June is Indigenous History Month, and a great first step to reconciliation is reading resources and books to get informed.
Lucky for us, the Vancouver Public Library (VPL) has curated an essential reading list for 2021 to learn more about Indigenous history.
- See also:
The 11 books included in the list feature stories that delve into the history of Indigenous people in Canada and amplify Indigenous voices.
Here are 11 essential reads to learn more about Indigenous history:
Highway of Tears
About: A True Story of Racism, Indifference and the Pursuit of Justice for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
Author: Jessica McDiarmid
Stories From the Magic Canoe of Wa’xaid
About: Cultural teachings from Xenaksiala elder Wax’aid-Cecil Paul – a memoir and a history of the Haisla and of the Kitlope – the largest temperate rainforest watershed in the world.
Author: Cecil Paul
21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act
About: Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw writer and cultural sensitivity trainer – Robert Joseph – provides an indispensable guide to understanding the Indian Act and the repercussions that this legal document has had for generations of Indigenous people in Canada.
Author: Robert P.C. Joseph
A National Crime
About: A comprehensive text on the Canadian residential school system that incorporates archival materials to highlight the government’s agenda, and its oppression, abuse and death of Indigenous peoples.
Author: John S. Milloy
Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada
About: The first volume of a seven-volume series, this report summarizes the results of a six-year investigation into Canada’s Residential School System for Aboriginal children. It demonstrates the colonial intentions of the system to destroy indigenous culture in Canada, and reports on testimony from survivors of the egregious human rights violations suffered as a result. It concludes with 94 recommendations to address the continuing legacy of residential schools.
Author: Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada
Up Ghost River
About: Recounting the experiences of Edmund Metatawabin, former Chief of Fort Albany First Nation, this compelling memoir delves into the author’s experiences of residential schools, alcoholism and trauma. The book then transitions into a story of activism and recovering from the wounds of the past.
Author: Edmund Metatawabin
They Called Me Number One
About: Chief Bev Sellars’ frank and poignant memoir recounts her years at St. Joseph’s Mission, a church-run residential school in Williams Lake, BC. Chief Sellers tells the tale of three generations of women who attended the school, interweaving the personal histories of her grandmother and her mother with her own.
Author: Bev Sellars
The Education of Augie Merasty
About: As a child, Joseph “Augie” Merasty experienced firsthand the government’s policy of “aggressive assimilation” dished out at the church-run St Terese Residential School in Sturgeon Landing. Now in his late 80s, Merasty has published a memoir of his experiences with the assistance of author David Carpenter.
Author: Joseph Auguste Merasty
Behind Closed Doors
About: Thirty-two people share their experiences at the Kamloops Indian Residential School which operated from 1893-1979.
Author: Various Indigenous voices
About: Theodore Fontaine lost his family and freedom just after his seventh birthday when his parents were forced to leave him at an Indian residential school by order of the Roman Catholic Church and the Government of Canada. He shares his journey of self-exploration and healing as he grew up, all while trying to deal with the losses and abuse endured.
Author: Theodore Fontaine
Resistance and Renewal
About: 13 elders who attended the Indian Residential School in Kamloops between 1907-1967, are interviewed about daily life at the school.
Author: Celia Haig-Brown
In addition to these great reading recommendations, the VPL has put together a list of resources that can be useful to learn more about Indigenous history.
- The History of Residential Schools Report
- ‘Canada’s Residential Schools: Missing Children and Unmarked Burials’ – Vol 4 of The Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada
- Why Canada and Genocide Belong in the Same Sentence: Was there a premeditated plan to cause Indigenous people such suffering?
Audio and podcast:
- Thompson Rivers University’s guide to the pronunciation of the Nations most involved, the Secwépemc and Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc
- Kung Jaadee, VPL’s most recent Indigenous Storyteller in Residence, provided 13 Indigenous Podcasts to Listen to
Free online programs and activities:
- June 9, Laughter as Medicine: The History of Indigenous Comedy
- June 22, (Re)Reads: Legends of Vancouver by E. Pauline Johnston
- July 10, CBC’s Booked at VPL: Michelle Good
- Try an activity from the 150 Acts of Reconciliation list
- Take the University of Alberta’s free MOOC (Massive Online Course) called Indigenous Canada
24- hour National Indian Residential School Crisis Line: 1-866 925-4419