I can’t really remember the first time I read Tomson Highway’s (Woods Cree) 1998 novel Kiss of the Fur Queen, but the complex and unsettling Kiss became my favourite novel. I find something new every time I reread it.
My first trip to the University of Guelph archives included reading the unpublished Kiss of the Fur Queen movie treatment that Highway in 1992. Subsequent archival trips conducting research in Highway’s younger brother, modern dancer and choreographer René Highway’s (1954-1990) collection, sparked a burning interest in the differences between his portrayal as Gabriel in the novel and Simon in the movie treatment.
Using Indigenous methodologies is crucial to my work. By comparing the changes between Simon and Gabriel, I argue that wâhkôhtowin is essential for Simon to actively criticise colonisation, homophobia and the residential school system. Gabriel, who seems to lack such an extended supportive kinship network, which includes his brother, articulates racism and homophobia, but doesn’t confront the forces behind them. The first annual Indigenous Literary Studies Association conference at Six Nations provided important feedback on my work, especially how Highway’s movie treatment works as a genre. – June Scudeler, PhD.