A review of David Jon Fuller’s “Sin A Squay” in Tesseracts Seventeen: Speculating Canada from Coast to Coast (Edge, 2013)
By Derek Newman-Stille
Residential schools were a real life horror for indigenous Canadians. Taken from their homes, punished for speaking their own language, forced to abandon their own culture and lifestyle, subject to abuse and starvation, Canadian aboriginals from the late 1800s to the mid 1900s endured victimization by very real monsters.
David Jon Fuller’s short story “Sin A Squay” takes the very real horror of residential schools and overlays it with modern mythical monsters. Jenny and Marion were both subject to torture at a residential school – beaten, starved, cut off from their family and their heritage they had their lives drained from them… literally. While at the MacDonald Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan, the girls were subject to both psychological and physical draining by the vampiric Miss Harrow.
Trained through violence to submit to others, Marion lost the empowerment that her werewolfism brought to her, her alpha status, and it is only through her confrontation with the person who subjected her to violence, Miss Harrow, that she is able to discover herself and her own power.
David Jon Fuller brings attention to the historical issues around the treatment of aboriginal people in Canada, particularly aboriginal women. He highlights the violence of the residential school system by showing two women drained of their lifeforce by a vampiric other, here representing a system that sought to drain aboriginal people of their heritage (their blood). Using the figure of the werewolf, Fuller brings attention to the way that the residential school system claimed that its role was to “tame” aboriginal Canadians and force them to submit to a white domestic culture in which they were treated as pets. Marion’s werewolf side has suppressed its role as an alpha to others because of this depriving of independence and freedom of thought.
He highlights the continued and very pressing concern about the disappearance of aboriginal women in Canadian history and its continuity today. When Miss Harrow is feeding on children and killing them, stashing them in the basement, they are ignored by the police who believe that any white woman working for the residential school system would be above reproach.
You can explore David Jon Fuller’s work at http://www.davidjonfuller.com/ .
Read more about the collection Tesseracts Seventeen: Speculating Canada from Coast to Coast on Edge’s website at http://www.edgewebsite.com/books/tess17/t17-catalog.html .
Thanks Derek, for your kind words!
Sadly, the most horrifying aspect of writing this story was that in doing more research on residential schools I learned in many cases it was worse than I had imagined — and then reading comments on current news stories about the schools that essentially said “it couldn’t have been that bad” and/or “just get over it.” A lot of dismissal and denial going on in this country still. Many writers are writing about this, though, and I hope through more stories that don’t brush it under the carpet, the residential school system and the issues of systemic abuse that it raises won’t be as easy to ignore or dismiss.
Great point David. People don’t seem to be willing to believe just how terrible residential schools were. I think that this is an opportunity for people to learn a lot more about the terrible treatment of aboriginal children in Canadian history and to make sure that these horrifying events are not ever repeated.