Did you know that June is Indigenous History Month? That makes it the perfect time to learn more about Canada's history from an Indigenous perspective. Here are five Canadian history books by Indigenous authors, covering residential schools, Canada's First People, and everything in between.
21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act
by Bob Joseph
Based on a viral article, 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act is the essential guide to understanding the legal document and its repercussion on generations of Indigenous Peoples, written by a leading cultural sensitivity trainer.
Since its creation in 1876, the Indian Act has shaped, controlled, and constrained the lives and opportunities of Indigenous Peoples, and is at the root of many enduring stereotypes. Bob Joseph’s book comes at a key time in the reconciliation process, when awareness from both Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities is at a crescendo. Joseph explains how Indigenous Peoples can step out from under the Indian Act and return to self-government, self-determination, and self-reliance—and why doing so would result in a better country for every Canadian. He dissects the complex issues around truth and reconciliation, and clearly demonstrates why learning about the Indian Act’s cruel, enduring legacy is essential for the country to move toward true reconciliation.[i]
Bob Joseph is a member of the Gwawaenuk Nation, and is an initiated member of the Hamatsa Society. As the son of a hereditary chief, he will one day become a hereditary chief. He has provided training on Indigenous and Aboriginal relations since 1994, and helps individuals and organizations in building Indigenous or Aboriginal relations.
The Inconvenient Indian
by Thomas King
Rich with dark and light, pain and magic, The Inconvenient Indian distills the insights gleaned from Thomas King's critical and personal meditation on what it means to be "Indian" in North America, weaving the curiously circular tale of the relationship between non-Natives and Natives in the centuries since the two first encountered each other. In the process, King refashions old stories about historical events and figures, takes a sideways look at film and pop culture, relates his own complex experiences with activism, and articulates a deep and revolutionary understanding of the cumulative effects of ever-shifting laws and treaties on Native peoples and lands.
This is a book both timeless and timely, burnished with anger but tempered by wit, and ultimately a hard-won offering of hope--a sometimes inconvenient but nonetheless indispensable account for all of us, Indian and non-Indian alike, seeking to understand how we might tell a new story for the future.[ii]
Thomas King is one of Canada's best known Indigenous authors. Learn more about him in our Spotlight on Contemporary Indigenous Authors.
First Peoples in Canada
by Alan D. McMillan & Eldon Yellowhorn
Since Native Peoples and Cultures of Canada was first published in 1988, its two editions have sold some 30,000 copies, and it is widely used as the basic text in colleges and universities across the country.
Now retitled, this comprehensive book still provides an overview of all the Aboriginal groups in Canada. Incorporating the latest research in anthropology, archaeology, ethnography and history, this new edition describes traditional ways of life, traces cultural changes that resulted from contacts with the Europeans, and examines the controversial issues of land claims and self-government that now affect Aboriginal societies.
Most importantly, this generously illustrated edition incorporates a Nativist perspective in the analysis of Aboriginal cultures.[iii]
Alan D. McMillan teaches anthropology at Douglas College and archaeology at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia.
Eldon Yellowhorn is Piikani. He was born and raised on the Peigan Reserve (now known as the Piikani First Nation) in Alberta, and grew up speaking Blackfoot and English. He holds undergraduate degrees in geography and archaeology, an MA in archaeology from Simon Fraser University and a PhD in anthropology from McGill University. A faculty member at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, he teaches archaeology and First Nations studies.[iii]
by Bev Sellars
Price Paid untangles truth from some of the myths about First Nations and addresses misconceptions still widely believed today. The second book by award-winning author Bev Sellars, Price Paid is based on a popular presentation Sellars often told to treaty-makers, politicians, policymakers, and educators.
The book begins with glimpses of foods, medicines, and cultural practices North America’s indigenous peoples have contributed to the rest of the world. It documents the dark period of regulation by racist laws during the twentieth century, and then discusses new emergence in the twenty-first century into a re-establishment of Indigenous land and resource rights. The result is a candidly told personal take on the history of Aboriginal rights in Canada and Canadian history told from a First Nations point of view.[iv]
Bev Sellars is a former Chief and Councillor of the Xat’sull (Soda Creek) First Nation in Williams Lake, British Columbia. She also worked as a community advisor for the BC Treaty Commission. Sellars has a degree in history from the University of Victoria and a law degree from the University of British Columbia. She is currently Chair of First Nations Women Advocating Responsible Mining (FNWARM) and serves as a Senior Advisor to the Indigenous Leadership Initiative .[iv]
by Various Authors
A collection of original stories written by some of the country’s most celebrated Aboriginal writers, and inspired by pivotal events in the country’s history.
Inspired by history, Our Story is a beautifully illustrated collection of original stories from some of Canada’s most celebrated Aboriginal writers.
Asked to explore seminal moments in Canadian history from an Aboriginal perspective, these ten acclaimed authors have travelled through our country’s past to discover the moments that shaped our nation and its people.
Drawing on their skills as gifted storytellers and the unique perspectives their heritage affords, the contributors to this collection offer wonderfully imaginative accounts of what it’s like to participate in history. From a tale of Viking raiders to a story set during the Oka crisis, the authors tackle a wide range of issues and events, taking us into the unknown, while also bringing the familiar into sharper focus.
Our Story brings together an impressive array of voices — Inuk, Cherokee, Ojibway, Cree, and Salish to name just a few — from across the country and across the spectrum of First Nations. These are the novelists, playwrights, journalists, activists, and artists whose work is both Aboriginal and uniquely Canadian.
Brought together to explore and articulate their peoples’ experience of our country’s shared history, these authors’ grace, insight, and humour help all Canadians understand the forces and experiences that have made us who we are.[v]
Contributing Authors: Maria Campbell, Tantoo Cardinal, Tomson Highway, Drew Hayden Taylor, Basil Johnston, Thomas King, Brian Maracle, Lee Maracle, Jovette Marchessault, and Rachel Qitsualik.
We hope that these Canadian history books by Indigenous authors will give you a new perspective with which to view our shared past. To learn more about National Indigenous History Month, visit the Government of Canada's website.
[i] Strong Nations
[ii] Penguin Random House
[iii] Douglas & McIntyre
[iv] Strong Nations