Celebrate the works of these Canadian Indigenous writers with this list of recommended reads.
#IdleNoMore : and the remaking of Canada
Coates, Kenneth, 1956- author
Idle No More bewildered many Canadians. Launched by four women in Saskatchewan in reaction to a federal omnibus budget bill, the protest became the most powerful demonstration of Aboriginal identity in Canadian history. Thousands of Aboriginal people and their supporters took to the streets, shopping malls, and other venues, drumming, dancing, and singing in a collective voice.It was a protest against generations of injustice, a rallying cry for cultural survival, and a reassertion of Aboriginal identity.Idle No More lasted for almost a year, and then the rallies dissipated. Many observers described it as a spent force. It was anything but. Idle No More was the most profound declaration of Indigenous identity and confidence in Canadian history, sparked by Aboriginal women and their supporters, sustained by young Indigenous peoples, filled with pride and determination. When the drums slowed, a new and different Canada was left in its wake. Partially stunned by the peaceful celebrations, but perplexed by a movement that seemed to have no centre and no leaders, most Canadians missed the point.Through Idle No More Aboriginal people have declared that they are a vital and necessary part of Canada's future. The spirit of the drumming, singing, and dancing lives on in empowered and confident young Aboriginal people who will shape the future of this country for decades to come.
21 things you may not know about the Indian Act : helping Canadians make reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples a reality
Joseph, Robert P. C., 1963-, author
Based on a viral article, 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act is the essential guide to understanding the legal document and its repercussion on generations of Indigenous Peoples, written by a leading cultural sensitivity trainer.Since its creation in 1876, the Indian Act has shaped, controlled, and constrained the lives and opportunities of Indigenous Peoples, and is at the root of many enduring stereotypes. Bob Joseph's book comes at a key time in the reconciliation process, when awareness from both Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities is at a crescendo. Joseph explains how Indigenous Peoples can step out from under the Indian Act and return to self-government, self-determination, and self-reliance--and why doing so would result in a better country for every Canadian. He dissects the complex issues around truth and reconciliation, and clearly demonstrates why learning about the Indian Act's cruel, enduring legacy is essential for the country to move toward true reconciliation.
All our relations : finding the path forward
Talaga, Tanya, author
In this vital and incisive work, bestselling and award-winning author Tanya Talaga explores the alarming rise of youth suicide in Indigenous communities in Canada and beyond. From Northern Ontario to Nunavut, Norway, Brazil, Australia, and the United States, the Indigenous experience in colonized nations is startlingly similar and deeply disturbing. It is an experience marked by the violent separation of Peoples from the land, the separation of families, and the separation of individuals from traditional ways of life -- all of which has culminated in a spiritual separation that has had an enduring impact on generations of Indigenous children. As a result of this colonial legacy, too many communities today lack access to the basic determinants of health -- income, employment, education, a safe environment, health services -- leading to a mental health and youth suicide crisis on a global scale. But, Talaga reminds us, First Peoples also share a history of resistance, resilience, and civil rights activism, from the Occupation of Alcatraz led by the Indians of All Tribes, to the Northern Ontario Stirland Lake Quiet Riot, to the Standing Rock protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline, which united Indigenous Nations from across Turtle Island in solidarity.
Based on her Atkinson Fellowship in Public Policy series, All Our Relations is a powerful call for action, justice, and a better, more equitable world for all Indigenous Peoples.
Birdie : a novel
Lindberg, Tracey, author
Monkey Beach meets Green Grass, Running Water meets The Beachcombers in this wise and funny novel by a debut Cree author
Birdie is a darkly comic and moving first novel about the universal experience of recovering from wounds of the past, informed by the lore and knowledge of Cree traditions. Bernice Meetoos, a Cree woman, leaves her home in Northern Alberta following tragedy and travels to Gibsons, BC. She is on something of a vision quest, seeking to understand the messages from The Frugal Gourmet (one of the only television shows available on CBC North) that come to her in her dreams. She is also driven by the leftover teenaged desire to meet Pat Johns, who played Jesse on The Beachcombers, because he is, as she says, a working, healthy Indian man. Bernice heads for Molly's Reach to find answers but they are not the ones she expected.
