Book Review: Everyday Acts of Resurgence (edited by Jeff Corntassel)
by Rachel Levee
Everyday Acts of Resurgence, published by Daykeeper Press (2018), is an impressive, accessible volume of short works exploring diverse perspectives on the ways in which the seemingly mundane and ubiquitous elements of daily life can be sites of Indigenous resistance and Indigenous cultural resurgence. The edited volume of works, collected under the three themes of “People,” “Places,” and “Practices,” brings together visual art, poetry, narrative, essays and speeches from authors, activists, artists and academics of Indigenous heritage and / or those deeply connected to Indigenous perspectives.
Approachable and intriguing, the varied works each bring their own flavour to this curated volume. What perhaps is most important about this volume is the complementarity of the pieces. While each piece does not reinforce the perspective of the other, each serves to buttress the meaning of the whole: that in the smallest moments, the smallest gestures, we can actively participate in resistance and resurgence. Of course, the opposite is true as well: a number of the pieces briefly discuss how easily our (in)actions uphold and strengthen the colonial project – but this topic is explored extensively in other volumes and is not dissected here. Rather, instead, we see how little moments can make big change.
For me, a mother of a young son, many of the pieces’ explorations of how parenthood as a space of resurgence struck a chord. It can perhaps seem trite to say that children are, of course, the future. What more likely space for resurgence? But the onus to bring about this resurgence isn’t on the little future-makers themselves, but rather on how we parent. It’s about parenting “in a good way”, as Mick Scow explains in his essay “Relentlessly Coastal: Parenting, Research and Everyday Resurgence”: “our relationships depend on the presence of love,” But this, too, is in balance with reality. Jeff Corntassel, in his piece “Renewal,” beautifully strikes a note of empathy and reality when he states that “When speaking of everydayness, we should be careful not to romanticize these actions. They are often thankless. Anyone who raises children knows that the daily realities of parenting can be exhausting and frustrating at times.”
Some works, like DIBIKGEEZHIGOKWE’s piece “Embers of Micro-aggression,” actively challenge and deliberately provoke through an airing of longstanding frustration. It is an essential, stunning piece in a collection that can feel somewhat conciliatory at times – not too unsettling for the settler-background readers – and lends a delicious gut punch just when the timing is right. The piece was wonderfully unsettling for me (in the figurative and literal sense). The short narrative reminds us that safe spaces to shout (or whisper) in rage – and be respected – are essential to the decolonization process.
While I lack the space in this short review to explain just what each piece meant to me, I’ll end with sharing how much Noenoe K. Silva’s essay “Recovering Place Names from Hawaiian Literatures” resonated with a growing shift in colonial / government perspective here in British Columbia. Silva’s essay discusses the revitalization and collection of Hawaiian place names as an anti-colonial project. Living in British Columbia for more than a decade, I’ve had the privilege of watching elements of the colonial slip away as highways, rivers, waterfalls, streets and parks lose the name given to them by settlers, and Indigenous names re-emerge. While it is an ongoing project, Silva’s essay is a reminder of how intrinsically the resurgence of Indigenous cultures across the globe are interrelated, and how all these efforts reinforce one another.
It is through innovative and engaging works like Everyday Acts of Resurgence that broader audiences can learn more about global Indigenous realities and how they, as Indigenous peoples, scholars, artists, or persons of any background, can actively participate in challenging the colonial project and in supporting the re-emergence of Indigenous worldviews. This book doesn’t seek to avoid reality but rather to celebrate it and show how we all can be agents of change in the everyday.
Rachel Levee, of mixed European settler and Jewish descent, is the Vice President of the Board of Peoples’ Pacific Partnership (PPP). Originally from Montreal, and a guest on Lekwungen territory for over two years, Rachel is grateful for the opportunity to engage with and learn from Indigenous and Pacific Islander world views in her work with PPP.
Jeff Corntassel is a new member of the Board of Pacific Peoples’ Partnership, and is a writer, teacher and father from the Tsalagi (Cherokee) Nation. He is currently Associate Professor and Director of Indigenous Governance at the University of Victoria, located on the unceded ancestral homelands of the Lekwugen and Wsanec peoples.