Kwantlen Polytechnic University student Tawahum Justin Bige grew up urban Indigenous, not knowing much about his culture and background. It wasn’t until he was 20 that he learned to embrace his heritage.
Now, he is showcasing his culture and background as part of his creative outlet.
“I discovered writing a few years ago and it seems to have pulled me in. I like doing performance with poetry,” he says.
Tawahum, a poet and fourth year creative writing student, presented some of his published work at Powerful Medicine: An Evening of Indigenous Stories at the Surrey campus on October 25.
He is Lutsel K’e Dene and Plains Cree on his mother’s side and Hungarian on his father’s side. He says he received the name Tawahum, which means North Star in Cree, at a naming ceremony.
The 25-year-old says a lot of his work is spoken word because a lot of Indigenous storytelling is verbal.
“There’s an expectation that I write from my Indigenous cultural perspective and it’s definitely front and centre in my writing, but I would say my writing is Indigenous stories because it’s coming from an Indigenous person.”
Tawahum wants more events like this to help other students understand Indigenous stories from Indigenous storytellers.
“I would like to change the way things are and my writing reflects that naturally,” he says.
Jennifer Hardwick, an English instructor at KPU, hopes this is the first of many events.
“KPU is working to deepen relationships with Indigenous nations and communities, and I feel strongly that creating spaces for Indigenous arts and stories can, and should, play an important role in that process.”
Hardwick says the event, which also included artists Raven John, Shane Sable and Jules Koostachin, was met with enthusiasm and support.
“The power of stories to teach, entertain, engage, build community, heal, resist and transform was on full display.”
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Story by Sucheta Singh