KPU Richmond Hosts Mixolos Mitchtape Live

Vancouver-based poet performs a spoken word piece on and about Turtle Island

Mitcholos Touchie performing spoken word and poetry live at KPU. (Paula Aguilar)

A poetic recollection of the last decade on the west coast of Turtle Island—through the eyes of a Vancouver-based performance poet—took place at Kwantlen Polytechnic University on Sept. 27.

The show, Mixolos Mitchtape Live, was a spoken word poetry reading that was hosted on KPU’s Richmond campus in the Melville Centre for Dialogue. It was presented by the Kwantlen Public Interest Research Group and hosted by Mitcholos Touchie, a homeless Indigenous poet and artist who has been living in Vancouver since 2015.

“My art has always been an expression of who I am,” says Touchie. “Homelessness informs my art, and my art is informed by my whole life.”

Emotional, heartbreaking, entertaining, and eye-opening, the stories and poems Touchie shared came directly from his own experiences and his own perception of the world. The primary subject matter at hand was Turtle Island, a title for North America used by many of the continent’s First Nations.

Besides captivating the audience with his work, Touchie’s key point was to remind those in attendance of Canada’s history, as well as its complicated relationship with Indigenous people.

“You live on unceded territory, stolen land. There are thousands of nations all across this continent called Turtle Island,” Touchie said.

Before his hour-long set, Touchie yielded the stage to three other talented spoken word poets. The first was Kay Kassirer, a Vancouver-based poet and activist who uses poetry to tell stories, educate, and heal. They began their set with a moving piece about the difficulty of living everyday life when shouldering the twin burdens of depression and anxiety. Much of Kassirer’s poetry was based on grief, personal suffering, and the reflection of self.

Mother Girth followed Kassirer, explaining the meaning behind her most treasured “shit” and presenting objects she brought with her to the stage during her performance. Her set focused on family and personal history. She has recently begun performing burlesque as a way of reclaiming her body. While some tell her it’s very brave, Mother Girth feels that, simply put, “being brave is existing.”

The last poet to perform before Touchie began his set was Frankie McGee, who performed a very personal and nostalgic set. McGee read old poetry, although it was new to most of the audience, from an old notebook.

When Touchie returned to the stage he performed several powerful pieces that detailed, variously, a plan to retake East Vancouver, a history of the word “Indian,” and a story about how he and his people have been treated by Canada and the English language.

While it is not known if Touchie will return to KPU for a similar event, he will be performing Mixolos Mitchtape Live at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word in Peterborough, Ontario, from Oct. 22 to 28.

If Ontario is a bit too far for you to get to, Touchie’s poetry can be found on Facebook. His podcast, which has the same address as the mixtape, can also be heard on Soundcloud.

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