It may be a tricky endeavor to transition from writing biographical, non-fiction into Northern Indigenous fiction, but boldness has been something NNSL columnist Catherine Lafferty has been trying to exemplify as she develops as a young author.

Lafferty, also known by her traditional Dene name Katłįà, officially released her second book last week entitled Land-Water-Sky/Ndè-Tı-Yat’a.

Catherine Lafferty, right, held a book launch for her debut book Northern Wildflowers: A Memoir at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, in 2018. At left is Janell Dautel, Lafferty’s cousin and  supporter.
NNSL file photo

The book follows her 2018 debut book Northern Wildflowers: A Memoir, which discusses her personal life as an Indigenous woman growing up and adjusting in a small Northern community.

She said her latest book has some similarities in that it attempts to tackle major themes of importance faced by Indigenous people tied to the effects of colonialism including domestic violence, climate change and respecting the land and environment.

Also similar to her first book, it is in-part devoted to her connection to the life of her grandmother Alice Lafferty.

Land-Water-Sky/Ndè-Tı-Yat’a, however, stems from a personal experience she had on Great Slave Lake around 2016 at Old Fort Rae/Neeshi Island but it developed into a multi-faceted, “suspenseful drama.”

“The book was a short story originally and it was based on a true story of a weekend I spent on an island where my grandma was born the on North Arm of Great Slave Lake,” she explained.

“I just kept on writing from that and it kept evolving and it turned into a novel.”

What has emerged is a book with no chapters, six parts and is based on characters in her life. Much of the work is dedicated to Indigenous characters and folklore and involves shapeshifters, shadowy beasts and spiritual landscapes.

Catherine Lafferty’s second book, Land-Water-Sky/Ndè-Tı-Yat’a, hot off the press from its launch last week. The fictional work explores Indigenous folklore, characters and spiritual places in a multi-faceted suspenseful drama.
photo courtesy of Fernwood Publishing

“So it is definitely all fiction and all characters are fiction but based on people I know,” she said.

An important part of her work as an author has been to both reach out to more emerging Indigenous authors and also establish herself as an example for budding, aspiring writers in the same genre, she said.

“I really reached out this time with Land-Water-Sky and I was able to get a few people with experience and knowledge to provide a testament,” Lafferty said, noting prominent authors like Richard Van Camp, who read it over and provided structure and character development advice.

“So there was a lot of reaching out, but I think because there is this (literary) renaissance involving Indigenous voices, it can be hard to get people to commit their time because they are so sought after right now. I’ve also kept reaching out to Indigenous writers that I come across because I know whoever is the next up and comer – they will also really want to have that support from me and I know how it feels.”

Unlike in 2018, because of the Covid-19 pandemic and that she is in Victoria, Lafferty won’t be able hold a public launch or in-person signings, including in Yellowknife. However, what’s most important is that she is content with the product she is putting out, she said.

“I’m really happy with it and I’m happy to let it into the world,” she said. “I think it is overdue and it is ready to received and I’m excited to share it.”

Simon Whitehouse

Simon Whitehouse came to Yellowknife to work with Northern News Services in 2011. Simon obtained his journalism education at Algonquin College and the University of Ottawa. Simon can be reached at...

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