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224 pages, Paperback
First published May 15, 2018
It turns out that Johnny Appleseed is some American folk legend who became famous by planting apple trees in West Virginia. I didn't understand why we'd sung about him in camp – I wanted to know about Louis Riel, Chief Peguis, and Buffy St. Marie, but instead we were honouring some white man throwing apple seeds in frontier America. Apparently he was this moral martyr figure who remained a virgin in exchange for the promise of two wives in heaven. Oh, and he loved animals, and I heard he saved some horse by hand-feeding him blades of grass, Walt Whitman-style. I would bet my left nut that he was a slave owner too and planted his seeds on Treaty territory. All I know is this: apples are crazy expensive on the rez and they had now become bad things in my head.
Instead of saying we liked or loved each other, we just lay there on our backs, our brown skin shiny in the rosy light that poured in from the evening sun. We surveyed each others' body: him seeing the scar above my clavicle from when I fell down the stairs as a kid, and me seeing the patch of hair missing from his scalp. I knew then that I loved him.
Funny how an NDN “love you” sounds more like, “I'm in pain with you.”
I write this book with the goal of showing you that Two-Spirit and queer Indigenous folx are not a “was”, that we are not the ethnographic and romanticized notations of “revered mystic” or “shamanic”, instead we are an is and a coming. In nehiyawewin, there are no masculine or feminine attributes, instead we have animations in which we hold all our relations. We are accountable to those kin, be they inanimate or non-human, or be they unabashedly queer, femme, bottom, pained, broken. We put our most vulnerable in the centre and for once I do just that: 2S folx and Indigenous women are centred here. I hold our relations accountable for us for once. Jonny has taught me a lot of things but there are two that I want to share with you: one, a good story is always a healing ceremony, we recuperate, re-member, and rejuvenate those we storytell into the world; and two, if we animate our pain, it becomes something we can make love to.