UNIVERSITY OF ALBERTA FACULTY OF NATIVE STUDIES, EDMONTON
In the frosty nether-regions of December 2015, in Amiskwaciwâskahikan (Beaver Hills House, also known as Edmonton), the Tipi Confessions collective provided participants at the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Native Studies’ Symposium on Indigenous Masculinities a seductively hot spatial interlude to a primarily academic gathering. The audience of university and community members participated in a shame- and stigma-free storytelling event featuring anonymous audience confessions. The show featured both humour and vulnerability related to decolonial sex and sexuality.
If coming together around such intimate topics often seems hard to do, let me tell you about when that magic happens. Tipi Confessions, inspired by the live-reading series Bedpost Confessions, imported to Canada by Dr. Kim Tallbear (Sisseton-wahpeton Oyate) from Austin, Texas, is
a show that holds intimate space for laughter and tears on the subject of sex and sexuality.
Tallbear’s research both upsets and works to unsettle colonial notions of love, relations and sex. She has partnered with Dr. Tracy Bear (Nehiyaw’iskwew, Montreal Lake Cree Nation), whose research on the power and knowledge of the Indigenous erotic impressively connects action research with creative storytelling, embodied expression and performance. With the addition of the sultrysmooth voice of Jodi Stonehouse (Cree and Mohawk descent from the Michel First Nation) as one of the show’s MCS, along with Bear, I’m reminded of Indigenous aunties sitting around the kitchen table, drinking coffee and telling salacious jokes—and I’m lucky to stay up past my bedtime with them, tweet about it and co-produce the show.
Since the debut, our Tipi Confessions team, working closely with Bedpost Confessions producers in Austin, has collaborated with academics, sex educators, community members and student groups across Edmonton, Saskatoon and Ottawa, where Tallbear’s notion of being routed through spaces, knowledges and relations best describes the mentorship, solidarity and collective kinship of the Tipi Confessions energy. We are rooted in the uniqueness of prairie and other landscapes and supported by the Bedpost Confessions groundwork. In the era of reconciliation, Tipi Confessions is an Indigenous women–led, transformative and generative space of sexual healing and release for audiences who witness decolonial stories and performances. Audiences also produce the powerful and anonymous confessions that are read on stage by the MCS. The confessions are always the stars of the show.
The next opportunity to share is June 22–24, at the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association conference at the University of British Columbia. Your walk of shame is no shame at all. End it with us. —KIRSTEN LINDQUIST
Tracy Bear performs at Prairie Confessions, Saskatoon, October 2016 PHOTO CONOR MCNALLY