Q: Why did you apply to be WVML’s Climate Writer in Residence?
Katłįà: I have always had a deep appreciation and fear of nature, instilled in me at a young age by my grandmother who was born and raised on the land in the Northwest Territories. My latest novel Land-Water-Sky reflects this, stressing the importance of respecting the natural world. Land-Water-Sky explores environmental injustice through the dispossession of land, climate change in the North, and the impacts of capitalism and the industrial revolution.
Much of my writing, whether fiction, non-fiction, or journalism, is centred on how society can better protect the environment. Whether through advocating for regulatory changes, listening and learning from Indigenous knowledge keepers, or exploring green technologies, working towards preventing climate change is important. It is through this type of storytelling that I can connect with library patrons.
Q: Tell us about the personal project you’ll be working on during your residency.
Katłįà: I will be finishing the final edits on my upcoming book This House Is Not A Home, a fictional novel about Ko, a man who spends his life trying to get back what was taken from him: his right to live on the land in the way he did before colonization and assimilation interrupted his life.
I will then switch gears and continue work on my fourth novel that is set in the north, centered on Idaa, a young woman with an affinity for setting fires to escape her home life. As the fire burns within and around her, she is unable to stop the destruction it causes until she is brought to a rehabilitation centre where an Elder begins to teach her the healing power of water, bringing her on a spiritual journey to a place of healing. Idaa, whose name means “over the fire” in the Tlicho Dene language, becomes a firefighter and defends her home territory from a devastating drought caused by climate change. I am still searching for the ending to this novel and am hopeful I will be gifted with inspiration by those I will have the honour of working with through this residency.
Q: If you could only run one program during your residency, what would it be?
Katłįà: A writing group exercise that guides participant in writing a short piece on the climate emergency from a natural world perspective. Participants would identify as a season or living things such as a tree. At the end, we would gather these stories and work on querying it for publication as a collection.
Publishing works like this is an opportunity to bring people together on an important mission to create change. By giving nature a voice, we remember that it too is a character and not just the backdrop of a story. Unlike other characters, nature is not one part of the story—it connects with all characters. Without it we can’t exist, and for that reason we must take care of it to collectively take care of ourselves. If we want to heal the earth, we must begin to tackle climate change from the strong roots of Indigenous worldviews that care for the land, water, and animals.
Q: What book(s) or film(s) have you found most impactful when it comes to climate change?
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
Focusing on the natural world, Kimmerer gives us detailed insights on how to return to caring for the land once again, learning how to live in the essence of nature rather than separating ourselves from it. Drawing on her memories of Indigenous knowledge systems, Kimmerer shares stories with lessons on how to advocate for change within regulatory systems that follow the trend of ‘business as usual’.
Indigenomics by Carol Anne Hilton
Hilton’s Indigenomics addresses issues surrounding climate change, while pointing to how to create an economy that moves away from capitalism and towards global unity and sustainability in alignment with inherent Indigenous values. I look to this book for guidance, knowing it will take a tremendous shift in our well-oiled economic machine to find new ways of living and working in the world.
Warrior Life by Pamela Palmater
To Be a Water Protector by Winona LaDuke
The Right to Be Cold by Shelia Watt-Cloutier
Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Save the World by Tyson Yunkaporta
Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest by Suzanne Simard
Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
Silent Snow by Rachel Carson
The Other Others – Podcast
The Inquiry Film: A report on the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline
Q: What book do you think others should read right now, at this moment in the climate emergency?
Katłįà: Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer because it carries with it the ability to bring readers into a world that is respectful of nature. Through this book we learn that strawberries are not only delicious but connected to our heart. We learn the qualities of a swamp that go beyond the unpleasant sight of it. This book is a gift that teaches us how to see with more than our eyes—it breaks down ecology into simple yet complex workings that show the interconnectedness of nature, and how to incorporate these principles of nature into our everyday lives. Braiding Sweetgrass shows us that we can bring the best parts of ancient belief systems with us into the future. Focusing on the positives of what the natural world has to offer us can give us the energy we need to tackle climate change. When we are told we must do something, we often push back. When we are invited, we are more inclined to attend. Braiding Sweetgrass is inviting us into a whole new way of looking at the world, a world that has always been right in front of us.
Read Green with our Climate Writer in Residence: Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
Wednesday, February 23, 6:30 – 7:30 p.m.
Q: What message do you have for youth who are worried about the future?
Katłįà: In everything, there is always hope. Change sometimes happens slower than we want, but there are people all over the world coming together for a cause greater than ourselves. In that, we can feel assurance that things are moving in the right direction. The Earth will heal no matter what and is trying to replenish itself. This is difficult because there is so much destruction. That is why it is up to us to do everything we can to help the earth heal.
If we all do our part, we can begin to reverse the damaging impacts of climate change and stop environmental injustices from occurring once and for all. We desperately need the youth of tomorrow to help leaders invest in and accept new technologies to replace old industries, moving towards a change greater than ourselves. A world that is not focused on profit, capitalization, or archaic policies, but one that works together for the greater good.
There is not one solution—there are endless answers, big and small, and we are just beginning to explore the possibilities for change as a society. Being open to trying alternatives is key, and something that youth are best at because they are brilliantly inventive and have not yet lost their imagination. As humans, we have adapted and evolved to the ever-changing world, and even though it seems as though we are in the midst of doomsday, the Earth is resilient and so are we. When under pressure, humans often rise to the challenge. Our present reality is pushing us in the direction of much needed change, one that will ensure a brighter future for the endless generations ahead of us.