Campbell discusses her storytelling as an Indigenous woman
Tenille K. Campbell’s debut poetry collection, #IndianLovePoems, garnered positive attention across the country, showing up on awards lists in both Saskatchewan and Manitoba, as well as the inaugural Indigenous Voices Award.
Campbell is a Dene/Métis author and photographer from English River First Nation in Northern Saskatchewan. She completed her MFA in Creative Writing at UBC and is currently working on a doctoral degree in Indigenous Literature at the University of Saskatchewan.
With a theme of “Stories For Generations”, the 7th Annual Spirit of the Land conference will explore how storytelling connects to the land, ecology and community. The Medium sat down with Campbell to discuss how her writing connects to the conference themes, where she finds inspiration and how her stories impact future generations.
What are some of your favourite stories?
In general, my favourite stories are family stories. The stories you are told over and over again, sitting around campfires and around kitchen tables. The stories you carry without even being aware of how they have shaped you. Those are my favourite stories.
How do you find inspiration for writing/storytelling?
My inspiration to write comes from the interactions around me. I’m either constantly in a daydream or constantly watching the world happen around me. I love seeing people interact, guessing what going through their minds or the behind the scenes story. And then, taking these stories as I’ve imagined them and laying them down on paper in a way that reflects my culture, my communities, the accents I grew up hearing – there’s such power and grace within that.
How do you think that storytelling can change communities? How does your writing reflect complex real-world ramifications?
I do believe that storytelling has always and will continue to change communities. It’s through our stories that we know who and where we come from, and we learn from the past. My writing currently focuses on positive Indigenous sexuality, and it is layered with politics (hello, Indian Act), pushing against stereotypes, and reclaiming our narratives as Indigenous women. I write about walking through this world as an Indigenous woman – my writing reflects these experiences.
How does your storytelling connect to land, ecology and/or people?
My writing is all about the people – people you love, hate, make love with, and walk away from. It’s about relationships with one another – however complicated – and how our identities can be shaped by the land, urban or bush. It’s about how we come from the land, and how we return to the land. It’s about how the earth carries our heartbeat and how the land carries our stories.
How does your writing impact future generations in relation to how we interact with the world around us?
I think my current writing reflects the complicated relationships we have to each other as Indigenous and non-Indigenous people and the need for decency, compassion and empathy as foundations – and how humour is a unifying factor. How we all want to feel love and be wanted and needed, and how hilarious the quest for these things often are. I think my writing gives space for us to fail in love gracefully, and see the connections between us.
Campbell is set to speak at the 7th Annual Spirit of the Land Conference on Oct. 27. For more information or to register, please visit spiritoftheland.ca.