#IndigenousReads June 2018 campaign
Minister Carolyn Bennett is sharing books by Indigenous authors for the #IndigenousReads June 2018 campaign. The goal of this campaign is to encourage reconciliation by increasing Canadians' understanding of Indigenous issues, cultures, and history through sharing Indigenous literature.
A new book will be featured here each day, Monday to Friday, throughout the month of June so check in often!
Share what your favourite books are on Facebook or Twitter using #IndigenousReads!
To see our past #IndigenousReads recommendations, visit our reading list.
Roy Henry Vickers and Robert Budd
Illustrated by Roy Henry Vickers
Cloudwalker, describing the creation of the rivers, is the second in a series of Northwest Coast legends by Roy Henry Vickers and Robert Budd. Their previous collaboration, Raven Brings the Light (2013), is a national bestseller.
On British Columbia’s northwest coast lies the Sacred Headwaters—the source of three of British Columbia’s largest salmon-bearing rivers. These rivers are the source of life for all creatures in the area. But what gave life to the rivers themselves?
Astace, a young Gitxsan hunter, is intent on catching a group of swans with his bare hands. He is carried away by the birds’ powerful wings and dropped in the clouds. With only a cedar box of water Astace wanders the clouds, growing weaker, stumbling and spilling the contents. When he finally returns to earth he discovers lakes, creeks, and rivers where there were none before. The Gitxsan rejoice at having him home, and name the new river they live alongside Ksien—"juice from the clouds."
Roy Henry Vickers’ vibrant artwork, including 18 new prints, accompany this new retelling of an ancient story—readers of all ages will be captivated.
(Source: Harbour Publishing)
North End Love Songs
For Katherena Vermette, Winnipeg's North End is a neighbourhood of colourful birds, stately elms, and always wily rivers. It is where a brother's disappearance is trivialized by local media and police because he is young and aboriginal. It is also where young girls share secrets, movies, cigarettes, Big Gulps and stories of love; where a young mother full of both maternal trepidation and joy watches her small daughters as they play in the park.
"In North End Love Songs, Katherena Vermette uses spare language and brief, telling sketches to illuminate the aviary of a prairie neighbourhood. Vermette's love songs are unconventional and imminent, an examination and a celebration of family and community in all weathers, the beautiful as well as the less clement conditions. This collection is a very moving tribute, to the girls and the women, the boys and the men, and the loving trouble that has forever transpired between us." Joanne Arnott
Why the Monster
Rachel and Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley
Illustrated by Toma Feizo Gas
Huuq is a young Inuit boy who has never fit in to camp life. One day, fleeing yet another attack from the camp bullies, Huuq finds himself alone and far away, with only his dog Qipik as company.
On a lonesome hill, Huuq and Qipik find an egg. But this is no ordinary bird’s egg. It’s big. And almost looks like a stone. When Huuq breaks this mysterious egg, it unleashes a series of events that turn Huuq himself into a monstrous half-human creature.
As Huuq tries to figure out why he has been turned into a monster, what the egg and its contents mean, and how he can return to his natural self, he is thrust into a world of fearsome creatures, mystical powers, and an evil the likes of which Huuq has never encountered.
(Source: Inhabit Media)
Green Grass, Running Water
Strong, sassy women and hard-luck, hard-headed men, all searching for the middle ground between Native American tradition and the modern world, perform an elaborate dance of approach and avoidance in this magical, rollicking tale by award-winning author Thomas King. Alberta, Eli, Lionel and others are coming to the Blackfoot reservation for the Sun Dance. There they will encounter four Indian elders and their companion, the trickster Coyote—and nothing in the small town of Blossom will be the same again. . . .
(Source: Harper Collins Canada)
The Legend of Lightning and Thunder
Paula Ikuutaq Rumbolt
Illustrated by Jo Rioux
In The Legend of Lightning and Thunder, a traditional legend that has been told in the Kivalliq region of Nunavut for centuries, two siblings resort to stealing from their fellow villagers, and inadvertently introduce lightning and thunder into the world. This beautifully illustrated traditional legend weaves together elements of an origin story and a traditional cautionary tale, giving young readers an accessible window into centuries-old Inuit mythology that is specific to the Kivalliq region of Nunavut.
