Sarah Lewis, Nogojiwanong-Peterborough’s first poet laureate, has been featured in the sixth edition of the CBC Arts series Poetic License.
Lewis, an Anishnaabe Kwe (Ojibwe/Cree) spoken word artist from Curve Lake First Nation, performs her poem “Warrior Cry” in a video filmed by Lucius Dechausay and March Mercanti.
Lewis describes the piece as being written from the perspective of “a dangerously empowered Indigenous woman,” while Dechausay describes it as “an ode to the Indigenous warriors who fight daily for their communities, but also a reminder of the work that still needs to be done.”
The poem covers a wide range of topics, from the 1763 Royal Proclamation that set out guidelines for European settlement of Indigenous territories in what is now North America to the conflict between settlers and Indigenous wild rice harvesters on Pigeon Lake to the lack of clean potable water in Indigenous communities.
“Tired of being labelled radical because I want clean drinking water for our communities, for Indigenous women and men to be alive, to thrive, yet we’re devalued by the blue lives that promise us safety,” states one stanza, concluding with “Tired of being punished because of pigment.”
Lewis was announced as Nogojiwanong-Peterborough’s first poet laureate by the Electric City Culture Council (EC3) and the City of Peterborough this past September. She will serve in the honorary position until April, creating and presenting four new works for various civic occasions and undertaking a program of special events and activities to promote literacy, poetry, local arts, culture, and civic identity.
VIDEO: “Warrior Cry” by Sarah Lewis
“It’s been an honour just to see how far I’ve come in the last three years”, Lewis says at the end of the CBC video. “I would not have imagined myself here, in Peterborough, as first poet laureate and getting to tell my story and use my voice.”
“I think that’s what spoken word is about,” she adds. “It’s a form of activism for me and it’s a form of resistance. My existence is a form of activism, because we weren’t supposed to be here. So I know my ancestors would be proud. I know my grandmother would also be very proud that I’m speaking up and speaking my truth.”