Sunday, April 18, 2010

Kiss of the Fur Queen by Tomson Highway

In 1951, Abraham Okimasis and his dogs raced 150 miles in three days to win the World Championship Dog Derby in Oopaskooyak, Manitoba. He was the first Aboriginal man to be awarded the title. In addition to a silver cup, he was given a kiss on the cheek by the Fur Queen, winner of the Trapper's Festival Beauty Pageant. Nine months later, Abraham's wife Mariesis gave birth to a boy they named Champion. At age six, Champion was sent to a residential school 300 miles from his large family. Two years later, he was joined at school by his youngest brother, Ooneemeetoo. Forbidden to speak Cree, forced to answer to new names - Jeremiah and Gabriel - both boys were molested by the Catholic priests at the school. One grew up to be a classical concert pianist, the other a ballet dancer. One was ashamed of his heritage, the other was gay. A trickster in the shape of the Fur Queen watched over their lives. This is their heartbreaking and triumphant story.

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