With the arrival in Gibsons of her Auntie Val and her cousin Skinny Freda, Bernice finds the strength to face the past and draw the lessons from her dreams that she was never fully taught in life. Part road trip, dream quest and travelogue, the novel touches on the universality of women's experience, regardless of culture or race.
Cooking with the Wolfman : Indigenous fusion
Wolfman, David, author
While there were major variations from region to region and from season to season, in general, the traditional diets of Indigenous peoples of North America were remarkably healthy--high in protein and nutrients, low in salt, sugar and nearly without refined carbohydrates, featuring large and small game, waterfowl, eggs, fish and seafood, tubers, berries, tree roots, grasses, seeds and cultivated food crops.
As a classically trained chef of First Nations heritage, David Wolfman has a passion for bringing these traditional food sources together with European cooking techniques. In Cooking with the Wolfman, he and his wife, Marlene, share recipes gathered from David's career as a caterer, culinary professor and host of a popular cooking show, as well as a few family favourites, like an updated version of Marlene's great-grandmother's recipe for pemmican.
Covering everything from the origin of bannock to the finer points of filleting a fish, Cooking with the Wolfman is accessible to readers of every culinary skill level, with step-by-step instructions and charts covering the fundamentals of cooking, from knife handling techniques, choosing cuts of meat and making stocks and sauces to home smoking.
From foodies who want to try locally foraged ingredients to Indigenous cooks looking for new ways to enjoy familiar traditional foods, David Wolfman's easy-to-follow recipes make Indigenous Fusion available to everyone. With over one hundred recipes including Buffalo Egg Rolls with Mango Strawberry Dip, Buttery Bourbon Hot-Smoked Oysters, Slow-Cooked Ginger Caribou Shanks, and Blackened Sea Scallops with Cream of Pumpkin as well as beautiful colour photographs, Cooking with the Wolfman will inspire readers to bring more traditional foods into their kitchens.
Dancing on our turtle's back : stories of Nishnaabeg re-creation, resurgence and a new emergence
Simpson, Leanne, 1971- author
Many promote Reconciliation as a "new" way for Canada to relate to Indigenous Peoples. In Dancing on Our Turtle's Back: Stories of Nishnaabeg Re-Creation, Resurgence, and a New Emergence activist, editor, and educator Leanne Simpson asserts reconciliation must be grounded in political resurgence and must support the regeneration of Indigenous languages, oral cultures, and traditions of governance.
Simpson explores philosophies and pathways of regeneration, resurgence, and a new emergence through the Nishnaabeg language, Creation Stories, walks with Elders and children, celebrations and protests, and meditations on these experiences. She stresses the importance of illuminating Indigenous intellectual traditions to transform their relationship to the Canadian state.
Challenging and original, Dancing on Our Turtle's Back provides a valuable new perspective on the struggles of Indigenous Peoples.
Embers : one Ojibway's meditations
Wagamese, Richard, author
"Life sometimes is hard. There are challenges. There are difficulties. There is pain. As a younger man I sought to avoid them and only ever caused myself more of the same. These days I choose to face life head on--and I have become a comet. I arc across the sky of my life and the harder times are the friction that lets the worn and tired bits drop away. It's a good way to travel; eventually I will wear away all resistance until all there is left of me is light. I can live towards that end."
--Richard Wagamese, Embers
In this carefully curated selection of everyday reflections, Richard Wagamese finds lessons in both the mundane and sublime as he muses on the universe, drawing inspiration from working in the bush--sawing and cutting and stacking wood for winter as well as the smudge ceremony to bring him closer to the Creator. Embers is perhaps Richard Wagamese's most personal volume to date. Honest, evocative and articulate, he explores the various manifestations of grief, joy, recovery, beauty, gratitude, physicality and spirituality--concepts many find hard to express. But for Wagamese, spirituality is multifaceted. Within these pages, readers will find hard-won and concrete wisdom on how to feel the joy in the everyday things. Wagamese does not seek to be a teacher or guru, but these observations made along his own journey to become, as he says, "a spiritual bad-ass," make inspiring reading.
