Lee Maracle, revolutionary Indigenous author and poet, dead at 71

·3 min read
Lee Maracle, the poet, author, activist and instructor known for her powerful writing and efforts to fight Indigenous oppression in Canada, has died in Surrey, B.C., at the age of 71. (Lee Maracle/Facebook - image credit)
Lee Maracle, the poet, author, activist and instructor known for her powerful writing and efforts to fight Indigenous oppression in Canada, has died in Surrey, B.C., at the age of 71. (Lee Maracle/Facebook - image credit)

Poet, author and teacher Lee Maracle has died in Surrey, B.C., at the age of 71.

The award-winning writer and esteemed mentor garnered worldwide attention for her powerful writing and life-long efforts to fight Indigenous oppression in Canada.

Tributes are pouring into Maracle's social media page, honouring her life's work and her untiring energy to mentor other Indigenous writers.

Family members confirmed that Maracle died in Surrey Memorial Hospital early Nov. 11.

Sid Bobb says his mother was many things: "a wondrous warrior and a loving love" who dedicated her life to helping others rise from poverty and inequality.

Maracle's works included Ravensong, Bobbi Lee: Indian Rebel, A Native Perspective on Sociology and Feminism and My Conversations With Canadians.

Waubgeshig Rice/Twitter
Waubgeshig Rice/Twitter

A supportive, but critical 'auntie'

Award-winning Ontario author Waubgeshig Rice said it was an immense, heart-breaking loss that Maracle, a supportive but critical "auntie" who helped guide him as a young writer, is now gone.

Rice said he read Maracle's work as a teenager and young writer, then met her at a reading in his 30s and said she never missed one of his book launches.

"She has been there every step of my literary journey," said Rice. "I don't think she got the credit she deserved in the wider area of Canadian literature. I think that was because she was an Indigenous woman.

"Hopefully everybody will be able to look back on her legacy and see just how revolutionary she was."

Maracle won numerous literary awards for her works and her novel Celia's Song was short-listed for the 2020 Neustadt International Prize for Literature, one of the world's most prestigious literary awards. Previous Canadian nominees include Nobel Prize for Literature winner Alice Munro and Rohinton Mistry, who won the Neustadt in 2012.

Columpa Bobb, Cormorant Books
Columpa Bobb, Cormorant Books

Maracle 'demanded integrity'

Before her academic rise Maracle grew up on the North Shore of Vancouver, where Bobb said there were "hard times" for his mother — a member of the Stó:lō Nation and daughter of a Métis mother and Coast Salish father.

Maracle, a former University of Toronto professor and elder in residence — had recently returned to B.C., where she had accepted a position at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Surrey and began teaching in September, according to her family.

But her daughters posted on social media that she had health issues and had been hospitalized earlier this month.

Maracle, a mother of four, was also a loving grandmother and an ardent gardener, according to Bobb.

"She was a tremendous person full of integrity and demanded integrity everywhere she went," he said.

Maracle was the granddaughter of Tsleil-Waututh chief Dan George, an artist and writer who rose to fame as an actor and was Oscar-nominated for his role opposite Dustin Hoffman in Little Big Man in 1970.

Bobb says his mother fought for many of the same things that her grandfather often spoke about.

"Dan George, her 'pappy,' my great grandfather, said that if you are living in Salish territory then you are a Salish citizen and you are either a good citizen or a bad citizen. That really shook me that our concept of citizenship is so much more grand than the Indian Act and some of the present conversations."

Lee Maracle/Facebook
Lee Maracle/Facebook
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