Innu poet talks about induction into Order of Canada

Joséphine Bacon, the Innu poet from Pessamit, Que. has been honoured with Canada’s highest distinction through her recent induction into the Order of Canada.

“It’s an honour for me, but even more so, it’s an honour for all First Nations. I accept this honour in this way, because I want to share it with all First Nations,” Bacon said in a recent interview.

The trailblazer added that she feels compelled to share this honour with the many Indigenous artists that have followed in her footsteps.

The poet is recipient of many awards and distinctions, including an honorary doctorate from Laval University.

She started her career working as a translator and transcriber for anthropologists interviewing Innu elders.

“It’s thanks to them, in the end, that I was able to recover the language of the nomads, Innu-Aimun, which we spoke when we were still living in our traditional territory, because I used to transcribe and translate,” she recounted.

She has spent years teaching the Innu-Aimun language first at the University of Montreal and currently at Kiuna College in Odanak. The poet is also an elder in residence at the University of Quebec in Montreal.

“I wouldn’t say I’ve sacrificed anything. I think I’ve enriched myself by doing the work I’m still doing today. And it’s always a pleasure for me to take what the elders taught me and to pass it on,” Bacon said.

In 2018, she was named an officer of the Order of Arts and Literature of Quebec and an officer of the Order of Montreal.

Her most recent work, Kau Minuat: Once Again was published last year and it explores themes of aging, healing and her ancestral land.

Bacon had this message for the youth.

“The most important thing is for them to know who they are. Where they come from, because there’s a whole history behind them that deserves to be told, and they can continue to pass it on,” she said.

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