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Celebrate Indigenous Creativity with These Great Reads

This Indigenous History Month, Read Local BC is showcasing nine new books and an educational board game to touch your heart and engage your mind.

Read Local BC 4 Jun 2024The Tyee

June is National Indigenous History Month, and to celebrate and honour the strength, resilience and ongoing legacy of Indigenous people and communities across Turtle Island, Read Local BC is highlighting nine new books and one educational board game from B.C. publishers.

Celebrate the creativity and artistic talent of First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples with these diverse offerings that showcase Indigenous history, art and lived experience. Pick them up or pre-order them at your local independent bookstore today.

Mwâkwa Talks to the Loon: A Cree Story for Children
By Dale Auger
(Heritage House)

The award-winning story of a young Cree man blessed with the skills of a great hunter, who learns not to take his talents for granted. The original edition was named Aboriginal Children’s Book of the Year at the 2006 Anskohk Aboriginal Literature Festival and Book Awards and also received the 2007 R. Ross Annett Award for Children’s Literature. This new edition includes a Cree glossary and pronunciation guide.

An excerpt:

Kayâs could no longer speak with the four-legged kind, onêwokâtîwak; he didn’t know where to look for the winged ones, pêyisêsak; and he couldn’t find the Water Beings, onipîwâcihôwak, either.

Pretty soon Kayâs did not go out hunting at all. He just stayed inside his lodge, his omîkowâhpihk.

Kayâs did not want to come out and face the People, because he knew that he had lost his way, ê-kî-wanisihk, along with his Gift and his ability to provide food for the People.

Then one morning, Kayâs woke up and knew what he must do. Kayâs walked straight over to the Elders’ lodge, went in, and sat to the side in silence.

Kihtîyayak, the Elders, did not greet Kayâs when he came in, as they had been watching him from a distance for some time, and they knew what he had come for. They continued to say nothing and just let him sit there, quietly thinking about his situation.

Crow Helps a Friend
By Andrea Fritz
(Orca Book Publishers)

In this original story and picture book, a wood duck and a crow turn a mistake into an opportunity for friendship and growth.

Qwiwilh the wood duck is preparing to nest in his favourite tree when Q'uleeq'e' the crow invites him to play in the tall branches. They jump higher and higher up the tree until they accidentally break the branches and come crashing down into the stream below. After a daring rescue, Qwiwilh sadly realizes his nesting spot is gone, and Q'uleeq'e' decides to make things right for her new friend.

Set in Coast Salish traditional territory and featuring Coast salish art, author and artist Andrea Fritz uses Indigenous storytelling techniques and art to share the culture and language of the Hul’q’umi’num’-speaking Peoples.

The book is accompanied with a pronunciation guide.

A Day with Yayah
By Nicola Campbell
(Tradewind Books)

Set in the Nicola Valley, British Columbia, a First Nations family goes on an outing to gather edible plants and mushrooms. The grandmother, Yayah, passes down her knowledge of the natural world to her young grandchildren.

A Day with Yayah was a finalist for the BC Book Prize in 2018. It is listed as a resource in the BC First Peoples 12 Teacher Resource Guide, created by the First Nations Education Steering Committee.

Finding Otipemisiwak: The People Who Own Themselves
By Andrea Currie
(Arsenal Pulp Press)

Otipemisiwak is a Plains Cree word describing the Métis, meaning “the people who own themselves.”

Finding Otipemisiwak weaves lyrical prose, poetry and essays into an incisive commentary on the vulnerability of Indigenous children in a white supremacist child welfare system, the devastation of cultural loss, and the rocky road some people must walk to get to the truth of who they are.

An excerpt:

How can a person whose culture has been dominant for centuries without continuous attempts to attack it, eradicate it, denigrate it and assimilate it into another culture, without its being despised and reduced to a fraction of its former self, truly understand the deep value of culture?

Those of us who have had our cultures ripped from us, beaten out of us, who have heard hateful things said about our cultures throughout the centuries since contact with the Europeans, who have watched our languages dwindle to rare whispers, who have watched the lands and waters that are part of us be exploited and ruined, who have had to fight to save what’s left of our cultures and revitalize as much of what has been lost as we can... we know how important culture is.

If you want to understand the importance of culture, try to imagine living without yours, if you can.

What would you have lost?

Who would you be?

One Second at a Time: My Story of Pain and Reclamation
By Diane Morrisseau, with Elisabeth Brannigan
(Purich Books, an imprint of UBC Press)

The story of an Ojibway-Anishinabe woman who, against incredible odds, rescued herself and her children from a life of almost unimaginable hardship.

Diane Morrisseau recounts her history with one aim: to help other victims of violence know they are not alone, and that escape is possible. The author’s entire career, and this book, testify to her desire to extend to others the hope that eluded her in the depths of her desperate circumstances.

An excerpt:

A lot of my memories come to me when I’m on the road, driving and listening to music. I can’t stop all the time and start writing, so by the time I get where I’m going, I often forget. The memory is just gone. I don’t worry about it though. If it’s meant to be, it’ll come back again. Driving on Highway 59 or Highway 11 can trigger painful memories for me.

After I left Edgar, and when he was in jail, I was living in Winnipeg. I used to go down to my reserve pretty often, but it took me about two years before I could travel there without breaking down. I was still filled with fear. I used to dread going to Sagkeeng because of what he would do to me along that road.

