Indigenous Arts & Stories - Earth Story

Earth Story

2014 - Writing Winner

My ancestors' stories are written In the Air that fills us, frosty breath of the Buffalo in winter.

Read Nicolas Bonin's Earth Story

Nicolas Bonin

Winnipeg, MB
Age 17

Author's Statement

This poem reflects the aspect of aboriginal culture which is that it is primarily an oral culture, which means that stories and legends are essentially transmitted by word of mouth, from the elders to the younger people in the community.
Firstly, aboriginal culture is first evoked by the fact that the first three stanzas, those which deal with the persona's stories, contain seven verses each, an important number in the aboriginal culture. This is contrasted and reinforced when the stanza which deals with the colonizing force's history does not contain seven verses. The structure of the poem also represents the stories of the aboriginal people by how the first three stanzas appear freer and less restrained, whereas the last stanza is strictly presented, evoking the writing one would find in a book. Finally, the shape of the poem represents the accumulation of stories and legends aboriginal people were traditionally privy to by the fact that each stanza gets progressively wider, with longer verses.
Aboriginal culture is also represented through the emphasis put on nature. The words Air, Water and Earth are capitalized throughout the poem, personifying them and granting them an importance proper to aboriginal beliefs, that the world was principally made up of these elements. Also, each stanza represents a different season, which were relevant to the aboriginal people who were often nomad or semi-nomad, and who changed locations depending on the season, and incidentally, the migrations of animals. The final stanza, which represents the stories of the French settlers, is assigned Autumn, symbol of death and progression towards winter in popular literature.
Finally, the poem evokes the aspect of oral culture in aboriginal history by the fact that the persona continually describes the nature-related elements to which the stories are either related, or on which they are "written". This brings out the fact that the aboriginal people were related very closely to the land on which they lived and survived, and so their stories were essentially linked to the very land which fed them, protected them, and provided everything they needed. This is contrasted by the fact that the stories of the colonizers are "dead" and "cold", written on the pages of books, as they desired more than their lands could provide so they set out to discover new territories, hungry for more, and ungrateful to the earth.


Earth Story

My ancestors' stories are written

In the Air that fills us, frosty breath of the

Buffalo in winter. Cold, lung-burning,

Hot and heavy, blowing waves across the

Prairies, drawing the pregnant clouds

Slowly, heavily, wetly across the sky.

My ancestors' stories are in the Air.


My parents' stories are written in the Water. Cool

Spring droplets on brown skin, diving from the clouds above,

Hurtling towards the muddy rivers below, still frosty. Small streams

Race down the sides of tipis, skins stretching into the sky and reaching

Tentatively towards the ground, anchored, solid. Crushed-berry paints

Trace fish, buffalo, deer, caribou, beaver, goose, bear on

The tense canvas, dried and from the Earth.


My stories are written in the grooves of bark. My family tree is the Oak which sprawls,

Every leaf a new chapter, every bud a new character, every Summer a new generation.

My stories are written in the Earth, upheaval of dirt beneath roots, the smooth-polished

Stones of rivers and streams. The valleys and canyons carved between mountains

Describe the plot of my destiny, every twist, every turn a new challenge with rock.

The Earth I trod on carries my footprints, the letters printed on the novel of the Earth,

A typewriter of my own, a breathing interpretation.


Les Français écrivent sur des morceaux d'arbres morts. They arrived: they, who write on dead tree, paper, bound and restricted in covers of leather. The pages lay stabbed by sharp quills, bleeding ink onto the sheets suffocated against each other. Words lie limp, lifeless, hanging. clinging to the yellow paper for dear life. No life. This is not adventure, this is not legend, this is not culture. This is history, cold fact. The characters are not people, they are inscriptions, emotionless words. My ancestors' stories are in the Air, dancing on our tongues, swaying in the breeze with the leaves, struggling against the current with the salmon.