Roberta L. Jamieson Delivers 21st Annual Margaret Laurence Lecture
Canadian Treasure addressed the crowd gathered at Champlain College on Tuesday, January 18, 2011
What’s striking about Roberta Jamieson, a Mohawk woman from the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory and this year’s Margaret Laurence lecturer, is not only her impressive accomplishments in the fields of law, politics and in her work as head of the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation, but also her personal presence.
When speaking of Margaret Laurence, Trent University’s fourth Chancellor, Ms. Jamieson radiated intelligence and warmth, suggesting she had something valuable and meaningful to share. And share she did.
Referring to Margaret Laurence as our grandmother, Ms. Jamieson brought a new perspective to the iconic Canadian writer’s intellectual and political passions. She underscored the audience and the community as having key roles in giving substance to her work and life in our generation.
“Her compelling message is found not only in her words, but in her life,” Ms. Jamieson said. “In her approach to life itself, Margaret Laurence demonstrated courage and tremendous honesty,” Jamieson said. “She worked hard to see herself and the world as they really are, while maintaining a hope for tomorrow.”
“Margaret Laurence insisted on personalizing issues and left no room for ambiguity in dealing with the causes closest to her heart,” said Ms. Jamieson, suggesting such an approach would be valuable for non-Indigenous Canadians and the country as a whole. “If you're going to stay here, make this YOUR native land. Start looking after the whole family, not just yourselves,” she advised.
To investigate the literary aspects of Margaret Laurence’s work, Ms. Jamieson brought to bear the work of 19th century Mohawk writer and performer Pauline Johnson, interweaving insights into the two writers’ beliefs, approaches, concerns and characters over time. Ms. Jamieson discussed Pauline Johnson’s exploration of stereotypes of the 'Indian girl' in literature and engaged in a conversation about stereotypes, fear, and desperate hope in the characters of Piquette and Vanessa in Margaret Laurence’s story, The Loons.
In wrapping up the evening, the chair of Trent’s Indigenous Studies Department and a former classmate of Ms. Jamieson's, Professor David Newhouse honoured the speaker, calling her “an Iroquoian treasure, and a Canadian treasure.”
“Roberta Jamieson’s work represents the best of Iroquoian society,” said Prof. Newhouse. “Her work in the pursuit of peace demonstrates the veracity of Iroquoian thought; the idea that we can use our minds to create peace, and of Margaret Laurence’s belief that we create peace through caring for each other, and caring for the earth.”
The Margaret Laurence Lecture is an annual public lecture, funded by the Margaret Laurence Lecture fund and the Canadian Studies Directorate, Heritage Canada. It is intended to bring a distinguished speaker to Trent to address a topic related to Margaret Laurence's own intellectual and political passions, specifically women's involvement in peace, ecology, literature, and / or feminism.
For more on the aims of the lecture series and past lecturers, please visit: Margaret Laurence Lecture.
Posted on Wednesday, January 19, 2011.