Jun 23, 2022
Before you read this blog, I would like to let you know that I am a woman of color and an immigrant to Canada who is simply looking to learn and understand and who is more comfortable reading in French rather than English. My opinions are my own. The book Noopiming: The Cure for White Ladies by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson caught my curiosity in several ways. First, there is the title “Noopiming” which in Anishinaabemowin means “in the bush”, and the subtitle “The Cure for White Ladies” which refers to the book by Susanna Moodie Roughing It in the Bush. I was intrigued to know why the author of Noopiming needs to answer a book written over a century ago. I was also intrigued to know what is this whiteness disease contained in Susanna Moodie's book. In an effort to remedy my ignorance, and to satisfy my curiosity, I borrowed Roughing It in the Bush from the library. I admit that I was impressed by the amount of information it provides on Canada at the time of the settlers. Having heard that Susanna Moodie was “racist”, I tried to read with the eyes of an Indigenous person; and indeed, the book contains passages that no one with First Nations’ origins would accept. Yet the book has apparently been taught in Canadian schools for years. In my eyes, Susanna Moodie is nevertheless a good writer who describes her settler experience and that of her community in her time. She honestly reported how the settlers viewed their Indigenous neighbours whom they apparently didn't bother to get to know and that they decided to judge as we tend to judge all those who don't correspond to our narrow criteria of good and bad. I wonder if the First Nations’ had their own prejudices against the settlers.
I then looked for how Noopiming comes to redress the situation and correct the wrong done by Susanna Moodie's books. I initially found Leanne Betasamosake Simpson’s book to be different, but after a few pages, I began to appreciate the beauty of the symbolism. I began to see the interconnections between the different elements of nature that are the characters in the book and to understand how the spiritual trumps the material and how, unlike Susanna Moodie who taught urban dwellers to beware of the bush and its harshness, Leanne encourages them to reconnect with the elements of nature. As much as Noopiming is a tribute to the ancestors, I see it as a splendid collection of lessons for the younger generation. Leanne does not deny that the wounds of colonialism are still open, nor the difficult emotions inherited from the past, but without dwelling on it, she teaches young people, the real need to continue the journey at any cost.” This is why she encourages them to "work tirelessly" and to "exercise sovereignty over the emotions".
In response to Susanna Moodie, Leanne Simpson teaches us "the art of getting to know someone", and to "take very, very good care of each other, always, no matter what happens…... there are still stars. There are still stars”.
At last, this blog is just one more step in my reading and learning journey. I wanted to share with you, hoping that my curiosity will inspire yours.