“I didn’t hear the birds singing”: Beth Brant’s Echoes of Condolence


  • Gage Diabo UBC


This article considers Bay of Quinte Mohawk writer Beth Brant’s stories, poetry, and editorial work in the context of the Haudenosaunee Great Law of Peace, specifically the episode involving the widower Aionwahtha and the first Condolence Ceremony. Through an Indigenous literary nationalist lens, the article traces echoes of the Condolence Ceremony in the concept of “witness” that Brant develops throughout her work. I analyze Brant’s prison correspondence, her essay “Writing as Witness,” the short story “Home Coming,” and the poem “Her Name is Helen,” each of which address the issues of grief and suicidality in Indigenous communities. In these moments, Brant invokes the Condolence Ceremony as a gesture of care and empathy towards those who, as she writes, are lost in “the throes of the unnatural.”