EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Saturday, October 17, 2015

Armand Ruffo and Liz Howard both from Chapleau nominated for 2015 Governor General Literary Awards in different categories

Armand Ruffo and Liz Howard, both from Chapleau, have been selected  as finalists in different categories in the 2015 Governor General's Literary Awards, to be announced on October 28.

Armand has been nominated in the non fiction category for his book Norval Morisseau: Man Changing into Thunderbird while Liz is a finalist in the poetry section for  Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent.

My first WOW came when I received an email from Armand recently advising that his book had been nominated, and the second came  when Liz posted on Facebook that her work had been selected. Just imagine! We kind of expect that two, even more on occasion, are nominated for prestigious awards or honours from large cities.. 

Armand and Liz are from a small rural community and have both been nominated in the same year for a very prestigious literary award. Before going any further, a huge "WOW" to both of you, and congratulations.

The Canada Council for the Arts  explains that the Governor General’s Literary Awards are given annually to the best English-language and the best French-language book in each of the seven categories of Fiction, Literary Non-fiction, Poetry, Drama, Children’s Literature (text), Children’s Literature (illustrated books) and Translation (from French to English).


Armand Garnet Ruffo was born in Chapleau with roots to the Biscotasing branch of the Sagamok First Nation and the Chapleau Fox Lake Cree First Nation. He is a graduate of Chapleau High School, and as I have noted when writing about Armand's work on other occasions, he played on my 1970-71 Midget hockey team. I still have the plaque the team gave me.

Andrew Carroll, editor of the Queen's Gazette wrote that Armand, the Queen’s National Scholar in Indigenous Languages and Literatures, is in the running for a Governor General's Literary Award in the non-fiction category for his work Norval Morrisseau: Man Changing into Thunderbird, a biography of the innovative and controversial Ojibway painter.
Mr. Carroll noted that Armand, who teaches in the Department of English Language and Literature and Department of Drama, was surprised by the nomination and considers it an honour to be included among “such fine writers.”
Norval Morrisseau: Man Changing Into Thunderbird took numerous years to write because of the huge amount of primary research that I had to do, and the way that I wanted to integrate this material into a compelling narrative, and so it is wonderful to hear that the book may not simply fall into the proverbial ‘big black hole’ and disappear quickly from sight,” he says. “Ultimately, it’s the writing that matters, and I think the nomination should help the book come to the attention of potential readers, and for a writer – at least for me – this is the best thing about the nomination.”
Armand previously taught at Carleton University in Ottawa. He has  Master's degree in literature and creative writing from the University of Windsor and an Honours degree in English from the University of Ottawa.


In a Facebook and email exchange with Liz, she advised " I'm so pleased to be in Chapleau Express. The Express was the first place that ever published me, when I was 8 years old!"
Regarding her background and family Liz said she was born in Timmins in 1985 and grew up in Chapleau on Monk Street and Highway 129. 

"I am the daughter of Tamara (nee Turcotte) and Sylvain Rousseau. My birth father was Russell Howard, son of William (Bill) Howard who is a former Chapleau Reeve. 

"I graduated from Chapleau High School in 2003 at the top of my class and left immediately to study psychological science in Toronto. I graduated from the University of Toronto with an Honours Bachelor of Science with High Distinction in 2007 and became employed by the Hasher Aging and Cognition Laboratory as a research officer. 

"After graduation I began an intensive period of writing and performing my poetry. I enrolled in the MFA in Creative Writing through the University of Guelph and secured a book contract before my thesis was submitted. 

"My childhood in Chapleau, especially the significant amount of time I spent in the woods and lakes, are foundational to my writing. I am also very proud of my Anishinaabe (Ojibway) heritage and write about many First Nations issues."


From Norval Morrisseau: Man Changing into Thunderbird by Armand Garnet Ruffo ©2015. Published by Douglas&McIntyre:

"This compelling biography delves into the life of Norval Morrisseau, a self-taught Ojibway artist who rose to prominence to become one of the most innovative and important Canadian painters of the 20th century.He was a charismatic - and troubled - figure who first started drawing sketches and age six in the sand on the shores of Lake Nipigon. He became a great internationally-known success, but struggled with alcoholism, often trading his art for booze, and landing in jail while his wife and children lived in poverty."

