“I Carve My Stories Every Day”: An Interview with Richard Van Camp


In this interview, the Dogrib author, storyteller, and educator from the Northwest Territories, Richard Van Camp, talks to a Belgian doctoral candidate, Sylvie Vranckx. The very first Dogrib author, Van Camp has been praised for bringing sophisticated new forms to contemporary Aboriginal, Arctic, and Canadian literatures. He talks extensively among other things about his comic book on sexual health, Kiss Me Deadly, and about his new collections of short stories, The Moon of Letting Go and the forthcoming Godless but Loyal to Heaven. By writing about the stories which break his heart, he highlights the impact of ongoing colonialism in the North, underlining the resilience of his characters and the complex moral issues surrounding evil and internalized violence in communities plagued by psychosocial despair. In striving to face “the hard issues” with words, he enlists the help of characters who walk into his life, such as his Dogrib Holden Caulfield Larry Sole and his “gladiators”: the philosophical thug Torchy and the ninja wannabe Bear. Van Camp compares his art to a process of carving which he practices every day, working on many different sculptures at the same time and polishing them with the help of tough editors. He stresses the ceremonial aspects of his narratives, by which he is “led into a field where anything could happen,” and reminds us that everybody’s words and actions carry good or bad medicine power. For him, stories can transform hardships and trauma into healing: they are “the best medicine” to teach, empower, and re-create.

This article ““I Carve My Stories Every Day”: An Interview with Richard Van Camp” originally appeared in Indigenous Focus. Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 215 (Winter 2012): 70-84.

Please note that works on the Canadian Literature website may not be the final versions as they appear in the journal, as additional editing may take place between the web and print versions. If you are quoting reviews, articles, and/or poems from the Canadian Literature website, please indicate the date of access.