[Editor’s note: At the end of this piece is an excerpt from Brandi Morin's 'Our Voice of Fire.' To help introduce the selection, we've included some context from Michelle Cyca's interview yesterday with Morin.]
Journalist Brandi Morin’s debut memoir was published Tuesday through House of Anansi Press, a Toronto publisher. The book, Our Voice of Fire: A Memoir of a Warrior Rising, is a complex account of the life of an internationally recognized journalist and survivor whose presence in the public conversation is itself an act of resistance.
“I was one of… I don’t want to call it lucky,” Morin told Michelle Cyca in an interview for her Tyee essay on Our Voice of Fire. “I was just one of the ones who happened to make it through. And because of where I’ve been, I just feel a big responsibility to use this platform to help bring awareness to that.”
Alongside her experiences as a journalist writing for APTN, the New York Times and the community newspapers where she started her career, Morin’s memoir looks back on her early childhood spent in and out of foster care and the events that shaped her life. The book details a violent, life-altering event that took place when she and her friends tried to escape a group home, Morin’s early years as a parent, and the healing potential of writing and journalism.
“Too often, Indigenous people are only granted humanity after we prove ourselves to be exceptional: insightful and hardworking, like Morin,” wrote Cyca in her essay. “Countless others are still dismissed as worthless, because they lack the opportunity or support to overcome their circumstances the way Morin has. And Morin understands that. Her reporting is insightful and perceptive because she sees the people she writes about as inherently worthwhile and complex.”
Morin’s book is written with a clear-eyed empathy and fearlessness. She makes vital connections between the systems that have worked against Indigenous people for generations, and what it means to find your way home.
In the following excerpt from Our Voice of Fire, Morin is horseback riding on the lands of the Lakota people in the midwestern United States.
I would like to share one final story from my time with the Lakota people.
During my visit, I was given the opportunity to fulfil another one of my lifelong dreams — horseback riding on those beautiful wild lands. I visited a ranch that specialized in working with people who have endured trauma — survivors of violence, offenders, troubled youth — and paired them with formerly abused horses.
Greg Grey Cloud, our guide, and manager of the program, asked me if I wanted to do a traditional spirit-connecting ceremony with the horses. I must admit I was a bit nervous because I didn’t know what it entailed. But something was pulling on my spirit, so I agreed. He led seven horses into the round paddock and then directed me to stand in the middle with him.
“You just need to wait here,” Greg explained. “The horse will choose you. Trust the process.”
A couple of ranch hands encouraged the horses into a gallop. They ran around the perimeter twice in one direction and then twice the other way. I followed them, turning my body in a circle as they thundered around me, their manes flowing, nostrils snorting, and hooves pounding the hard-packed earth. The force of their power vibrated through every cell in my body.
Then the horses stopped and the silence was equally deafening. I waited as I’d been instructed. After a couple of minutes, one of the horses broke from the group and approached me. His red-and-chestnut coat blazed in the sunlight. He had white socks that showed off his large hoofs. I swallowed and stood as still as I could. Trust the process, trust the process, trust the process, I chanted in my mind.
The horse stopped in front of me, lowering his head so his liquid brown eyes could meet mine, his ears pricked forward in curiosity. I smelled his hay-sweetened breath as he huffed a greeting.
“That’s Socks,” Greg said, approaching the two of us. “Former rodeo horse. He used to be tied up and abused something terrible by his former owner.” Socks’s ears flicked backwards at the sound of Greg’s approach, but he kept his gaze on me. “Socks... he usually chooses leaders,” said Greg, stepping to Socks’s side and stroking his black mane. “But they don’t know they’re leaders yet.”
I felt something catch at my throat.
“That’s the thing,” Greg continued. “The horses always choose the rider who is most like them. Socks is powerful, but he doesn’t always know it. That abuse went deep. But you know, when he gets outside the fences here and into the pasture, he realizes he’s free. And he realizes he’s boundless. That’s a sight to see.”
The tears broke like a dam. That was me all right. For so many years, held back by the invisible restraints of former abuse. But I am a leader. I am coming into my own. I need only to step out of those enclosures built by fear. And then I will be truly free to live into the strength and power that I already possess.
I touched Socks on his whiskery velvet nose and thanked him for his gift.
“Ready to ride?” Greg asked.
Excerpted from ‘Our Voice of Fire: A Memoir of a Warrior Rising’ by Brandi Morin. © 2022 Brandi Morin. Published by House of Anansi Press.