An Excerpt from the book by Armand: "The more I thought about Morrisseau and his life, the more I realized that his experiences, while extraordinary in their own right because of his unique gifts, were fundamentally connected to something larger than himself. I realized that Morrisseau's life was representative of the profound upheaval that had taken place in the lives of native people across the country. With their traditional economies and support systems in ruins, they were thrown into abject poverty, families literally starving to death, and it was into this milieu that Morrisseau, like my mother, was born in 1932 (which is the birth year that he acknowledged in a Department of Indian Affairs cultural development application). A period that coincided with the unparalleled movement by Native peoples to cities and one-industry towns across the country to find work-shell shocked as they were by a history of missionaries, decades of residential schooling that taught them to hate everything Indian, hate even themselves, the overt racism that made them stand at the back of the line, the total disregard and denigration of their cultures, the stereotypes that 
continually projected Hollywood versions of them whooping and hollering on the screen."

From Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent by Liz Howard ©2015. Published by McClelland & Stewart.

 "In Liz Howard's wild, scintillating debut, the mechanisms we use to make sense of our worlds - even our direct intimate experiences of it - come under constant scrutiny and a pressure that feels like love. What Howard can accomplish with language strikes us as electric, a kind of alchemy of perception and catastrophe, fidelity and apocalypse. The waters of Northern Ontario shield country are the toxic origin and an image of potential."

A poem from the book by Liz Howard:


The total psychic economy shimmers
a little mouthpiece out in the field
anthropologically, her voice in its hollow

All night the blood moon measures the dilation
of each pupil, pin-prick or dinner plate
in this poem where our attention fails to die

A positive outcome would be music in the unfinished
basement, a purple curfew for causation, the reply
a sinuous window of dried moths over the harbour

An exercise in temperament pitched back over
the clouded bathroom mirror transiting near to silver
being female, some Velcro, afterbirth and gravel

In our settler dreams Plexiglas teeth stuck in the hide
of the ravine, a freeway of copper wire and blackstrap
molasses, Copernican limbs, mercury in the water

Little silver pills tracing a path through the lakebed
of submerged logs to a trap of currents under rock
our odd love and petrochemicals not otherwise specified

The finalists in the Non-fiction category are: Bee Time by Mark L. Winston; Dispatches from the Front by David Halton; Norval Morrisseau by Armand Garnet Ruffo; Party of One by Michael Harris; The Social Life of Ink by Ted Bishop

The finalists in the Poetry category are: Crossover by M. Travis Lane;; For Your Safety Please Hold On by Kayla Czaga; Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent by Liz Howard; My Shoes are Killing Me by Robyn Sarah; Washita by Patrick Lane

Again, my sincere congratulations to Armand and Liz. My email is mj.morris@live.ca

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Dr. Vince Crichton with a fascinating look at "incidental wildlife mortality"

By Dr. Vince Crichton

Incidental wildlife mortalities! Have you ever thought about it? A recently published study from the United States brings an interesting perspective to the topic that may interest readers. 

The document is one of the most comprehensive ever done and involved a review and analysis of two dozen studies and over 92,000 records following which the authors estimate that between 365 and 988 million birds are likely killed in the United States each year as a result of collisions with buildings. 

One quote from this study is noteworthy: “Our analysis indicates that building collisions are among the top anthropogenic threats to birds and furthermore that several bird species that are disproportionately vulnerable to building collisions may be experiencing significant population impacts from this anthropogenic threat”.

This study provides quantitative evidence to support the conclusion that building collisions are second only to feral and free ranging pet cats (estimated that they kill as many as 3 billon birds (not a typing error!!) each year) as the largest source of direct human caused mortality for U.S. birds. And, many of these birds nest in Canada.

Those species most commonly reported as building kills were white throated sparrows, dark-eyed junco, ovenbird and song sparrow. The study did find that some species are disproportionally vulnerable to building collisions and several of these species are of national conservation concern and primarily fall victim to certain building types. 

These include: the golden winged warbler and Canada warbler (low-rise and high rise buildings); painted bunting (low rise); Kentucky warbler (low and high rise); worm eating warbler (high rise); and wood thrush (residences). For some species that are vulnerable to collisions at more than one building class, mortality appears substantial and may worsen population declines.

Although the study was focused in the United States, reports that I have seen over the years clearly show that the problem also occurs in Canada. I recall hearing of workers in Toronto picking up dead birds in the morning that had died overnite after colliding with high rise buildings.

