Kwe is an anthology of stories about First Nations women in Canada, featuring work from more than fifty contributors, including Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje, Gord Downie, Thomas King, Lee Maracle, and Yann Martel. Kwe means woman in Ojibwe. Or life-giver in Anishinaabemowin, the Ojibwe language.
Boyden was inspired to create the project when a sixteen-year-old aboriginal girl, Rinelle Harper was sexually assaulted and left for dead on the banks of the Assiniboine River in Winnipeg in November. Only three months after the murder of Tina Fontaine. In Canada, there are currently 1,200 police-recorded incidents of aboriginal homicides and unresolved missing-women investigations. This is an unimaginable number and so far the Canadian government has shown no interest in investigating these cases, claiming that they’re not a “sociological phenomenon.”
However, when Boyden decided to compile the anthology, the response from the artistic community was enthusiastic.
“It came together quickly; within a week of the call going out, we had dozens of submissions from writers and artists eager to support the families of missing and murdered indigenous women, artists who wanted to lend their voice,” Boyden said. “This is a call for action. We’re part of a rising chorus in this nation that demands that the federal government respond in a real way.”
Kwe is a fantastic initiative, and I hope it is able to educate and inform others about the lives of aboriginal women in Canada. It’s great that big-name authors like Atwood and Martel are on board with the project, but I hope that the focus of the collection is contributions by First Nations artists and writers. Big names help get the books out there, but this is a fantastic opportunity for a community to share their stories and to gain wider recognition.
Kwe will be published by Penguin Canada, and all proceeds from the sales are being donated to Amnesty International’s No More Stolen Sisters initiative. It will be sold for $2.99 from major book retailers starting today, and a limited print edition will be sold in Toronto and online through the Amnesty International Book Club in January.