The evolution of Alice
Robertson, David, 1977-, author
This haunting, emotionally resonant story delivers us into the world of Alice, a single mother raising her three young daughters on the rez where she grew up. Alice has never had an easy life, but gets by with the support of her best friend, Gideon, and her family. When an unthinkable loss occurs, Alice is forced onto a different path, one that will challenge her belief in herself and the world she thought she knew. Peopled with unforgettable characters, this is a novel where spirits are alive, forgiveness is possible, and love is the only thing that matters.
A feast for all seasons : traditional native people's cuisine
George, Andrew, Jr., 1963- author
Traditional North American Native peoples'cuisine has existed for centuries, but its centraltenet of respecting nature and its bounty havenever been as timely as they are now. AndrewGeorge, of the Wet'suwet'en Nation in Canada,is a well-respected aboriginal chef and instructorwho has spent the last twenty-five yearspromoting the traditions of First Nations food.In A Feast for All Seasons , written with Robert Gairns, he has compiled aboriginal recipes that feature ingredients from the land, sea, and sky, elements of an enduring cuisine that illustraterespect for the environment and its creatures,and acknowledgment of the spiritual power thatfood can have in our lives.
The 120 recipes include delectable, make-at home dishes such as Salmon and FiddleheadStirfry, Stuffed Wild Duck, Barbecued Oysters,Pan-fried Rabbit with Wild Cranberry Glaze,Clam Fritters, and Wild Blueberry Cookies. Thebook also features recipes with exotic ingredientsthat provide a fascinating glimpse into thehistory of Native cuisine: Moose Chili, BoiledPorcupine, Smoked Beaver Meat, and BraisedBear.
This unique cookbook pays homage to anenduring food culture--grounded in traditionand the power of nature--that transcends the test of time.
In the shadow of our ancestors : the inventions and genius of the First Peoples
Arthurson, Wayne, 1962- author
Searching through the annals of North American history uncovers the diverse and astounding contributions by the Natives of the Americas who formed the world we know today. In the Shadow of Our Ancestors explores the rich history of the indigenous peoples of North America and leaves us in awe of their stunning achievements and inventions: * The Great Law of Peace -- The ideals, words and symbols of the Iroquois Confederacy inspired the governments of the New World to form democracies that recognized, in their constitutions, the rights of all people * Potatoes -- The lowly potato, a staple food of Natives for almost 15,000 years, was unknown outside the Americas until Europeans arrived; now, with almost 4000 varieties, it is the fourth most-consumed agricultural product in the world * Sacagawea -- The settlement of western North America was inspired and influenced by the results of the Lewis and Clark expedition in the early 1800s, with the journey's success made possible because of a Native woman named Sacagawea, whose presence paved the way for the explorers to be seen as a peaceful party.
Indigenous writes : a guide to First Nations, Métis, and Inuit issues in Canada
Vowel, Chelsea, author
In Indigenous Writes , Chelsea Vowel, legal scholar, teacher, and intellectual, opens an important dialogue about the wider social beliefs associated with the relationship between Indigenous peoples and Canada. In 31 essays, Chelsea explores the Indigenous experience from the time of contact to the present, through five categories--Terminology of Relationships; Culture and Identity; Myth-Busting; State Violence; and Land, Learning, Law, and Treaties. She answers the questions that many people have on these topics to spark further conversations at home, in the classroom, and in the larger community.
Whitehead, Joshua (Writer), author
"You're gonna need a rock and a whole lotta medicine" is a mantra that Jonny Appleseed, a young Two-Spirit/Indigiqueer, repeats to himself in this vivid and utterly compelling novel. Off the reserve and trying to find ways to live and love in the big city, Jonny becomes a cybersex worker who fetishizes himself in order to make a living. Self-ordained as an NDN glitter princess, Jonny has one week before he must return to the "rez," and his former life, to attend the funeral of his stepfather. The next seven days are like a fevered dream: stories of love, trauma, sex, kinship, ambition, and the heartbreaking recollection of his beloved kokum (grandmother). Jonny's world is a series of breakages, appendages, and linkages--and as he goes through the motions of preparing to return home, he learns how to put together the pieces of his life. Jonny Appleseed is a unique, shattering vision of Indigenous life, full of grit, glitter, and dreams.
