When the organizers of the conference coming up at Emmanuel College on May 14–15 first got together to discuss possible responses to Almuth Lutkenhaus-Lackey’s sculpture Crucified Woman, we tried to lay the field open. We invited responses from women and men of any faith, value, or belief system. Yet when it came down to it, we all agreed that our rising awareness of degradation to the environment, of the sex trade, and of the prison system was linked to both a feminine consciousness and to Aboriginal issues in Canada.
Marjory Noganosh, an Ojibwe elder who will open and close the event, is preparing a keynote address on the theme “Mother Earth and Women.” At the time of writing, the Federal Metal Mining Effluent Regulations of the Fisheries Act has redefined lakes as “tailing impoundment areas,” which allows the dumping of toxic waste into Sandy Pond, Newfoundland, and the destruction of land sacred to the Tsilhqot’in in British Columbia. The tailing ponds laced with arsenic, mercury, and cancer-causing benzene at the Alberta Tar Sands will, by 2020, have extended to one billion cubic metres of toxic sludge, continuing to destroy land the size of England and threaten the lives of the Chipewyan people – to name just some of the people adversely affected. If the white man cannot be at peace with the land, perhaps women can bring them to it, but it is hard to see how Marjory, or anyone else, might invoke the necessary miracle.
As for the prison system, Marian Botsford Fraser recently published a few stanzas of a poem by Renée Acoby, an Anishnawbe métisse from Louis Riel country, who has been incarcerated in the Edmonton Institution for Women for over ten years on a sentence now extended to over twenty years. The sub-committee gathering poetry decided to request permission to include this poem in our collection. Marian even encouraged me to write to the prisoner-poet myself. Renée’s response begins:
Thank you very much for your support and positivity.☺ This is the first time I have heard about the sculpture by Almuth Lutkenhaus-Lackey; I find it intriguing, uplifting, and empowering. Is this a yearly gathering? What a wonderful way to raise awareness and pay tribute to the suffering and strength of women … I am extremely honoured and humbled by your invitation to present my poem.
Such courtesy from a “dangerous offender”! We are equally honoured to include her poem and two others she has written in our compilation.