The Emerging Indigenous Voices campaign launched on crowdfunding platform Indiegogo last week by Toronto lawyer Robin Parker has raised more than $90,000, from more than 1,250 donors, toward a new Indigenous literary prize. The award has also received an endowment from the Indigenous Literary Studies Association, a national scholarly organization dedicated to honouring and promoting Indigenous literature.
From the onset, Parker wanted an Indigenous organization to administer the award, which will be expanded beyond an annual cash prize. “We want the award to be more than a one-time gift of money. We want to use it to build community, because the award came out of community. To create mentorship opportunities, bring writers together, and have other resources made available to support emerging voices,” she says. “I’ve also come to learn not all emerging writers are young. After the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report came out, people’s voices began to be freed by the discourse, and more elders are writing down their stories. And those stories are so valuable.”
In light of the endowment, Parker and ILSA representatives are in talks about whether to continue fundraising on Indiegogo, which is scheduled for two more months. Parker started the campaign after a number of prominent members of Canadian media tweeted about funding a cultural appropriation prize for authors in response to an editor’s note in the Writer’s Union of Canada’s Write magazine by author Hal Niedzviecki.
Parker says she didn’t expect such a large response, but is delighted that in some way that the campaign has taken over the negative conversation that inspired it. “Over 1,000 people have said, ‘We want to hear what Indigenous voices have to say.’ And there are a few $5 donations that have a special place in my heart. I wonder, ‘Is it a child? Is it someone with little money?’ They’ve gone to the trouble to cast their ballot on the topic. I find that very moving,” Parker says. “I value every single donation as a little treasure. And I hope the community of writers it’s meant to support feel the same way.”
Further details about the initative and ILSA’s involvement will be shared at a poetry slam event in Toronto on May 27.