The lesser blessed
Van Camp, Richard, author
A fresh, funny look at growing up Native in the North, by award-winning author Richard Van Camp.
Larry is a Dogrib Indian growing up in the small northern town of Fort Simmer. His tongue, his hallucinations and his fantasies are hotter than the sun. At sixteen, he loves Iron Maiden, the North and Juliet Hope, the high school "tramp." When Johnny Beck, a Metis from Hay River, moves to town, Larry is ready for almost anything.
In this powerful and often very funny first novel, Richard Van Camp gives us one of the most original teenage characters in fiction. Skinny as spaghetti, nervy and self-deprecating, Larry is an appealing mixture of bravado and vulnerability. His past holds many terrors: an abusive father, blackouts from sniffing gasoline, an accident that killed several of his cousins. But through his friendship with Johnny, he's ready now to face his memories--and his future.
Marking the debut of an exciting new writer, The Lesser Blessed is an eye-opening depiction of what it is to be a young Native man in the age of AIDS, disillusionment with Catholicism and a growing world consciousness.
A coming-of-age story that any fan of The Catcher in the Rye will enjoy.
Paquette, Aaron, 1974- author
Lightfinder is a YA fantasy novel about Aisling, a young Cree woman who sets out into the wilderness with her Kokum (grandmother), Aunty and two young men she barely knows. They have to find and rescue her runaway younger brother, Eric. Along the way she learns that the legends of her people might be real and that she has a growing power of her own.The story follows the paths of Aisling and Eric, siblings unwittingly thrust into a millennia old struggle for the future of life on earth. It deals with growing up, love and loss, and the choices life puts in our path. Love and confusion are in store, as are loss and pain. Things are not always what they seem and danger surrounds them at every turn. Will Raven's mysterious purposes prevail? With darkness closing in how will they find the light to guide them? Will Aisling find Eric in time?
The marrow thieves
Dimaline, Cherie, 1975- author
Humanity has nearly destroyed its world through global warming, but now an even greater evil lurks. The indigenous people of North America are being hunted and harvested for their bone marrow, which carries the key to recovering something the rest of the population has lost: the ability to dream. In this dark world, Frenchie and his companions struggle to survive as they make their way up north to the old lands. For now, survival means staying hidden--but what they don't know is that one of them holds the secret to defeating the marrow thieves.
An irreverent, insightful take on our First Nations' great gift to Canada, delivered by a stellar cast of contributors.
Humour has always been an essential part of North American Aboriginal culture. This fact remained unnoticed by most settlers, however, since non-Aboriginals just didn't get the joke. Indians, it was believed, never laughed. But Indians themselves always knew better.
As an award-winning playwright, columnist and comedy-sketch creator, Drew Hayden Taylor has spent fifteen years writing and researching Aboriginal humour. For this book, he asked a leading group of writers from a variety of fields--among them such celebrated wordsmiths as Thomas King, Lee Maracle and Tomson Highway--to take a look at what makes Aboriginal humour tick. Their challenging, informative and hilarious contributions examine the use of humour in areas as diverse as stand-up comedy, fiction, visual art, drama, performance, poetry, traditional storytelling and education. As Me Funny makes clear, there is no single definition of Aboriginal humour. But the contributors do agree on some common ground: Native humour pushes the envelope. With this collection, readers will have the unforgettable opportunity to appreciate that for themselves.
My conversations with Canadians
Maracle, Lee, 1950-, author
Finalist for the 2018 Toronto Book Award
My Conversations With Canadians is the book that "Canada 150" needs.
On her first book tour at the age of 26, Lee Maracle was asked a question from the audience, one she couldn't possibly answer at that moment. But she has been thinking about it ever since. As time has passed, she has been asked countless similar questions, all of them too big to answer, but not too large to contemplate. These questions, which touch upon subjects such as citizenship, segregation, labour, law, prejudice and reconciliation (to name a few), are the heart of My Conversations with Canadians.
