Contemporary Indigenous Remix: Poets Matthew James Weigel and Jordan Abel Sampling from Settler Colonial Archives
Chapter from the book: Bédard-Goulet S. & Premat C. 2023. Nordic and Baltic Perspectives in Canadian Studies: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Northern Spaces Narratives.
This chapter discusses two poetry books by Canada’s Indigenous writers, It Was Treaty/ It Was Me by Dënësųłinë́ and Métis Matthew James Weigel and Injun (2016) by Nisga’a Jordan Abel, as different examples of textual remix. Each of them, albeit in different ways, responds to and exploits the contemporary accessibility and materiality of language, which results from its availability in the digital space and on the Internet, and which, in turn, inspires a series of appropriative procedures (such as copying-pasting, sharing, and remixing, for example) to which language – seen as matter – is then subjected. Critics have referred to contemporary culture, which is dominated by new media technologies, as “remix” culture (Manovich, 2015; O’Neil, 2006; Navas, 2012; Goldsmith, 2010; Dworkin, 2010), in which every Internet user re/produces cultural content, even if they often do so mechanically and uncritically. The poets discussed in this chapter engage in reflective and critical dialogues with the textual material they select, appropriate, and transform—that is, remix, often radically and provocatively—for their own works. Both Weigel and Abel sample from settler colonial archives rather than Indigenous sources, revisiting versions of the past as constructed by colonial sources. However, they do not engage in revisionist rewritings of the sources or their messages. Instead, both poets undertake a series of what Walter Mignolo (2014) theorize as “decolonial gestures.” Their poems foreground investigation of and dialogue with the sources as processes to open the source texts for unlimited re-readings and allow them to arrange and articulate their own space within the formulas and structures of settler colonialism, whose ongoing effects on Indigenous land and being both seek to expose and address.