Recommend a book about reconciliation in Canada
June 14, 2022 3:27 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to read something about reconciliation. I am pretty ignorant of aboriginal issues beyond the most basic settlers-stole-their-land, broke treaties and kidnapped kids. Like I don't really understand how treaties WORK. In fact I don't even know if that's the right question to ask. So what should I read?

I did watch the first season of First Contact, but I feel like that targetted people who were hostile towards aboriginal people and aboriginal issues. I am not hostile, just ignorant.

So one interesting thing mentioned on First Contact was that (some?) treaties that ceded land ceded the land only as deep as a plough ploughs. So if there were resources to be mined or extracted below that, those rightfully belong to the nations that lived there before the settlers arrived, so some money that the federal government pays to some nations is basically payment for resources extracted from underground.

I'd like to learn more about stuff like that, but also probably lots of other stuff that I don't think to ask about because I don't even know enough to know I don't know it.... or maybe something about how self-government works? about nation-to-nation relations? But all that sounds very bureaucratic. I also want to know more about the human side and the aboriginal experience. And other stuff I don't know to ask about.
posted by If only I had a penguin... to Society & Culture (7 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Not a book, but an online course which I took earlier this year and learned a huge amount from. It’s call Indigenous Canada and put together by the University of Alberta. You can take it for free on Coursera by auditing it. Details here.

A friend recommended the book Unsettling Canada which is on my to-read list, though I think the focus is on Indigenous struggles for far more than just reconciliation.
posted by valleys at 4:04 PM on June 14, 2022 [6 favorites]

A few good starting points:

21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act: Helping Canadians Make Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples a Reality by Bob Joseph

The Inconvenient Indian by Tom King

Indigenous Writes: A Guide to First Nations, Métis & Inuit Issues in Canada by Chelsea Vowel

I know you asked for books, but Alanis Obomsawin's (very!) extensive body of documentary work (some are short, and some are longer-form) is worth checking out, too. Those are almost all available to stream for free via the NFB.

Relevant to your question, Is the Crown at War With Us? and her earlier Incident at Restigouche deal with fishing rights. Trick or Treaty? deals specifically with Treaty No. 9.:

Covering a vast swath of northern Ontario, Treaty No. 9 reflects the often contradictory interpretations of treaties between First Nations and the Crown. To the Canadian government, this treaty represents a surrendering of Indigenous sovereignty, while the descendants of the Cree signatories contend its original purpose to share the land and its resources has been misunderstood and not upheld. Enlightening as it is entertaining, Trick or Treaty? succinctly and powerfully portrays one community’s attempts to enforce their treaty rights and protect their lands, while also revealing the complexities of contemporary treaty agreements
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 4:15 PM on June 14, 2022 [7 favorites]

Strongly second the Indigenous Canada course and 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act book. Bob Joseph's company - Indigenous Corporate Training Inc - also has a really informative blog and mailing list: for example, a great article on Hereditary Chiefs vs. Elected Chiefs: What’s the difference (and why it’s important).

First Nations 101 by Lynda Gray is another good starting point.

For more on the experiential side with good intersectionality, I found Alicia Elliott's collection of personal essays "A Mind Spread Out on the Ground" so, so good.

If you're interested in fiction, also let me know.
posted by Paper rabies at 4:43 PM on June 14, 2022 [3 favorites]

I loved The Reason You Walk, by Wab Kinew.
(Link is to purchase at GoodMinds, an Indigenous-owned bookstore)
posted by nouvelle-personne at 7:51 PM on June 14, 2022 [1 favorite]

Take the Indigenous Canada course and pay for the certificate so that you have to pay attention and answer the questions. I would also strongly encourage taking an Indigenous cultural safety course offered by an Indigenous-led service provider. I also agree with the ideas above.

And this might be a bit odd, but I suggest reading some children's lit. GenZ and those younger will be coming into the adult world with those cultural touchstones and it can help bring some meaning. Those stories also tend to put very complex subjects into simpler formats and it can be a way to continue to build knowledge. I also happen to believe stories are important to TRC.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 12:44 PM on June 15, 2022

Came to recommend what has already been recommended - that Indigenous Canada course is fantastic. Chelsea Vowel's book is very approachable and Alicia Elliott's A Mind Spread out on the Ground is funny and sobering. I also recommend reading the Executive Summary of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and looking at this CBC Interactive about the progress in implementing the report's recommendations to see how slow-going this process has been.

If you are okay with spending a little money and really participating in coursework, the course Aboriginal Law offered by Queens lays out all of the legal basis - treaties, the various supreme court cases, etc - in a very comprehensive way. You even do a mock negotiation as kind of the final exam for the course that helps you apply what you have learned. Nothing has opened my eyes to how Canada (the state) is not meeting its legal obligations to Indigenous peoples in Canada like that course did.

There is so, so, so much to read on this subject and it is very complex (often deliberately so, as an excuse to avoid making changes) and often overwhelming but just start where you can.
posted by urbanlenny at 1:06 PM on June 15, 2022 [2 favorites]

Just wanted to add that the Yellowhead Institute publishes a Calls to Action Accountability Status Update on Reconciliation each year. It tracks progress (or, in a lot of cases, the lack thereof) on the 94 calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

They have also published the Land Back Red Paper and will be offering an online course on it later this year.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 9:57 PM on June 15, 2022

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