Are you still looking for a book that will clarify Indigenous peoples, places, and issues? A great narrative style read that will shine a light on all of the grey and shaded areas of nuance and subterfuge within the framework of the relationship between Canada’s First Nations and our government? If this is you, then “Indigenous Writes” is the book you have been waiting for. This is an extremely well organized and highly ‘readable’ book that one-by-one addresses and dispenses the many myths, misconceptions and stereotypes that still plague Indigenous peoples and prevent the relationship we all need to move forward.
Chelsea Vowel opens a dialogue with her reader in an honest and authentic manner that is firmly based in research and well documented resources but manages to remain accessible and conversational. In the 31 chapters she assumes no prior knowledge, clarifies her position and evidence, while methodically addressing, raising and re-addressing all of the underlying concerns and questions that continually persist in our shared space. Topics addressed include: what “status” is and who gets it; what defines whether someone belongs to an Indigenous people, as well as what makes someone Métis; the fact that we tend to be uncomfortable, as a society, with Indigenous practices spilling over into what we perceive as “non-Indigenous” spaces, and how that becomes a transgression; as well as myths about taxes, progress, alcoholism, authenticity, etc. I cannot imagine a better resource for your classroom, or personal development.
It is difficult to avoid generalizations when discussing such broad issues, but Vowel lays the path with grace. She discusses issues that tend to be common across the land, such as land claims, access to drinking water, stereotypes and myths and racism; she also discusses issues specific to the Inuit, Métis, and even particular nations. All of this through a lens of humour and even a hair of sarcasm. Indigenous Writes, is basically the best text book you have ever had, written as an engaging, and often endearing, narrative.
That said, as with all honest portrayals of history and relationships, this can also be a difficult read. There is so much to consider within the ongoing relationship, that for someone who is unfamiliar with the details, it may become overwhelming at times. Vowel recognizes the need for hope and responds by showing her reader where the path to moving forward has been laid out for us by researchers and big thinkers already engaged in the process. There are indeed difficult issues here, but we have the blueprint for beginning to solve them.
As educators we must come to the table with the understanding that while we cannot undo centuries of colonization, discrimination, and assimilation, it is our responsibility to begin with ourselves. We must learn, unlearn and relearn our spaces until we can honour the lived experiences of all our students. Thanks to Chelsea Vowel, you now have some of the tools to do that.