Can we as home owners help? There are tips offered which can help: affix a pattern of tape or other material to windows which makes glass visible to birds. Most birds will avoid windows with vertical stripes spaced four inches apart or horizontal stripes spaced two inches apart. 

For best results patterns must be on the outside of windows. A specialty, easy to use and inexpensive tape can be found at ABCBirdTape.org. Another option is to use a lightweight netting, screen or other material over the window but it must be several inches from the front of the window to ensure birds do not hit the glass after hitting the net.

 Some may think that the 2 or 3 birds hitting one’s window is miniscule in the big picture but remember that all mortalities are cumulative thus if we all took precautionary steps our cumulative effort will make a difference.

I am sure most readers, like myself, will have wondered, as we drive our highways and see the carnage of dead wildlife, how many are killed on an annual basis. I recall a report stating that about 4,000 deer are killed ‘daily’ on the highways in the United States – mind boggling but when one sees the latest hunter harvest figures for various States this figure becomes more believable. 

Following are the 2013 harvest statistics for some States: 144,404 deer in Kentucky; 125,635 in Indiana; 99,406 in Iowa; and 171,000 in Ohio – 4,000 per day killed on U.S. highways likely is realistic! 

Annually, I return to my home town (Chapleau)  in northern Ontario and always see dead moose on the highway especially along the north shore of Lake Superior. This stretch of highway from Thunder Bay to Sault Ste. Marie annually has dozens of moose/vehicle accidents that vary from cars, trucks, buses to delivery vehicles. 

According to retired Ontario wildlife biologist Gord Eason from Wawa, the Ontario Department of Highways annually spreads 40 metric tons of salt per mile in winter along this highway which is the primary attractant for moose.

 Gord has done extensive work in the Wawa area to try and make the salt pools less attractive to moose by placing pallets in the wet areas and draining the standing water.

I have also noted the large number of dead porcupines on Ontario highways. When discussing this with a friend employed with the Ontario Department of Highways he stated that they have a major problem with porcupines knawing the wooden guard rails placed along the highway at strategic locations – there is something in the treated posts attractive to these rodents. 

This prompted my wife and I to tabulate the location of dead porcupines and most were at guard rails or with 100m of them.

Now, there are other incidental mortalities relative to big game. Males of our big game mammals engage in some epic battles during the breeding season and trauma inflicted during this period can result in mortality either from locked antlers or from injuries and subsequent infections sustained during these confrontations. 

But, both sexes and the young can and do die from deep snow and starvation due to their inability to freely move about to food sources. The energy expended to move through deep snow as we see this winter in many areas of Manitoba does use up fat reserves resulting in death. Avalanches also kill big game as was seen a few years back when such an event occurred in Banff National Park killing a small but significant caribou herd.

Antlered animals can become entangled in abandoned phone or hydro lines. I have found moose that have died from such events and in one notable case the wire was wrapped around the nose and throat suffocating the animal but the fight before it died was so intense that one antler was broken. 

There are reports (and I have personally seen this in Manitoba) of moose and deer being caught in snares set for smaller game such as wolves and coyotes. And, there are more bizarre events. In one case a moose was feeding along a river bank in winter while standing on deep but hard snow, fell through and its head stuck got stuck in the fork of a tree from which it was unable to dislodge itself. 

This also occurred with a bull elk in Manitoba’s Duck Mountain – while standing on hard packed snow, the snow gave way and the antlers became entangled in a tree and the animal essentially hung itself. 

As a point of interest the antlers from this animal when measured stand in second place in Manitoba. I once had a radio collared moose fall into a rock crevice in Manitoba’s Interlake from which it was unable to extricate itself and died. 

And, the most bizarre occurred in the Gulf of Alaska when two moose swimming to an island were caught by killer whales and subsequently killed and consumed.

There are other examples but suffice to note that incidental mortalities are significant mortality factors and we as humans must conduct our activities in such a way as to minimize these events.

NOTE OF THANKS: Dr. Vince Crichton, who was born and raised in Chapleau, Ontario, is a leading wildlife biologist with an international reputation in his field. Vince is a leading expert on moose. Thanks so much for your insights into "incidental wildlife mortalities". MJM

Michael J Morris

Michael J Morris
MJ with Buckwheat (1989-2009) Photo by Leo Ouimet


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Following the American Dream from Chapleau. CLICK ON IMAGE