Nisga’a poet Jordan Abel’s award-winning third book, Injun, is a long poem about racism and the representation of Indigenous peoples. Composed of text from western novels published between 1840 and 1950–the heyday of pulp publishing and a period of unfettered colonialism in North America–Injun uses erasure, pastiche, and a focused poetics to create a visually striking response to the western genre.
After compiling the online text of 91 of these now public-domain novels into one gargantuan document, Abel used his word processor’s “Find” function to search for the word “injun”. The 509 results were used as a study in context: How was this word deployed? What surrounded it? What remained after the word was removed? Abel then cut up the sentences into clusters of three to five words and rearranged them into the long poem that is Injun. The book contains the poem, as well as peripheral material, that will help the reader to replicate, intuitively, some of the conceptual processes that went into composing it.
Though it has been phased out of use in our “post-racial” society, the word “injun” is peppered throughout pulp western novels. Injun retraces, defaces, and effaces the use of this word as a colonial and racial marker. While the subject matter of the source text is clearly problematic, the textual explorations in Injun help to destabilize the colonial image of the “Indian” in the source novels, the western genre as a whole and the western canon.