Poet Shane Rhodes found himself in an awkward situation last weekend, after his collection The Bindery won the 2008 Lampman-Scott Award, given annually by Arc Poetry Magazine to a book of poetry by an Ottawa resident. Rhodes is currently at work on a new collection examining the effects of “assimilation” on Canada’s aboriginal peoples, and in his research he kept encountering references to one of the prize’s namesakes “ Duncan Campbell Scott.
Scott [was a] local pioneer of Canadian poetry in the late 1800s [but] was also head of Indian Affairs for decades, and in that role, he promoted Canada’s residential school system as a way to assimilate aboriginal children.
In June, the federal government made a historic apology to aboriginal Canadians for the abuse suffered by some children at the schools and for the damage the schools caused to aboriginal culture, heritage and language. Prime Minister Stephen Harper called it a “sad chapter” in Canadian history.
Uncomfortable with the association, Rhodes decided to give away half of his $1,500 winnings “ presumably only the “Scott” half, not the “Lampman” half “ to a First Nations health centre.
“Taking that money wouldn’t have been right, with what I’m writing about,” said Rhodes.