Delgamuukw. Sixties Scoop. Bill C-31. Blood quantum. Appropriation. Two-Spirit. Tsilhqot’in. Status. TRC. RCAP. FNPOA. Pass and permit. Numbered Treaties. Terra nullius. The Great Peace…
Are you familiar with the terms listed above? In Indigenous Writes, Chelsea Vowel, legal scholar, teacher, and intellectual, opens an important dialogue about these (and more) concepts and 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.
Indigenous Writes is one title in The Debwe Series.
approx. 290 pages
Out September 2016
I received this book in exchange for my honest review.
I must admit that recently I’ve been reading more textbooks on the topic of Indigenous people. The reasoning behind this decision is my desire to enlighten myself to the treatment of Canada’s earliest settlers and the subsequent treatment of them after immigrants arrived in Canada.
In 31 essays, this author tries to explain much of what non-Indigenous people don’t understand about the Indigenous people of Canada.
Everyone should read this book. It is eye-opening, disturbing and brutal in its honesty.
Let me sum up the first section of the book with this:
“Surprisingly, there are a great number of people who still think the use of some of these terms is up for debate, but I would sincerely like to help you avoid unintentionally putting your foot in your mouth. So, between us, let’s just agree the following words are never okay to call Indigenous peoples:
- red Indian
Seriously… I can’t believe this even has to be said. Yet, sadly slurs are still being used when referring to indigenous people. The author then goes on to list those names that are acceptable… An entire part one set aside on terminology and founded discussions on what to call each other. I just can’t help but shake my head and wonder why we are still debating or discussing this. It’s not just about indigenous people, but about African Americans, Chinese or Asians, Immigrants… Yet, there is one common element not discussed as much as it should be, and that is the fact that we’re all human.
Instead of judging, or ‘slotting’ a person by the color of their skin, the shape of their eyes or the way they dress, why can’t we all accept the one impossibly disputed fact, we are all human. We all bleed red. So, will this ever change?
As the book moves forward, the author goes on to discuss culture and identity. More slotting is used to distinguish the differences between Indian groups in Canada. There is a ‘status’ gained when you fall into one of these categories and surprisingly I learned that such status was once lost to Indian women who married non-Indian people. And worse yet, Indian men who married non-Indian women did not lose their status and in fact, those they married received Indian status too which made no sense. Amazing to see that sexism, equality issues, discrimination, bias, and prejudice dwell within the very communities targeted by outside societies for those very same things. I have to wonder if this same practice extends into other cultures too.
Moving on, the next sections discuss the various indigenous groups. I won’t go into great detail, but there are discussions regarding laws, identities, Indigenous purity, whether they should be considered hunter-gatherers or trappers-harvesters and why terminology is important.
The author broaches the topic of myths. She discusses the following myths and how they pertain to Indigenous people:
- The Myth of Progress
- The Myth of the Level Playing Field
- The Myth of Taxation
- The Myth of Free Housing
- The Myth of the Drunken Indian
- The Myth of the Wandering Nomad
- The Myth of Authenticity
Part Four. State Violence. This section is divided as follows:
- Monster: The Residential School Legacy. I’ve gone into my thoughts regarding the horrific treatment of Indigenous children in these schools often run by nuns and priests in previous reviews so I won’t repeat my thoughts here.
- Our Stolen Generations: The Sixties and Millennial Scoops. I found this section very interesting since I knew nothing about it initially.
- Human Flagpoles. Inuit Relocation.
- From Hunters to Farmers: Indigenous Farming on the Prairies.
- Dirty Water, Dirty Secrets: Drinking Water in First Nations Communities.
- No Justice, No Peace: The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples
Part Five. Land, Learning, Law, and Treaties
As indicated, Part Five discusses the doctrines of colonization and the rights, if any, of Indigenous people. It also includes a portion covering treaty making, especially the evolution of treaty-making in Canada. This also included a section on numbered treaties and modern treaty-making.
When the topic of reserves comes up, the author explains it isn’t the reserves that are the problem. There are almost 2300 Indian reserves in Canada where nearly half of them are in British Columbia. There’s one not far from where I live, in Ontario, a tiny bit of land for so many to live on. First Nations consists of more than 600 different groups of people alone and that’s just one group of Indigenous people. That’s just the tip to the discussions pertaining to reserves.
I’ve just covered a minuscule amount of the wealth of information this amazing author shares. There is so much to gain from reading this book. If a writer and you wish to include such diversity in your work, then I would highly recommend you get a copy of this book to read and add to your reference shelf. That’s where I’m putting my copy.
I gave this amazing book: