The month of June is National Indigenous History Month. Recent political and global events have highlighted the systemic racism embedded within our culture. Those events have prompted me to dive deeper into the uncomfortable and necessary process of examining my privilege. I have made a commitment to be part of the cultural transformation that is occurring world-wide. I support a positive shift towards greater social equality, to valuing people over corporations, to equitable distribution of resources, education and opportunities to those who have historically been marginalized. I’m exploring what it means to be an co-conspirator. I’m no longer satisfied to stand by in silence.
I believe that my work as a writer and facilitator comes with a responsibility to elevate the voices of people who have historically been silenced. As a woman I have often been silenced. However, I am white, middle class and educated. I have power and privilege that Indigenous women and women of colour do not. I’m exploring ways that my behavior and perceptions have perpetuated a system that oppresses others.
I am doing my inner racist examination within a small group of other privileged white women like myself; while this process is uncomfortable, it’s necessary. Each of us has decided to take at least one action before the end of this month. I’ve chosen to educate myself about the history of Indigenous people in Canada, by reading books written by Indigenous authors.
Two books that I highly recommend, that explain the roots of systemic racism in Canada are:
- Inconvenient Indian, by Thomas King. Painful, funny, well-researched and unflinching. Years in the writing, this is a must-read in my opinion.
- Price Paid, by Bev Sellars, her second book of a planned trilogy in which she uses the powerful metaphor of home ownership to describe the experience of First Nations people in Canada. Bev Sellars’ award winning book They Called Me Number One is an unflinching and compassionate recounting of her family’s inter-generational experience attending residential schools.
There are many other powerful memoirs that also shed light on the lived experience of Canadian Indigenous people. Some that stand out for me include:
- From the Ashes by Jessie Thistle
- Split Tooth by Tania Tagaq
- Halfbreed by Maria Campbell
- Books by Richard Wagamese – Keeper’n Me; For Joshua; Medicine Walk to name a few
There are so many books by Canadian Indigenous authors to choose from, in every genre: fiction, non-fiction, graphic novels and poetry. I invite each of you to read at least one book by a Canadian Indigenous author within the next month. If you’re willing, I also suggest that you connect with at least one other person to discuss your experience of reading the book you chose; speak about what surprised you, what you learned, and how your perspective may have shifted as a result of reading the book.
If there are any books that you’ve read that you would like to share here, please post in the comments.