not only on Indigenous peoples, but on the land and water. Believe it or not, there was a time when the Hamilton Harbour was beautiful, an actual paradise. I often grieve the ongoing violence against the water, and our people, the continued displacement we face. I think about the people who used to live here before King and James became such a booming intersection of distraction and hurriedness. I hope that people take the opportunity to continue learning about these connections.
There are many lines that struck me in your collection, but one really stood out to me: “They tried to gentrify my heart.” How do both gentrification and colonization feature in this collection?
Before gentrification, there was colonization, A constant replacement of people over and over. Writing this text helped me to articulate the complex feelings of ironic compassion I had for friends being gentrified out of their homes. Creatively, it came together when I read a zine that some Hamilton youth had written about where to get the best cheap food in downtown Hamilton. It is survival through the arts and I felt like there is something to say about unity and community building in the face of the ongoing violence off displacement.
Looking at 1492 Landback Lane, we see that colonization is ongoing. I used to bring my kids to places on King William where we’d meet with friends and hang out and laugh. But that’s gone now. For me, the thing about that line is that the emphasis is on tried – I know the beautiful folks holding it down at Landback Lane are laughing around the fire and there is the beauty and reclamation in that. For over 500 years, they’ve tried to hold my people down and we’re still here. I hope to share that hope with people who are being displaced from their homes because of gentrification
Can you tell me how Bury My Heart at King and James came to be? I’m hoping you can share a little bit about your role as Artist in Residence at Hamilton Artists Inc. and a little bit about your writing process.
In April 2019, I was invited to speak on a panel discussing creative actions and strategies to resist gentrification as part of an even bigger event called Pressure Points: Gentrification and the Arts in Hamilton, hosted by Hamilton Artists Inc. From there, I was invited to continue sharing my thoughts through their writer in residence program. I felt like it was an excellent opportunity to challenge myself, firstly because of my perspective on gentrification, as Anishnaabe kwe, and secondly it would mean turning my writing process upside down.
As a writer, a poet, my flow spouts from inspired connections and often, it’s like I can’t get to a pen and paper fast enough. The challenge here was that gentrification, or resistance to it, did not inspire me. I had to search for the connection and pull at the strings, I had to find the words, instead of having them come to me. It reminded me of what it might be like for non-Indigenous peoples to seek meaning beyond the cement, and the humdrum 9-5 mentality that pushes us to achieve, but not to connect. Writing this text helped me to empathize with people who have to search for meaning.
Places: An Evening of Storytelling, Poetry and Music
January 19, 2021
7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. (On Zoom)
To get your copy of Bury My Heart at King and James, email firstname.lastname@example.org or click here for details.
Publications are free or by donation. All of the proceeds raised from Bury My Heart at King and James will be donated to 1492 Land Back Lane, the ongoing land dispute on Haudenosaunee territory.