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Unique poetry trail on the sidewalks of St. Catharines explores Indigenous and settler history

To be walked/read throughout late summer and fall
Featuring the writing of Janet Marie Rogers and Gregory Betts
Produced and Presented by the Niagara Artists Centre

Launch on Saturday 11 September

The Niagara Artists Centre (NAC) presents a unique literary event: A Long History, two poems installed on the sidewalks of St. Paul Street in downtown St. Catharines.

The poems of A Long History originate from a pair of voices living on treaty lands, an Indigenous voice, Janet Marie Rogers, and a settler’s voice, Gregory Betts. The poems are part of a project developed by the Niagara Artists Centre to explore ideas of what home means to people living in Niagara.

St. Paul Street, the winding main street of St. Catharines, follows along the banks of Twelve Mile Creek. This route was originally a trail used by Indigenous peoples going back an estimated 10,000 years—one of the oldest sites of continuous human habitation in North America. While the built streetscape of St. Paul has been here for a tiny fraction of that time, it now dominates the landscape. A Long History is aimed at reorienting those walking and reading along the route to the land and its history through the words of two innovative writers.

The poems are neatly stencilled on either side of the street. While pedestrians can begin their reading at any juncture, the route begins at the intersection of St. Paul and Ontario Streets and continues six blocks before looping back to make a complete twelve block route. Janet Marie Rogers’ poem is entitled, Undeniable Indigenous and alternates its lettering to be read in both directions, while Gregory Betts’ poem is entitled, NO NOT THIS SIDEWALK and is grouped in stanzas periodically appearing on the sidewalk.

Rogers invites readers to “walk with us, follow in step or independent. Speak, read, sink into messages plied to pavement. One.Step.Then.The.Next”

“The Two-Row Wampum is a foundational text for settlement in this region,” Betts says. “I think it is really important especially for white, European descendants to think about the relationship it proposes. That’s our work, not just Indigenous people’s. I really love how this project kind of embodies a two-row reading of this street, this city.”

The project supports St. Catharines’ Celebration of Nations with a launch taking place on the opening weekend of Saturday 11 September at 7PM at the Niagara Artists Centre at 354 St. Paul Street. Both Rogers and Betts will read and will also be joined by Griffin Poetry Prize author Liz Howard and Niagara-based experimental poet Franco Cortese. Admission is free, though attendance will be limited. The project is supported by the St. Catharines Cultural Investment Program and Ramm Design Labs.