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Atmospheric river and Pacific Northwest floods

Emily Dundas Oke

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Dream Surges, Water Returns

This text was constructed in the format of the “100s,” an approach introduced to me through Dr. Kim TallBear and her writings on kinship. Each portion is limited to 100 words.

Early fall 2021, in a sleeping dream I hold a young one’s hands. A rushing tsunami, a flood, devastation pulls apart our grasp. This little one, the one whose arrival to this plane welcomed language back into my family with joy (Tawow! Pitikwe little one!), pushed away from me with torrents of water. SkyTrain detritus collides. To be in the flood is to be at gravity’s mercy, but not to know gravity in any sense. In those moments I remember that in the daily chaos of our waters’ hard edges, otters remain soft, flexible, allowing the water to guide them.

I walk around the lake each day. Circle circle circles always follow me, and I them. I hear about those waterways underneath, I see their paths, marked as erosion. They too resist by being silent. Neighbours cursing the never-ending battle—a house falling into the earth, hidden waterway underneath rejoicing. Welcome back, wood. Circumstantial strangers tell me the story—I can’t help but think it queer. At Trout Lake, I can see a friend wave halfway round the lake. Anywhere else in these territories, your friend ought to be right by your side, otherwise dense forest obstructs them from view.

When I spend time in the mountains, the water isn’t underground, it’s on the lush fern and cedar. At Trout Lake, the water comes up from the earth, seeping into your feet. I’m tempted to feel deceived, trying to plot a dry path over manicured grass. I learn just a tad about the history—harvesting, trade, medicine, disruption, settlement, industry, erasure. I’ve been told there are seventeen creeks still wishing to connect with the lake. I can’t help but admire their persistence. The City announces their plans for the lake, a “new” initiative—welcome back what is old. They are already here.

Emily Dundas Oke

Emily Dundas Oke is a Nehiyaw, Scottish, English, and Métis curator and editor currently based on the West Coast. She is the Assistant Curator at the Burnaby Art Gallery and has previously held positions at The Capilano Review, Massy Arts Society and the Kamloops Art Gallery. A graduate of Philosophy and Visual Art (BA) from Thompson Rivers University, she has been the recipient of numerous grants and awards including the Ken Lepin Award of Excellence and is an alumni of the TRU Indigenous Knowledge Makers program. She has exhibited nationally and internationally, and has been an artist in residence at Nida Art Colony (Lithuania), Ideas Block (Lithuania), Access Gallery (Canada) and the Kamloops Printmakers Society (Canada). Her work is guided by reciprocity, resurgence and collaboration. Dundas Oke was the Indigenous Curatorial Assistant at CAG, 2018–2019.