In prose essays that are both conversational and direct, Maracle seeks not to provide any answers to these questions she has lived with for so long. Rather, she thinks through each one using a multitude of experiences she's had as a First Nations leader, a woman, a mother, and grandmother over the course of her life. Lee Maracle's My Conversations with Canadians presents a tour de force exploration into the writer's own history and a reimagining of the future of our nation.
Praise for My Conversations with Canadians :
" My Conversations With Canadians ... offer[s] strength and solidarity to Indigenous readers, and a generous guide to ally-ship for non-Indigenous readers. For the latter, these books will unsettle, but to engage in ally-ship is to commit to being unsettled--all the time." -- The Globe and Mail
The outside circle
LaBoucane-Benson, Patti, 1969- author
Winner, CODE's 2016 Burt Award for First Nation, Inuit and Métis Literature
In this important graphic novel, two Aboriginal brothers surrounded by poverty, drug abuse, and gang violence, try to overcome centuries of historic trauma in very different ways to bring about positive change in their lives.
Pete, a young Aboriginal man wrapped up in gang violence, lives with his younger brother, Joey, and his mother who is a heroin addict. One night, Pete and his mother's boyfriend, Dennis, get into a big fight, which sends Dennis to the morgue and Pete to jail. Initially, Pete keeps up ties to his crew, until a jail brawl forces him to realize the negative influence he has become on Joey, which encourages him to begin a process of rehabilitation that includes traditional Aboriginal healing circles and ceremonies.
Powerful, courageous, and deeply moving, The Outside Circle is drawn from the author's twenty years of work and research on healing and reconciliation of gang-affiliated or incarcerated Aboriginal men.
Vermette, Katherena, 1977- author
Echo Desjardins, a thirteen-year-old Métis girl, is struggling with feelings of loneliness while attending a new school and living with a new foster family. Then an ordinary day in Mr. Bee's history class turns extraordinary, and Echo's life will never be the same. During Mr. Bee's lecture, Echo finds herself transported to another time and place--a bison hunt on the Saskatchewan prairie--and back again. In the following weeks, Echo slips back and forth in time. She visits a Métis camp, travels the old fur-trade routes and experiences the perilous era of the pemmican wars.
The right to be cold : one woman's story of protecting her culture, the Arctic, and the whole planet
Watt-Cloutier, Sheila, author
SHORTLISTED FOR CANADA READS 2017
Now in paperback, one of Canada's most passionate environmental and human rights activists addresses the global threat of climate change from the intimate perspective of her own Arctic childhood
The Arctic ice is receding each year, but just as irreplaceable is the culture, the wisdom that has allowed the Inuit to thrive in the Far North for so long. And it's not just the Arctic. The whole world is changing in dangerous, unpredictable ways. Sheila Watt-Cloutier has devoted her life to protecting what is threatened and nurturing what has been wounded. In this culmination of Watt-Cloutier's regional, national, and international work over the last twenty-five years, The Right to Be Cold explores the parallels between safeguarding the Arctic and the survival of Inuit culture, of which her own background is such an extraordinary example. This is a human story of resilience, commitment, and survival told from the unique vantage point of an Inuk woman who, in spite of many obstacles, rose from humble beginnings in the Arctic to become one of the most influential and decorated environmental, cultural, and human rights advocates in the world.
Sanaaq : an Inuit novel
Nappaaluk, Mitiarjuk, author
Sanaaq is the intimate story of an Inuit family negotiating the changes brought into their community by the coming of the qallunaat , the white people, in the mid-nineteenth century. Sanaaq, a strong and outspoken young widow, and her daughter, Qumac, hunt seal, repair their kayak, and gather mussels under blue sea ice before the tide comes in. Theirs is a semi-nomadic life on the edge of the ice where marriages are made and unmade, children are born, and violence appears in the form of a fearful husband or a hungry polar bear. Here the spirit world is alive and relations with non-humans are never taken lightly. And under it all, the growing intrusion of the qallunaat and the battle for souls between the Catholic and Anglican missionaries threatens to forever change Sanaaq's way of life.
Due in part to the perseverance of French anthropologist Bernard Saladin d'Anglure, Sanaaq was first published in syllabic Inuttitut in 1987. His French translation appeared in 2002. This English translation now brings this cornerstone of Inuit literature to Anglophone readers and scholars.
