As part of National Indigenous History Month, my team and I committed to broadening our understanding of Indigenous cultures and history through the lens of various Indigenous authors.

For our #IndigenousReads book club, we each picked a book and we are sharing some of what we’ve learned from these stories. Scroll down for our book reports.

Do you have a book to add to our list? Please e-mail me at Tony.VanBynen@parl.gc.ca

Community recommendations:
Seven Fallen Feathers by Tanya Talaga
Loyal ’till Death by Blair Stonechild
There, there by Tommy Orange
21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act: Helping Canadians Make Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples a Reality by Bob Joseph

#IndigenousReads Book Reports

Unsettling Canada

Authors: Arthur Manuel & Grand Chief Ronald M. Derrickson

Tony Van Bynen: This book provided a first-hand account of the challenges Indigenous Peoples endure in re-establishing their rights as the First Nations. It talks about the conflict and challenges in their dialogue with the government, how the negotiations were heavily one-sided, based on the settlers values and focused on assimilation as the long-term solution.  I could feel what was happening as it was told. As I read it, I recalled the times of Prime Ministers Pierre Trudeau, Jean Chretien, and Stephen Harper, and what was accepted in those times. I now see it in a much different light, from the author’s perspective.

21 Things You May Not Know about the Indian Act

Author: Bob Joseph

Tony Van Bynen: Easy informative reading that highlights many attitudes in managing the settler’s relationship with Indigenous Peoples through the content, revisions and intent of the Indian Act. I recall some of the implications and attitudes as I was growing up, but not understanding what it meant. Now I do, having read this book.  The author does a great job in explaining how this impacted Indigenous Peoples. He provides a thorough understanding, with the intent to helping start healing conversations.

Here is what I underlined in this book:

The original Royal Proclamation in 1763. “The idea of “nations” comes from King George III and his colonial government, and confirms the international convention of the day that colonizing countries should conduct government business with the inhabitants on a nation-to-nation basis and recognize the inhabitants as owners of the land”.

Split Tooth

Author: Tanya Tagaq

Laila: Split Tooth tells the story about the harsh and cold reality Inuit People in Canada face, one which is unfamiliar to most across the rest of the country. It’s raw, it’s sad, and parts may be triggering, but it’s filled with beautiful imagery and poetic prose.  It’s a powerful, strange, difficult, and magical novel that is certainly not an easy read, but an emotional experience nonetheless. It has also been recommended to listen to this audiobook as it is powerfully read by the author herself, and includes throat singing performances.

The Inconvenient Indian

Author: Thomas King

Ian: The Inconvenient Indian demonstrates excellent writing – even humour – but given the weight of the subject one might be guilty of missing the significance of what he has to say.  What struck was that from our first encounters with Indigenous Peoples, the decision of ‘what to do with them’ has always been from either the settlers’ or government’s perspective.  Indigenous people were seldom appreciated or asked for their insights.  One could only imagine how our society might be better if Indigenous values and insights had been included in policy decisions.

Five Little Indians

Author: Michelle Good

Maeve: Five Little Indians is an intense depiction of how life unfolds for five young people once they are out of residential school. This account of residential schools is personalized and meaningful, and shares the important lesson that trauma endured from residential schools continues to resonate through generations. I recommend this book for anyone and everyone to develop a further understanding of the lasting impacts of residential schools in Canada.

Farah: A quote that resonated with me: “I sat in front of the vanity mirror, looking at the reflection, this stranger. I looked close into my own eyes and saw a truth there I knew I would never be rid of.” pg. 76.

Moon of the Crusted Snow

Author: Waubgeshig Rice

Neil: Moon of the Crusted Snow takes place in a fictional, northern Anishinaabe community that suddenly goes dark. Suspense builds as all communications have ceased, and news from the south indicates that modern society – as we know it – is falling apart. The band council and a few residents struggle to maintain order, and eventually turn to the land and their traditional ways to help the community survive – and rebuild.

The story touches upon the challenges facing the Indigenous community in Canada, while emphasizing the enduring power of the “old ways.” Out of tragedy comes spirit and resilience.