Dr. Dallas Hunt is Cree and a member of Wapsewsipi (Swan River First Nation). He teaches Indigenous literatures and specializes in critical theory, Indigenous politics, and Canadian literature.
In this instalment of Know Your Profs, Dr. Hunt shares with us how books and texts make it possible to engage with ideas one would otherwise never encounter. He also reminds us that sometimes, the most beautiful moments in a class can come out of the cacophony of conversations yet to be had.
When did you know academia was for you?
I’m still not sure if academia is for me, but I like wrestling with the question! I was able to write well in high school. I thought I was going to go into a trade like carpentry, but then I liked writing poetry, short stories, and playing music, and it just didn’t seem like a trade was right for me.
What does it mean to you to study literature?
Studying literature has given me an avenue to pursue texts or books that I don’t think I would have normally engaged with, and they usually resonate with me depending on the topics, themes, and class dynamics. I’d rather be studying languages and literatures in Cree as my main preoccupation, but I still find a way to fit them in when I can.
What do you like about teaching UBC students?
I like that each new semester brings that palpable excitement between professors and students. Students wonder if this is the class for them, and I’m nervous about whether or not the course will go well enough, or if I’ve prepared enough. The truth is, you never prepare enough, but I quite enjoy what comes out of the discussions – out of the cacophony.
Which course(s) do you teach?
What can students expect from your classes?
Given the climate at this juncture, I would say that I try to be as calm as possible and really make sure everyone in the class, including myself, is doing well. That can mean deadline extensions, one-on-one conversations, or just robust discussions in an in-person format. Really, it’s about thinking through complex ideas and, in the process, all of us trying to feel far less lonely during a difficult time in human history.
What are your favourite questions students have asked you about English literatures?
I really appreciate inquiries into the histories of Indigenous literatures. We have a long history of writing, philosophical thought, and the complex notions of being in relation with one another. Indigenous literatures generate these inquiries.
What advice would you give your students?
Be gentler on yourself. Make yourself of service. Volunteer. I know it means taking on a larger role at this particular time, but that sociality gets you through. Ask questions and don’t be afraid to do so. Most of all, there are very few occasions where your “job” is to read, so enjoy it – it’s so hard to read later in life.
What do you want students to know before taking your courses?
I am so happy that you took this class. If you’re happy to be here, then I’m pretty accessible and like to read and chat. I’m happy to dwell in this space with you!
That said, if you have feelings about how this class should go or the relevance of a field like mine, I would recommend you move on – really, the English Department has so many other great course offerings, and I’m tired of speaking to why Indigenous peoples, communities, and literatures are worth knowing about.
If you weren’t a professor, what would you do with your life?
I would be working in Northern Alberta, miserably. I love those territories, but I realized in my teens that I’m actually probably not equipped to lead that life. If you are, I’m excited for you, just don’t clear-cut the trees in my territories.
What is a question you wish this survey asked, and what is your answer?
I expected more questions that would result in getting to know me. I’ll keep it short.
Favourite tv show: I liked the one where they got lost in the woods. Wish I could remember the title.
Favourite music: I’ve been listening to a lot of Jacki Wilson for some reason. Check out “lonely teardrops.” Also, I’ve been listening to a lot of Kehlani.
Favourite film: the last film that I watched and really enjoyed was “Drive My Car.” Ponderous at times, but it’s a really interesting engagement with death and grief. I guess that’s what all literature is about, in a way.
What a time to be alive.