Seeing red : a history of Natives in Canadian newspapers
Anderson, Mark Cronlund, 1960-, author
Seeing Red is a groundbreaking study of how Canadian English- language newspapers have portrayed Aboriginal peoples from 1869 to the present day. It assesses a wide range of publications on topics that include the sale of Rupert's Land, the signing of Treaty 3, the Northwest Rebellion and Louis Riel, the death of Pauline Johnson, the outing of Grey Owl, the discussions surrounding Bill C-31, the "Bended Elbow" standoff at Kenora, Ontario, and the Oka Crisis. The authors uncover overwhelming evidence that the colonial imaginary not only thrives but dominates depictions of Aboriginal peoples in mainstream newspapers. The colonial constructs ingrained in the news media perpetuate an imagined Native inferiority that contributes significantly to the marginalization of Indigenous people in Canada. That such imagery persists to this day suggests strongly that the country lives in denial, failing to live up to its boosterism of the cultural mosaic.
Son of a trickster
Robinson, Eden, author
Shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize: With striking originality and precision, Eden Robinson, the author of the classic Monkey Beach and winner of the Writers' Trust of Canada Fellowship, blends humour with heartbreak in this compelling coming-of-age novel. Everyday teen existence meets indigenous beliefs, crazy family dynamics, and cannibalistic river otters . . . The exciting first novel in her trickster trilogy.
Everyone knows a guy like Jared: the burnout kid in high school who sells weed cookies and has a scary mom who's often wasted and wielding some kind of weapon. Jared does smoke and drink too much, and he does make the best cookies in town, and his mom is a mess, but he's also a kid who has an immense capacity for compassion and an impulse to watch over people more than twice his age, and he can't rely on anyone for consistent love and support, except for his flatulent pit bull, Baby Killer (he calls her Baby)--and now she's dead.
Jared can't count on his mom to stay sober and stick around to take care of him. He can't rely on his dad to pay the bills and support his new wife and step-daughter. Jared is only sixteen but feels like he is the one who must stabilize his family's life, even look out for his elderly neighbours. But he struggles to keep everything afloat...and sometimes he blacks out. And he puzzles over why his maternal grandmother has never liked him, why she says he's the son of a trickster, that he isn't human. Mind you, ravens speak to him--even when he's not stoned.
You think you know Jared, but you don't.
Tagaq, 1975- author
Longlisted for the 2018 Scotiabank Giller Prize
From the internationally acclaimed Inuit throat singer who has dazzled and enthralled the world with music it had never heard before, a fierce, tender, heartbreaking story unlike anything you've ever read.
Fact can be as strange as fiction. It can also be as dark, as violent, as rapturous. In the end, there may be no difference between them.
A girl grows up in Nunavut in the 1970s. She knows joy, and friendship, and parents' love. She knows boredom, and listlessness, and bullying. She knows the tedium of the everyday world, and the raw, amoral power of the ice and sky, the seductive energy of the animal world. She knows the ravages of alcohol, and violence at the hands of those she should be able to trust. She sees the spirits that surround her, and the immense power that dwarfs all of us.
When she becomes pregnant, she must navigate all this.
Veering back and forth between the grittiest features of a small arctic town, the electrifying proximity of the world of animals, and ravishing world of myth, Tanya Tagaq explores a world where the distinctions between good and evil, animal and human, victim and transgressor, real and imagined lose their meaning, but the guiding power of love remains.
Haunting, brooding, exhilarating, and tender all at once, Tagaq moves effortlessly between fiction and memoir, myth and reality, poetry and prose, and conjures a world and a heroine readers will never forget.
This wound is a world : poems
Belcourt, Billy-Ray, author
Part manifesto, part memoir, This Wound is a World is an invitation to 'cut a hole in the sky to world inside.' Billy-Ray Belcourt issues a call to turn to love and sex to understand how Indigenous peoples shoulder sadness and pain like theirs without giving up on the future. His poems and essays upset genre and play with form, scavenging for a decolonial kind of heaven where 'everyone is at least a little gay'.