Cree/Métis writer Marilyn Dumont’s prose poem begins with a warm interaction between two people who assert Indigenous ancestry. They share in “laughing at how crazy ‘the mooniyaw’ [the non-Indigenous people (Andrews n. pag.)] are in the city” through a shared “underground language.”
However, the conversation shifts when the speaker reveals her Métis identity, causing the “treaty guy” to change his attitude towards her. He “tak[es] another look” at her, suggesting that he feels somehow fooled by her appearance, knowledge, and language. The speaker perceives his change in tone to mean that he considers her less-than Indigenous—that somehow her lack of the official designation of “status” renders her inauthentic to him.
Through the reaction of the “treaty guy” to the speaker’s cultural difference, Dumont explores the notion that people put others into boxes, even while sharing much in common. The box motif is reflected in the form of the poem. “Leather and Naughahyde” shows how notions of authenticity separate and distance people, even those who have much in common.
Leather and Naughahyde by Marilyn Dumont
Reprinted with permission from A Really Good Brown Girl (London: Brick, 1996, p. 58).
For help with critical reading, see
Close Reading Poetry.
- Imagery: What is the significance of the title and its connection to the contrasting imagery of fullness and thinness and of bigness and dilution? Likewise, how does the emphasis on looking connect to racialization and notions of authenticity?
- Perspectives: How does the “treaty guy” position the speaker (the “I” of the poem)? How do identities, language, and voice come together in this poem to show how the “treaty guy” changes his perspective toward the speaker?
- Identity and authenticity: What does this poem say about insider-outsider dynamics between different Indigenous communities? In what ways does this poem explore different notions of identity and authenticity within the larger Indigenous nationalist project?
- Andrews, Jennifer.
Irony, Métis Style: Reading the Poetry of Marilyn Dumont and Gregory Scofield.Canadian Poetry 50 (2002). 23 June 2011. Web. 11 July 2013. (Link)
- Dumont, Marilyn.
Leather and Naughahyde.A Really Good Brown Girl. London: Brick, 1996. 58. Print.