Arts & Récits Autochtones - A Conversation With the Homeless

A Conversation With the Homeless

2014 - Lauréat de récits

You may not see us as winners, but we're here for the long standing, past the cruelty of our brothers, there is understanding.

Lisez l’histoire de Nyla Comeau

Nyla Comeau

Winnipeg, MB
French Metis
Âge 27

Une note d'auteur

Two lovely people inspired this poem by sharing a bit of their residential school experience with me. After I had chance to spend time with them, my heart opened. I remembered that the pain of an individual and of society are but the same. It is easy to build our walls, and gravitate towards individualism. We have become incredibly separated, neglecting the days where we could not survive without one another.

The history of colonization has left a tremendous mark on society, one that represents pain, anger, and an incremental process towards world- wide understanding of the many cultures, and stories that have shaped different perceptions of the world.

This poem represents the resilience of the human spirit, and the strength of two individuals that have suffered a tremendous loss; the stripping of their culture, their language, and their indigenous identity. Regardless of the tumultuous history they have endured, their personal story reminded me that we are accountable to one another, and that we all rely on one another; to learn, to grow, and to discover that pain connects us, and that we can help each other through a better understanding of our differences.

The Aboriginal philosophy is one that is holistic, and Aboriginal academics and elders continue to pass on the message of well-being of people and of the community as a whole. I hope that this poem sheds light on how the ego divides us, how capitalism neglects the human spirit, and how colonization is an on-going teacher. We need to reflect on our history in order to move forward to become a healthier collective. We need to understand the affects of colonization, and how it has shaped us both individually and collectively, and we need to critically analyze the structure of our society with the awareness that ideologies vary, but that we all share similar needs as humans.

My name is Nyla Comeau and I am half Pakistani/half French Acadian and French Metis. I am an undergraduate student at the Inner City Social Work Program, through the University of Manitoba. This poem is going to be featured in the up-coming Feminist and Queer Magazine developed by the Women and Gender Studies Department. This magazine features work developed by undergraduate students, and I am happy to share my work and tell a story that I believe gives a voice to those who may feel that they lost theirs.

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A Conversation With the Homeless

Stripped down,

strapped and stomped on.

My eyes are dull; glazed over

and we are forgotten.

Bruised back, sore ***;

I can't sit right any more.

A place to be taught the "right" way,

there was no ‘right’ way behind those doors.


Bound to a board, upright,

waiting for a lash;

my mind may have been elsewhere,

back then, my body was all they had.


Through my tears, those long four years,

and now you think I'm free?

Let's wipe the slate clean,

remove these chains,

and offer an apology?


Not much from a stranger,

few bucks for a beggar,

is there something bigger? I don't know.

Somehow I'm still smiling, and down this long

road my friends have kept me warm.


If you want to know the strength of a man,

look at my people and you'll see;

out your back window, I'm your neighbor,

not far from where you could have been.


You may not see us as winners,

but we're here for the long standing,

past the cruelty of our brothers,

there is understanding.


We are the destitute,

stripped down, and made to feel like nothing,

back then they thought they knew it best,

but little did they know,

my mind was all they had.


They may have tried to break us down,

through derogatory slang.

I'm not a 'savage'; or a 'monster',

just indoctrinated to be viewed that way.


And now all I have is my story,

you may think I cling to the past;

their deception has you blinded,

to paint a picture of us that's bad.


And oh, to blame the victim,

what a clever trick indeed,

the way to rise to power,

is to have a hold of the minority.


In the state I'm left in,

I may appear completely damaged

for it is true, they claimed my life,

but my spirit, they'll never have it.