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UCHS student hopes her poetry “starts some conversations” across Canada

Grade 12 UCHS student has seen her poetry touch the hearts of her ELA teacher, who directed Mercedez Tate to Rick Revelle, author of Algonquin Quest Novels and in turn, James M. Fisher who published two of her poems

UNITY — Mercedez Tate, a Grade 12 student at Unity Composite High School and a member of the Poundmaker Cree Nation, has seen her poetry touch hearts .

First to take note was UCHS English teacher Vicki Orobko, who was able to direct her to Rick Revelle, author of the Algonquin Quest novels. Revelle brought her poems to the attention of James M. Fisher, editor of Fisher published two of Mercedez’s poems, “Where the Wild Kids Are” and the haunting “Have you Seen My Sister” on his website.

The issue of murdered and missing Indigenous women is an issue young First Nations woman are aware of. Mercedez is thankful her sister is not, in fact, missing, but she used her love for her sister to imagine what it would feel like and to relate to families who don’t know the whereabouts – despite efforts to find them – of a loved one. The result was “Have you Seen My Sister?”

Mercedez said, “As a young native woman, living off reserve, it [life] can definitely be scary.” She wanted to shed more light on the issues and challenges that native women face, almost on a daily basis. She hopes her poetry “will start some conversations.”

“Where the Wild Kids Are” comes from reflection about her own childhood, “a place with lacking resources, not enough luck to go around.” The poem concludes however, “without those inequalities, the Rez wouldn’t be the Rez” and “It’s where us wild kids can be, just that. Unapologetically.”

Mercedez attended Cut Knife School until Grade 9, when she became a student at UCHS. She has been writing stories and poems since about the age of 13 or 14, when she was in Grade 8. Orobko recognized her talent when Mercedez submitted a 2021 Remembrance Day poem and sought out a mentor for her. Revelle, who is friends with Fisher, stepped into that role.

In writing her poems, Mercedez’s first step is to “get the ideas out.” She said, “Each poem is unique, some will spill out of me like a fast-flowing river, and other times I have to turn the water on and force it out a little bit.” However, after that, it takes “days, even weeks to get the final touches in to make it what I really want it to be.”

As a reader Mercedez said she enjoys “anything that keeps me engaged and keeps me thinking.” She brought up Rupi Kaur, a Punjabi-born Canadian poet, and the story of April Raintree, a novel written by Beatrice Culleton Mosionier, a Métis woman who grew up in the foster care system.

Although Mercedez definitely wants to keep on writing and working on her poetry, she is applying to university with the goal of becoming a teacher. Please see link to read “Have you Seen My Sister?”


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