Monday 12 August 2019

Take Us to Your Chief by Drew Hayden Taylor

 I've been meaning to read a book by Drew Hayden Taylor for some time and finally got around to it with Take Us to Your Chief.

A forgotten Haudenosaunee social song beams into the cosmos like a homing beacon for interstellar visitors. A computer learns to feel sadness and grief from the history of atrocities committed against First Nations. A young Native man discovers the secret to time travel in ancient petroglyphs. Drawing inspiration from science fiction legends like Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury, Drew Hayden Taylor frames classic science-fiction tropes in an Aboriginal perspective.

The nine stories in this collection span all traditional topics of science fiction--from peaceful aliens to hostile invaders; from space travel to time travel; from government conspiracies to connections across generations. Yet Taylor's First Nations perspective draws fresh parallels, likening the cultural implications of alien contact to those of the arrival of Europeans in the Americas, or highlighting the impossibility of remaining a "good Native" in such an unnatural situation as a space mission.

Infused with Native stories and variously mysterious, magical and humorous, Take Us to Your Chief is the perfect mesh of nostalgically 1950s-esque science fiction with modern First Nations discourse.

I heard him read from this book last year and found it interesting and humorous. When he was being interviewed and taking questions from the audience, he was well-spoken and funny.

Take Us to Your Chief is both humorous and thoughtful. I enjoyed all the stories but the three I liked most were:
  1. The first story in the book, A Culturally Inappropriate Armageddon, how a discovered ancient Haudenosaunee song played on a local radio station changed the world.
  2. Mr Gizmo, about a child's toy which begins to speak to a troubled boy contemplating suicide.
  3. Take Us to Your Chief, the last story with which the book takes its title from. While enjoying a few brews by a lake, three men Objibway men witness a spacecraft land and wonder what to do when the figures inside it greet them.
I Am ... Am I is the most thoughtful, when a computer gains consciousness and wishes to know exactly what it is.

All the stories are worth reading.

Not only am I looking forward to reading another of his books but he'll be giving a talk at the Heritage Court Wine Garden at the CNE on August 22, 2019 at 6 pm to discuss his work as an Indigenous writer, filmmaker, journalist and playwright, and provide a sneak peek into his upcoming book, “Chasing Painted Horses.”  I plan to be there.

During the last twenty-five years of his life, Drew Hayden Taylor has done many things, most of which he is proud of. An Ojibway from the Curve Lake First Nations in Ontario, he has worn many hats in his literary career, from performing stand-up comedy at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., to being Artistic Director of Canada's premiere Native theatre company, Native Earth Performing Arts. 

He has been an award-winning playwright (with over 70 productions of his work), a journalist/columnist (appearing regularly in several Canadian newspapers and magazines), short-story writer, novelist, television scriptwriter, and has worked on over 17 documentaries exploring the Native experience. Most notably, he wrote and directed REDSKINS, TRICKSTERS AND PUPPY STEW, a documentary on Native humour for the National Film Board of Canada.

He has traveled to sixteen countries around the world, spreading the gospel of Native literature to the world. Through many of his books, most notably the four volume set of the FUNNY, YOU DON'T LOOK LIKE ONE series, he has tried to educate and inform the world about issues that reflect, celebrate, and interfere in the lives of Canada's First Nations.

Oddly enough, the thing his mother is most proud of is his ability to make spaghetti from scratch.
His website contains far more information on Drew (may I call him that?) and his works.

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