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BOOK REVIEW: Indigenous Writes by Chelsea Vowel
Catherine Nasmith | October 26, 2017

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From Issue No. 261 | October 26, 2017

Chelsea Vowel is Metis, a lawyer who writes with an amusingly clear and sharp tongue. Part of my summer reading was her recent book, Indigenous Writes: A Guide to First Nations, Metis and Inuit Issues in Canada, which I highly recommend for anyone trying to gain an understanding of what it is to be indigenous in North America. On the cover is a quote from author Tracey Lindberg, “A rare, rare achievement…. A must read for engaging with the Idea of reconciliation.”

There are five sections in the book, The Terminology of Relationships, Culture and Identity, Myth Busting, State Violence and Land, Learning, Law and Treaties. Within each section there are several short chapters summarizing different issues with a very useful set of notes and references at the end of each for those wanting to explore certain topics in greater depth. It answers so many of the questions many settler Canadians have but don’t know how to ask. For example, the first chapter lists several terms in use; Indian, NDN, Aboriginal, Indigenous, Native, First Nations, Inuit, Mets, Native America, names of particular nations, name of that nation in that nation’s original language and goes on to explain the context for each term, what they mean and when to use them. She also includes a set of pejoratives that should never be used. The book is a fast read. The breadth of the material covered is very wide. The distillation and straightforward language is a real help. It is a great place to start to find the Truth.

I am a settler Canadian. (that's another term from the book) For the past five years I have been reading to try to understand indigenous history and how to respond to indigenous issues and concerns. Or how to even talk to indigenous peoples. I am embarrassed at my own ignorance. Having read this book, I feel better equipped to engage in a conversation and to find the information needed to bridge the colonial and deliberate information gulf that exists between settler and indigenous Canada. Put it on your must-read list.

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