17 Leanne Betasamosake Simpson: Theory of Ice

Yeah, y’know, I’m actually an indigenous person meself, know warra mean? Indigenous fackin’ Englishman, me, yeah? Oi oi! You avin’ that? Noice, mate, noooooooooooooooooooooooooooice!

Let’s stop all that for a start. The term ‘indigenous people’ isn’t just some uncomfortable dog whistle to be used to threateningly outline the idea that some kinds of people are the ones meant to occupy a certain land. Y’know, before all the bloody Muslims moved in… The term ‘indigenous’ when referring to people is actually intentionally loaded, and designed to make great portions of the globe always shift every so uncomfortably in their seats as it reminds them of past imperialism, past genocides, and current mealy mouthed pretences of absolutions and reparations. The Aborigines, The Maasai, The Kurds, The Maori… Indigenous people are among the original inhabitants of a place which was later colonised by a larger ethnic group, mostly leading to them being left as tiny minorities on the land they once considered their own. That’s right, by its very nature the term ‘indigenous people’ is all political, continuing the broad trens that everything that’s isn’t a straight cishet white man is political. If you’re an English person, your country was largely the reason most indigenous communities became indigenous. So there’s always that.

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson belongs to the Nishnaabeg Indigeneous nation, more specifically the Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg people, native to southern Ontario. She is one of the most lauded academic writers and activists on indigenous culture working today, and also finds time to create various pieces that mark her out as one of the most compelling indigenous artists of her generation. Novelist, poet, singer, scholar, grocer, draper, haberdasher, hatter, clothier, druggist, ironmonger, stationer, glover, undertaker, and perhaps one of the leading voices in calling for a more intersectional understanding of indigenous people of North America, Simpson’s achievements basically make Matt Bellamy’s four NME awards for ‘Hottest Male’ look almost a little silly in comparison.

And while, obviously, it’s only human nature to hope someone with so many accolades and strings to their bow would at least be shit at something to make us all feel that we’ve not wasted our lives, ‘Theory of Ice’ unfortunately shows that making a PJ Harvey/Nick Cave tinged folky rock album washed with poetry is not it. Maybe she’s shit at scrapbooking or something? Have you seen her TikTok dance to Ski Mask the Slump God? Embarrassing. Actually, I can confirm that I played Mario Kart 64 with her last Tuesday and was not overly impressed. Sure, she managed to finish third on the Mushroom Cup, so it’s a podium place at least, but that was mainly due to the computer controlled racers fucking up all the time, and we were only playing 100cc because I wasn’t sure she was ready for 150 yet. But, yeah, ‘Theory of Ice’ is fucking amazing. Sorry.

Anyway, Simpson should at least be happy that she’s an indigenous person of Canada, right?? Lovely, polite, Canada, they were obviously one of the nicer nations to their indigenous people, can’t imagine anything bad happening to…

Ah. Well this is awkward. When I first heard the booming and stirring centrepiece protest song I Pity the Country, I actually assumed that it was a Simpson original and that *blushes* the country she was pitying was that gross capitalist belch at her Southern border (‘I pity the country, I pity the state/And the mind of a man who thrives on hate/Small are the lives of cheats and of liars/Of bigoted news press fascist town criers/Deception annoys me, deception destroys me/The Bill of Rights throws me, jails, they all know me’). It’s actually a cover of a 40 year old song by the indigenous political singer Willie Dunn. It was about the hypocrisies of the Canadian government back then and the song, sadly, remains the same.


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