The research and creation budget of my residency allows me to hire interns and since early this spring, students from l’Université de Moncton and Mount Allison University have been working with me to make sections of fishnets using paper threads spun from the following dictionaries: English, French and English to Mi’kmaq. So far with their help, I have several sections of the English and French dictionaries tied together making a net that is approximately 15 feet long by 4 feet high. I hope to be able to double this in size next term, adding the sections made this past fall and those yet to come from next term as well.
The importance of including the Mi’kmaq dictionary in my project became obvious as soon as I started work at Mount Allison. Since the disappearance of the indigenous student, Chris Metallic in the fall of 2012, indigenous students continue to push for changes on campus. The hiring of Doreen Richard, the university’s first indigenous affairs co-ordinator was one of these changes. Doreen has been instrumental in initiating the making of the Mi’kmaq dictionary section of the fishnet project and helping me to hire students interested in working on the project.
The noeud d’écoute, or “the listening knot” as translated literally into English and otherwise known as the weavers knot is the name of the knot Raymond et Alcida Maillet (see an earlier post) taught me to use to make fishnets. I have so far been unable to unravel the etymology of that term and this somehow seems fitting. I imagine all the tales that have been told over the centuries as fishers sat weaving their nets.
Next summer, I plan to create an event or performance. I imagine spreading the net like a giant quilt over a small tributary of the Petitcodiac or Memramcook Rivers and letting the tide slowly rise. I tested this earlier this fall, leaving a small sample in the Bay of Fundy over night. The paper net will absorb the rich chocolate brown colour of the water.
I see this act as a kind of baptism for words – an act of hope for the future of conversation – one that includes listening.
This work would not be possible without the contribution of the student interns: Samara Belhomme, Laylia Bennett, Suzanne Cormier, Bre Darlison, Rorie Hunter, Kiara Mazerolle and Fanny Rasoamiramanana.