Controversy continues to follow Canadian author Joseph Boyden. Accusations of similarities between one of his texts and a story by an Ojibway storyteller have now surfaced, barely a month after the authenticity of his indigenous identity came under question.
An article by Jorge Barrera published online by APTN focuses on similarities found in a small book by healer and storyteller Ron Geyshick called Te Bwe Win and a story titled “Bearwalker” that appeared in Boyden’s 2001 short-story collection Born With a Tooth. Boyden denies he copied the story.
The similarities were brought to light by Chuck Bourgeois, a graduate student at the University of Manitoba, who is quoted in the APTN piece. In a draft paper available on the University of Manitoba website, Bourgeois outlines the similar passages, and notes that the story by Geyshick contained details that made his story “unique.”
Boyden, award-winning author of The Orenda and Through Black Spruce, responded to the accusation on Twitter: “I have always been fascinated by the oral stories that travel through communities. I first encountered this one in Fort Albany in the mid-1990s . . . I heard the story again in Moosonee.”
He goes on to say that “I saw it as a type of modern parable, a Christian story, filtered through the distinct local experience and lens.” The story, he says, “stuck with him” and he eventually wrote the story “Bearwalker.”
“The point is that Ron Geyshick’s piece is not a story, it’s not a sacred legend. It’s very much is own autobiography and he’s talking very concretely about how he became a medicine person,” said Bourgeois in a phone interview with the Star.
Boyden’s publisher, Penguin Random House, said that the author was in transit on Thursday and was unable to comment.
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