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Items on way back to Joni   Print

by Jeremy Warren
Saskatoon StarPhoenix
August 17, 2013

Joni Mitchell is getting her stuff back. A collection of personal belongings stored in Saskatoon for years is on its way back to the iconic Canadian artist. The items are set to be shipped out, Mitchell said Friday afternoon from her home in B.C. "I had to do something drastic and it was effective," Mitchell said. "I did get my stuff back. It is in transit."

Mitchell spoke to The StarPhoenix last month about her failed attempts to retrieve the memorabilia - about 50 boxes of items that include her homemade dresses and dozens of her mother's scrapbooks covering the musician's career - from a family friend in Saskatoon, where Mitchell grew up and where her late parents lived.

In July, Mitchell also spoke about the city's failed attempts to honour her, and after describing an abandoned plan to incorporate First Nations culture into a Mendel Art Gallery expansion, she called "Saskatoon extremely bigoted" and compared it to the "deep south."

She stands by her comments, but elaborated on them in Friday's interview.

"I saw the injustices of the town. I saw it from race to race to race, and it's not like I'm an outsider," Mitchell said.

"There's a lot of healing that has to take place in realizing what we did to the native people, taking their children a hundred miles away and beating them and raping them. It's an atrocity.

"The north and the south are kindred. I'm not singling out Saskatoon as the only place. This is a problem in the north with the treatment of the natives ... We've broken them down and destroyed their lives, and now we're afraid of them. It's the same as the south."

The "bigoted" comment, and Mitchell's harsh views on several past attempts to recognize her in Saskatoon created a flood of coverage and responses in the city and across Canada.

But mostly it was her opinion of Saskatoon's race relations that had people talking.

"I don't mean to be offensive, and I think the people who are offended need to look at themselves and why they are reacting so strongly," Mitchell said. "My intention was not to criticize. They were brought up in the context of a desire to educate and heal."

When the Mendel Art Gallery planned its expansion, Mitchell was asked to help design a new wing that would also house some of the memorabilia stored in Saskatoon. She wanted to include a "medicine wheel chapel" in the wing as a symbol of healing and a nod to First Nations culture, but the idea didn't catch on.

She likens the idea to Saskatoon's Folkfest, which she said she has attended in the past. The 2013 Folkfest ends tonight.

"That's one of those ideas I think that is excellent for celebrating differences," Mitchell said. "I wanted to do something educational."

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