(Source: Inhabit Medias)
Surviving Canada: Indigenous Peoples Celebrate 150 Years of Betrayal
Edited by Kiera L. Ladner & Myra J. Tait
Surviving Canada: Indigenous Peoples Celebrate 150 Years of Betrayal is a collection of elegant, thoughtful, and powerful reflections about Indigenous Peoples’ complicated, and often frustrating, relationship with Canada, and how—even 150 years after Confederation—the fight for recognition of their treaty and Aboriginal rights continues.
Through essays, art, and literature, Surviving Canada examines the struggle for Indigenous Peoples to celebrate their cultures and exercise their right to control their own economic development, lands, water, and lives. The Indian Act, Idle No More, and the legacy of residential schools are just a few of the topics covered by a wide range of elders, scholars, artists, and activists. Contributors include Mary Eberts, Buffy Sainte-Marie, and Leroy Little Bear.
(Source: ARP Books)
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An Honest Woman
An Honest Woman by Jónína Kirton confronts us with beauty and ugliness in the wholesome riot that is sex, love, and marriage. From the perspective of a mixed-race woman, Kirton engages with Simone de Beauvoir and Donald Trump to unravel the norms of femininity and sexuality that continue to adhere today.
Kirton recalls her own upbringing, during which she was told to find a good husband who would "make an honest woman" out of her. Exploring the lives of many women, including her mother, her contemporaries, and well-known sex-crime stories such as the case of Elisabeth Fritzl, Kirton mines the personal to loosen the grip of patriarchal and colonial impositions.
An Honest Woman explores the many ways the female body is shaped by questions that have been too political to ask: What happens when a woman decides to take her sexuality into her own hands, dismissing cultural norms and the expectations of her parents? How is a young woman’s sexuality influenced when she is perceived as an "exotic" other? Can a woman reconnect with her Indigenous community by choosing Indigenous lovers?
Daring and tender in their honesty and wisdom, these poems challenge the perception of women’s bodies as glamorous and marketable commodities and imagine an embodied female experience that accommodates the role of creativity and a nurturing relationship with the land.
(Source: Talon Books Ltd)
Seven Fallen Feathers
In 1966, twelve-year-old Chanie Wenjack froze to death on the railway tracks after running away from residential school. An inquest was called and four recommendations were made to prevent another tragedy. None of those recommendations were applied.
More than a quarter of a century later, from 2000 to 2011, seven Indigenous high school students died in Thunder Bay, Ontario. The seven were hundreds of miles away from their families, forced to leave home and live in a foreign and unwelcoming city. Five were found dead in the rivers surrounding Lake Superior, below a sacred Indigenous site. Jordan Wabasse, a gentle boy and star hockey player, disappeared into the minus twenty degrees Celsius night. The body of celebrated artist Norval Morrisseau’s grandson, Kyle, was pulled from a river, as was Curran Strang’s. Robyn Harper died in her boarding-house hallway and Paul Panacheese inexplicably collapsed on his kitchen floor. Reggie Bushie’s death finally prompted an inquest, seven years after the discovery of Jethro Anderson, the first boy whose body was found in the water.
Using a sweeping narrative focusing on the lives of the students, award-winning investigative journalist Tanya Talaga delves into the history of this small northern city that has come to manifest Canada’s long struggle with human rights violations against Indigenous communities.
A portion of each sale of Seven Fallen Feathers will go to the Dennis Franklin Cromarty Memorial Fund, set up in 1994 to financially assist Nishnawbe Aski Nation students’ studies in Thunder Bay and at post-secondary institutions.
(Source: House of Anansi Press)
The Red Files
This debut poetry collection from Lisa Bird-Wilson reflects on the legacy of the residential school system: the fragmentation of families and histories with blows that resonate through the generations.
Inspired by family and archival sources, Bird-Wilson assembles scraps of a history torn apart by colonial violence. The collection takes its name from the federal government's complex organizational structure of residential schools archives, which are divided into "black files" and "red files." In vignettes as clear as glass beads, her poems offer affection to generations of children whose presence within the historic record is ghostlike, anonymous and ephemeral.
The collection also explores the larger political context driving the mechanisms that tore apart families and cultures, including the Sixties Scoop. It depicts moments of resistance, both personal and political, as well as official attempts at reconciliation: "I can hold in the palm of my right hand / all that I have left: one story-gift from an uncle, / a father's surname, treaty card, Cree accent echo, metal bits, grit— / and I will still have room to cock a fist."
