Places I've Called Home

Victor, Colorado—The World's Greatest Gold Camp (1978-today)

Victor is nestled in the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains, not far southwest of Pike's Peak. It sits in the traditional homelands of the Mouache band of Ute Indians, who constitute much of today's Southern Ute Indian Tribe. At nearly ten thousand feet in elevation, the area is a beautiful mix of pine and aspen forests, sweeping mountain peaks, historical mining structures, contemporary mining operations, limited stakes gambling in nearby Cripple Creek, and plenty of opportunities for hunting, fishing, hiking, and solitude.  Its history is both glorious and grim; after displacing the Utes and other Native peoples from the region, thousands of non-Indians descended on the mountains, driven variously by gold, need, and greed, and most either moved on, died, or faded into obscurity.  So, for all its beauty, Victor is also a town that's long struggled to define itself in an ever-changing economy, and for some residents it continues to be a place of lost dreams and thwarted ambitions, while others work hard to make homes and heritage better for those who live there now and those generations to come.  Even with its troubles, Victor is inhabited by plenty of strong, determined, and loving people, and I'm proud as hell to have been raised there by parents who continue to be my first and greatest heroes. This will always be my heart home, no matter how far away I go or how long it's been since I've lived there in person.

A newly released photo art book on Victor offers a lovely and haunting picture of Victor, its past, and its present. Produced by London-based photographers Jonathan Anderson and Edwin Low, City of Mines is an impressive book, and one of the few that focuses on Victor and not Cripple Creek, its more famous neighbour to the west.

Greeley, Colorado (1993-1997)

Greeley is a small city in northeast Colorado that is claimed as traditional territories primarily by the Arapaho and Cheyenne peoples, but including others, such as the Sioux and Utes. When I lived there it was best known as home to the celebrated science fiction writer Connie Willis, the University of Northern Colorado, and the nearby Monfort Feedlots, from which would waft a weekly, eye-watering stench. (Fortunately, the miasma wasn't constant; on the whole, Greeley was and remains a clean, pretty city.) It was a wonderful place to go to school and start to explore life and its possibilities (though frighteningly homophobic at the time, and only an hour or so from Laramie, Wyoming, where Matthew Shepard was tortured and killed just after I left), and I learned a lot in my time there and made deep friendships that continue today. It's where I first really started to take pride in being Cherokee, and where I first started to consider Indigenous literary studies as a vocation, so I continue to have a lot of fondness for the place and the people. Dad and I recently drove back to check it out, and not much has changed around the old part of campus where I spent much of my time. I was very pleased to notice that The Book Stop and Margie's Java Joint  were still going strong!

Lincoln, Nebraska (1997-2002)

The settler history of Nebraska defines much of its character. Indeed, the first thing that visitors to Lincoln  notice is the Nebraska State Capitol, more memorably known as the "Penis of the Plains," the unmistakably phallic statehouse that towers over other buildings in the city, topped with the statue of "The Sower" spreading his seed across the land. It is, in fact, a gorgeous Art Deco building that emphasizes the settler history of the state, which is the guiding image for much of Nebraska's self-representation, in spite of the long history and continuing presence of the Omaha, Winnebago, Ponca, Pawnee, Iowa, Oto, Sac and Fox, and Ogalalla and Santee Sioux tribes and other prairie Nations. It was a fascinating and challenging place to come of age as a mixed Native scholar and to come out as a gay man; anti-Indian prejudice and homophobia were (and are) present, but so too were (and are) lots of courageous, generous, and justice-oriented people who made the challenges manageable and made possible a lot of great work and lasting connections. My closest friends from that time continue to be in my life today, and I look back on my education at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln  (and my work as editorial assistant in the Centre for Great Plains Studies) with deep fondness and lasting gratitude.

Toronto, Ontario (2002-2012)

I wasn't sure what to expect by Toronto, but it certainly wasn't sweltering summers! But my first real introduction to southern Ontario was a hot and sticky August afternoon in 2002, when my then partner, our dogs, and I arrived to the Church-Wellesley area of downtown Toronto and unpacked our things into a tiny, one-bedroom condo. It was cramped, but in good proximity to the University of Toronto, where I started my work as one of the English Department's Aboriginal literature specialists. Toronto is in the traditional territories of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, and has been home to various Algonquin and Haudenosaunee (Iroquoian) peoples for centuries. Long known as "the Gathering Place" by its Indigenous inhabitants, it continues that tradition as Canada's largest and most diverse multicultural city. There's a vibrant Aboriginal arts, film, theatre, and literature scene in the city, which features the imagineNATIVE Film and Media Arts Festival, the Native Earth Performing Arts theatre company, the Indigenous Writers' Gathering at U of T's First Nations House, Planet IndigenUs at the Harbourfront Centre, and many other amazing venues and opportunities to learn, share, and express Indigenous creative spirit. Toronto was a great home for me for nearly five years, at which time I moved about two hours north with my soon-to-be husband, but I continued to work in and commute to the city for the rest of my time in Ontario, so I still consider it a home of sorts during that extended period.

Tiny Township, Ontario (2006-2012)

Kent and I moved north, where we bought a house not far from the shores of Georgian Bay in the region now called Huronia by the French, but more accurately known as Wendake, the ancient homeland of the Huron-Wendat peoples. The region was sent into upheaval in the eighteenth century as a result of bloody conflict between the French Jesuits and their Christian Huron-Wendat allies on one side and Wendat and Haudenosaunee traditionalists on the other. Anishinaabe and Mohawk people now call the extended region home, and there's a sizeable Anishinaabe community, Beausoleil First Nation, on Christian, Beckwith, and Hope Islands, just across the water from our home. The larger region is called Simcoe County, and the township in which we lived is Tiny, one of three townships named for the pet dogs of Lady Simcoe; the others are Tay and Flos, so I think we lucked out! Tiny, Penetanguishene, and Midland are the main communities in the area, and there's much to do and enjoy in the region.

The region is a lovely place, with amazing people, glorious natural beauty, and a rich and diverse history. It was the perfect place to start our married life together, and to start building an extended network of friends. It's also a great place to get an amazing high tea at Serendipitea in Midland, down-to-earth haute cuisine at The Explorers Cafe, and great food and coffee at The Froth in Penetang. Although we've moved to the West Coast, we've kept a lot of love going back to our friends and Georgian Bay.

Vancouver, British Columbia (2012-present)

We live on the UBC campus, which sits on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territories of the Musqueam people, who have lived continuously on the peninsula known today as Point Gray for thousands of years. It's an extraordinary history of an extraordinary community, and we're honoured to be guests on Musqueam land. We're still learning a lot about this new place we're starting to call home, and the extended region of Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh, and other Coast Salish communities and history, but it's been a great experience, and the welcome we've received has been beyond anything we expected. I'll be updating this and other parts of the website as we learn and discover more about Vancouver and our friends and neighbours.