“How To Steal A Canoe” is a handmade admiration of the birch bark and the water and Simpson’s rich poetry.
Even in the era of Truth and Reconciliation, we speak too rarely about about restitution, restoration, and the act of reclaiming. Leanne Betasamosake Simpson’s “How To Steal A Canoe,” one of the standouts from her tender, powerful collection of story-songs f(l)ight, is about reclaiming what’s been taken.
“On one level,” Simpson tells Chart Attack, “‘How to Steal A Canoe’ is about returning an old birch bark canoe to the Mississauga Nishnaabeg people in an honourable way,” something the artist and writer once helped with. “On another level, this song is about taking back all the things that have been stolen from Indigenous peoples, whether that’s land or bodies, knowledge or belongings. It is taking back of our precious selves.”
The video, made by Indigenous filmmaker Amanda Strong, is a stop-motion meditation on the imagery of Simpson’s poetry and the character’s she’s wrought. Premiering here, it’s lovingly handmade, emphasizing textures and the tactile sense — connection — like the story’s character running her fingers over the canoe spines.
“The rich words and instrumentation align fluidly with handmade animated textures,” Strong tells us. “As I listened to this piece over and over, I felt for the birch bark and the water. I felt for the People and wanted to be a part of bringing this story to life.”