The Red Files concludes with a fierce hopefulness, embracing the various types of love that can begin to heal the traumas inflicted by a legacy of violence
(Source: Harbour Publishing)
When We Were Alone
David Alexander Robertson
Illustrated by Julie Flett
When a young girl helps tend to her grandmother’s garden, she begins to notice things about her grandmother that make her curious. Why does her grandmother have long braided hair and wear beautifully coloured clothing? Why does she speak another language and spend so much time with her family? As she asks her grandmother about these things, she is told about life in a residential school a long time ago, where everything was taken away. When We Were Alone is a story about a difficult time in history and, ultimately, a story of empowerment and strength.
(Source: Portage and Main Press)
Flight of the Hummingbird: A Parable for the Environment
Contributions by His Holiness The Dalai Lama and Wangari Maathai
The hummingbird parable, with origins in the Quechuan people of South America, has become a talisman for environmentalists and activists who are committed to making meaningful change in the world. In this inspiring story, the determined hummingbird does everything she can to put out a raging fire that threatens her forest home. The hummingbird—symbol of wisdom and courage—demonstrates that doing something is better than doing nothing at all.
The parable is embraced by two of the world’s most influential leaders: Wangari Maathai, the Nobel Peace Prize winner from Kenya who launched the Green Belt Movement, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who has spoken widely about his commitment to preserving the environment. This courageous little book features artwork by internationally renowned artist Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas. His distinct and lively Haida Manga style engages perfectly with this inspirational story that encourages every individual to act on behalf of the world’s limited and precious resources.
(Source: Greystone Books)
The Right To Be Cold: One Woman's Story Of Protecting Her Culture, The Arctic And The Whole Planet
The Arctic ice is receding each year, but just as irreplaceable is the culture and 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.
Raw and honest, at a time when movements like Idle No More call for a national inquiry into the missing and murdered Aboriginal women Bearskin Diary gives voice to a generation of First Nations women who have always been silenced. Carol Daniels adds an important perspective to the Canadian literary landscape.
Taken from the arms of her mother as soon as she was born, Sandy was only one of over twenty thousand Aboriginal children scooped up by the federal government between the 1960s and 1980s. Sandy was adopted by a Ukrainian family and grew up as the only First Nations child in a town of white people. Ostracized by everyone around her and tired of being different, at the early age of five she tried to scrub the brown off her skin. But she was never sent back into the foster system, and for that she considers herself lucky.
From this tragic period in her personal life and in Canadian history, Sandy does not emerge unscathed, but she emerges strong—finding her way by embracing the First Nations culture that the Sixties Scoop had tried to deny. Those very roots allow Sandy to overcome the discriminations that she suffers every day from her co-workers, from strangers and sometimes even from herself.
(Source: Harbour Publishing)
The Outside Circle
Illustrated by Kelly Mellings
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.
(Source: House of Anansi Press)
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Dear Canada: These Are My Words: The Residential School Diary of Violet Pesheens
Violet Pesheens has been taken to Residential School. She misses her Grandma; she has run-ins with Cree girls; at her "white" school, everyone just stares; and everything she brought has been taken from her, including her name—she is now just a number. But worst of all, she has a fear. A fear of forgetting the things she treasures most: her Anishnabe language; the names of those she knew before; and her traditional customs. A fear of forgetting who she was.
Her notebook is the one place she can record all of her worries, and heartbreaks, and memories. And maybe, just maybe there will be hope at the end of the tunnel.
Drawing from her own experiences at Residential School, Ruby Slipperjack creates a brave, yet heartbreaking heroine in Violet, and lets young readers glimpse into an all-too important chapter in our nation’s history.
(Source: Scholastic Canada)
Curse of the Shaman: A Marble Island Story
Illustrated by Vladyana Krykorka
Sometimes even shamans get cranky. That was baby Wolverine’s misfortune—to be cursed by an out-of-sorts shaman frustrated by his own baby daughter’s incessant crying. Not only has shaman Paaliaq forbidden the future marriage of Wolverine to Breath, Paaliaq’s beautiful but teary baby girl, he has cursed Wolverine, banishing him when he becomes a young man. And even when a contrite Paaliaq later revokes the curse, the shaman’s even crankier magic animal will not. Now Wolverine finds himself stranded on a barren island, locked in a life-or-death struggle to return to his home, his family and a very special young girl.
