Carol Rose Daniels is probably best known for being the first Indigenous woman to anchor a national news broadcast in Canada when she joined CBC’s Newsworld in 1989. Having spent three decades reporting for CBC, APTN, and CTV while raising three children (whom she calls “her most important teachers”), the award-winning Cree and Chipewyan journalist, who has roots in the northern Saskatchewan community of Sandy Bay, has also established herself as a visual artist, musician, and author. She won the First Nations Communities READ Award and the Aboriginal Literature Award for her debut novel, Bearskin Diary (Nightwood Editions, 2015). But if you ask the multi-talented artist, she’ll tell you that poetry is her first love.
With the release this month of Hiraeth (Inanna Publications), Daniels mines some harrowing and personal source material – the Sixties Scoop – to showcase her passion for the form. Her hope, she says, is that the collection’s poems support Indigenous women in their attempts to find strength.
What do you want people to know about Hiraeth? The writing of this collection was cleansing for me. So often, people look at my life and actually say, “Everything just seems to come so easily for you.” Far from it. I am humbled and honoured to be able to share my truths through this, my first collection of poetry.
What does the word hiraeth mean? A longing for a return to a home to which you can no longer return. A deep, inborn sense of yearning for a home, a feeling, or a place that is beyond this plane of existence.
Hiraeth is a Celtic word. How did you come across it? Is there a similar word in Cree or Ojibwemowin? There are likely no similar words in my language. (We don’t even have a word for goodbye, because we never say goodbye; we say “see you later” or isko maka.) I came across hiraeth while checking Dictionary.com; it was the word of the day. Later, after thinking about it, I figured it was the perfect name for my poetry collection, considering the content of my writing. Because I was scooped up, I grew up in a place where I never did belong.
What are the challenges in writing about the Sixties Scoop as a poet and a survivor? What do you wish people knew about it? When I began talking about the Sixties Scoop, I was appalled that almost nobody had even heard about this very damaging and dark time in Canadian history. Very few people had written about the scoop up – and how the profound feeling of displacement and never belonging may not be something we, as scooped kids, will ever fully heal from. But there is a way to move forward. By finding and embracing our Indigenous roots, we will hopefully erase the very thing the Scoop tried to instill. We can proclaim: “I am no longer ashamed. I am proud and I will pass on that strength.”
Saskatchewan has a long history of institutionalized racism, from residential schools to the Sixties Scoop to the starlight tours to the Colten Boushie verdict. How do these things influence you as a Cree and Chipewyan woman and artist? I am well aware that we need to do a great deal of rebuilding everywhere in this country, and the best place to begin is in our own lives. That’s why I appreciate being able to work as a storyteller – going to schools, libraries, and community centres where I tell stories that include basic Cree language. We sing, we laugh, we dance. I invite these young students, who are mostly non-Indigenous, to share my culture, to celebrate my culture. It is filled with joy. Healing through the arts – that’s why I write.
You’ve been a journalist, a visual artist, and a musician. What does poetry offer that other media don’t? I have always seen poetry as a precise way to capture moments in time, be they beautiful, profound, sad, or filled with anger. Journalism doesn’t provide this opportunity. As a visual artist, because my work is primarily abstract, done in acrylic with mixed media (I love colour and bold strokes), not everyone gets it. I hope my writing stimulates something they might recognize within themselves.
Also, writing poetry enables me to go from feelings of hatred and despair and feeling lost to finding faith, finding love, finding light.
What have you learned about your creative process after writing a novel (with a second in the works) and a poetry collection? My process has always been the same. I carry a notebook with me everywhere I go and jot down thoughts or quotes as they come. I walk a lot, and when I do, I create scenarios and characters in my head. I’m pretty sure the ideas come from the Saskatchewan wind.