I was born in Ottawa and now live in Toronto with photographer Mark Fawcett.
I’ve been a freelance writer and community organizer for much of my life, with stints raising sheep with my parents, teaching in Swaziland, and, from 2002 to 2011, studying and teaching at the University of Toronto. For the past several years, I have taught Indigenous history and a Canadian Studies course on decolonization in Canada at York University. I have also co-developed and am now co-teaching a new course on the Sociology of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission at the University of Toronto Scarborough campus with residential school survivors and staff of the Toronto Council Fire Native Cultural Centre.
For the past thirty years I’ve worked in various ways to support Indigenous/non-Indigenous decolonization in Canada. I’ve started by asking myself three questions: Who am I? Where am I? What are my responsibilities? To begin to answer those questions I spent seven years writing Distant Relations: How My Ancestors Colonized North America, which was published by McClelland & Stewart in 2000 and shortlisted for the 2000 Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing. Then I wanted to broaden my knowledge, so did a PhD in history at the University of Toronto, focusing on Indigenous history in Canada and comparatively with the US, New Zealand and Australia. My 2010 dissertation, “‘Toronto Has No History!’ Indigeneity, Settler Colonialism and Historical Memory in Canada’s Largest City,” was an attempt to challenge settler amnesia and dominant historical paradigms.
My academic work has always been complemented and informed by work in the community focused on relationship-building and public education, notably my nine years with First Story Toronto. I was also the co-writer, with Ange Loft, of the Talking Treaties Spectacle, a Jumblies Theatre community arts performance focused on Toronto area treaties and their contemporary significance, which took place at Fort York as part of the Indigenous Arts Festival in June 2017.
Over the past few years I have also returned to my roots as a writer and improvisational contemporary dancer. I have written Always With You, a memoir about my experience as a sibling of a child with Down Syndrome who was institutionalized — my late sister Martha was a resident at the Rideau Regional Centre at Smiths Falls, Ontario, from 1960 to 1973. I have also performed as a dancer with Sol Express, an all abilities theatre ensemble based at l’Arche, in Toronto. I am currently working with Cheryl Zinyk of Sol Express to create a new theatre piece about the experiences of the survivors of the institutions like the one my sister went to. Birds Make Me Think About Freedom will be performed at the Toronto Fringe Festival in July 2018.
I identify as queer and non-binary.