Then one day, there was a moment that changed how I saw things forever. I don’t know exactly where I was, but I was driving down Highway 59, and suddenly I noticed the water and trees around me. I thought, “Man, this is beautiful.”

Lha yudit'ih We Always Find a Way
By Lorraine Weir with Chief Roger William
(Talonbooks)

Eight years in the making, Lha yudit’ih We Always Find a Way is a community oral history of Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia, the first case in Canada to result in a declaration of Aboriginal Rights and Title to a specific piece of land.

Told from the perspective of the plaintiff, Chief Roger William, joined by 50 Xeni Gwet’ins, Tŝilhqot’ins and allies, this book encompasses ancient stories of creation, modern stories of genocide through smallpox and residential school, and stories of resistance including the Tŝilhqot’in War, direct actions against logging and mining, and the 25-year battle in Canadian courts to win recognition of what Tŝilhqot’ins never gave up and have always known.

An excerpt:

There was an expectation that we’d win at trial, and we kinda won, but we kinda didn’t either.… after David Vickers’ decision came down, we were all numb.… We proved Title, but we weren’t getting declaration of Title. What does that mean? We’ve got Rights — the Declaration of Rights — but what about Title?…

Our goal was that no one could come in without our involvement. No one could put a logging road in the court case area, and I think, deep down, people felt we’d won because of that. That’s a big victory. But the expectation that we’d prove Aboriginal Rights and Title clouded the victory. You can’t prove Aboriginal Rights and Title. That’s who we are. That’s our Rights, our Title.

All the Quiet Places
By Brian Thomas Isaac
(Brindle & Glass, an imprint of TouchWood Editions)

Brian Isaac’s powerful debut novel All the Quiet Places is the coming-of-age story of Eddie Toma, an Syilx boy, told through the young narrator’s wide-eyed observations of the world around him.

This is the story of what can happen when every adult in a young person’s life has been affected by colonialism; it tells of the acute separation from culture that can occur even at home in a loved familiar landscape. Its narrative power relies on the unguarded, unsentimental witness provided by Eddie.

The novel was a finalist for the 2022 Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction, and longlisted for the 2022 Scotiabank Giller Prize. It won the 2022 Indigenous Voices Awards’ Published Prose in English Prize.

An excerpt:

They walked in to see a man sitting at the kitchen table. He had long sideburns and greased hair that drooped down over his forehead in an Elvis-style waterfall Eddie had seen in a magazine. The man stood and jammed his hands into his pockets. His white shirt with upturned collar was unbuttoned down below his chest and tucked into blue jeans, and each of his brown shoes had a coin tucked into a strip of leather across the instep.

Grace came out of her bedroom. “It’s about time, you guys. I told you before to get right back here as soon as you get off that bus.”

She rubbed the back of her left hand with her fingers and nodded to the man beside her. “Anyway, this is your dad. This is Jimmy.”

My Indian Summer
By Joseph Kakwinokanasum
(Tidewater Press)

My Indian Summer is the story of a journey to understanding that some villains are also victims, and that while reconciliation may not be possible, survival is.

The summer of 1979 had been good for Hunter Frank, but the cash in the purple Crown Royal bag hidden in his mattress still isn’t enough to fund his escape from his monstrous mother and the town of Red Rock. With an absentee mother and two siblings who have already moved on, Hunter is on his own, with occasional care coming from a trio of Elders — his kohkums — and companionship from his two best friends. As the Labour Day weekend arrives, so does a new friend with old wisdom and a business opportunity that might be just what a boy at the crossroads needs.

My Indian Summer won the PMC Indigenous Literature Award in 2023.

Bent Back Tongue
By Garry Gottfriedson
(Caitlin Press)

In his latest collection, Secwépemc rancher and renowned poet Garry Gottfriedson explores the fraught mechanics of contemporary masculinity, politics and love.

Bent Back Tongue is a raw examination of love, identity, politics, masculinity and vulnerability. Through sharp honesty and revealing satire, Gottfriedson delves into Canadian colonialism and the religious political paradigms shaping experiences of a Secwépemc First Nations man.

This is a book that tears through deceptions that both Canada and the church impose on their citizens. Gottfriedson tackles the darkest layers of a shared colonial history; at the same time, the poems in Bent Back Tongue are a celebration of love, land, family and the self.

An excerpt:

written on rock
taught through oral pastime
our language is old
it was born
from the land, this land — Secwepemcúlecw
the reverberations
rumbling from sky to mountaintops
into our throats formed words
creating Secwepemctsín
streaming from the sky
touching earth
reaching our souls
melting glacier tears
weeping
forming rivers
and our hearts released
sounds of land and language

The Truth in Truth and Reconciliation Educational Board Game
By James Darin Corbiere
(Medicine Wheel Publishing)

The Truth in Truth and Reconciliation Educational Board Game is an essential educational resource that gives participants an immersive learning experience of the process of colonization in a board game format. Through Truth and Consequence Cards, participants can explore iconic Canadian historical events in this immersive, thought-provoking and interactive way.

Created to answer the TRC Report “Calls to Action,” this powerful resource will become an essential tool for every educator, ally or anyone who seeks the truth, and a great way to start conversations about the work of reconciliation.

About Read Local BC

Read Local BC is a project of the Association of Book Publishers of BC that celebrates the vibrant community of authors, publishers, bookstores and libraries that make up our province’s literary landscape.

Read Local BC acknowledges the support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund, the Canada Council for the Arts, Creative BC and the City of Vancouver.  [Tyee]

Read more: Indigenous, Books

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