Michael Kusugak, consummate storyteller and bestselling author, conjures up an Inuit tale of adventure, perseverance and first-time love shot through with humanity and humour. This is a story perfect for its pre-teen and ’tween audience, where even the strong and the mighty have bad days, the bully gets his due and a dream can come true.
(Source: Harper Collinss)
Son of a Trickster
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.
Christy Jordan-Fenton & Margaret Pokiak-Fenton
Illustrated by Liz Amini-Holmes
Eight-year-old Margaret Pokiak has set her sights on learning to read, even though it means leaving her village in the high Arctic. Faced with unceasing pressure, her father finally agrees to let her make the five-day journey to attend school, but he warns Margaret of the terrors of residential schools.
At school Margaret soon encounters the Raven, a black-cloaked nun with a hooked nose and bony fingers that resemble claws. She immediately dislikes the strong-willed young Margaret. Intending to humiliate her, the heartless Raven gives gray stockings to all the girls — all except Margaret, who gets red ones. In an instant Margaret is the laughingstock of the entire school.
In the face of such cruelty, Margaret refuses to be intimidated and bravely gets rid of the stockings. Although a sympathetic nun stands up for Margaret, in the end it is this brave young girl who gives the Raven a lesson in the power of human dignity.
Complemented by archival photos from Margaret Pokiak-Fenton’s collection and striking artworks from Liz Amini-Holmes, this inspiring first-person account of a plucky girl’s determination to confront her tormentor will linger with young readers.
(Source: Annick Press)
Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing
Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing tells another story of the mythical Wasaychigan Hill Indian Reserve, also the setting for Tomson Highway's award winning play The Rez Sisters. Wherein The Rez Sisters the focus was on seven "Wasy" women and the game of bingo, Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing features seven "Wasy" men and the game of hockey. It is a fast-paced story of tragedy, comedy, and hope.
(Source: Fifth House Publishers)
A tour-de-force debut novel about a Two-Spirit Indigiqueer young man and proud NDN glitter princess who must reckon with his past when he returns home to his reserve.
"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 debut novel by poet Joshua Whitehead.
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 seven days that follow are like a fevered dream: stories of love, trauma, sex, kinship, ambition, and the heartbreaking recollection of his beloved kokum (grandmother). Jonny's life 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 First Nations life, full of grit, glitter, and dreams.
(Source: Arsenal Pulp Press)
Tenille K. Campbell
Covering Indigenous adventures from Wahpole Island to Northern Saskatchewan to the West Coast, #IndianLovePoems is a poetry collection that humorously delves into the truths of love and lust within Indigenous communities. The poetic speaker, a First Nations Donna Giovanni, relates stories of her search for The One, or even better, that One-Night-Stand, in heated lines that fearlessly shed light on the intimacy and honesty that may arise even from the most fleeting encounter, leading to reflection on the complexities of sex, race, culture, and intention within relationships. From discovering your own John Smith to sharing sushi in bed, #IndianLovePoems will bring a smile to your lips as you are reminded of your own stories about that special someone.
(source: Signature Editions)
Joy of Apex
Illustrated by Ann Kronheimer
Joy is ten years old, living in Apex, Nunavut, and loving life. But when Joy begins to notice her parents fighting a lot more than usual, her perfect life soon becomes a lot more complicated. As Joy navigates her parents’ separation and its effect on her family, she learns some valuable lessons about how to cope when life gets tough. Told in the wry, funny voice of a smart and savvy girl, this book will appeal to young readers everywhere.
(Source: Inhabit Media)
Saul Indian Horse has hit bottom. His last binge almost killed him, and now he’s a reluctant resident in a treatment centre for alcoholics, surrounded by people he’s sure will never understand him. But Saul wants peace, and he grudgingly comes to see that he’ll find it only through telling his story. With him, readers embark on a journey back through the life he’s led as a northern Ojibway, with all its joys and sorrows.
With compassion and insight, author Richard Wagamese traces through his fictional characters the decline of a culture and a cultural way. For Saul, taken forcibly from the land and his family when he’s sent to residential school, salvation comes for a while through his incredible gifts as a hockey player. But in the harsh realities of 1960s Canada, he battles obdurate racism and the spirit-destroying effects of cultural alienation and displacement.
Indian Horse unfolds against the bleak loveliness of northern Ontario, all rock, marsh, bog and cedar. Wagamese writes with a spare beauty, penetrating the heart of a remarkable Ojibway man.
(Source: Douglas & McIntyre)