Today is the second annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation here in Canada. It’s an important new holiday as our country begins the difficult process of grappling with our colonial and colonizing history and the impacts, both intentional and unintentional, of this history on the Indigenous peoples of this land.
Throughout this week, I’ve been providing lists of some of my favorite books by Indigenous authors. Today, I’d like to share a list of books specifically on the topic of Truth and Reconciliation in Canada (alphabetical by title).
21 Things You May Not Known about the Indian Act, Bob Joseph (2018)
Before we start thinking about reconciliation, we need to understand where we are now and how we got here. This book details the sordid history of the development and application of the Indian Act, the founding legislation that determines Canada’s relationship with Indigenous peoples. It then offers two short chapters looking forward to what might come next. (Joseph goes more into this in his excellent follow-up book, Indigenous Relations (see below)).
A reserve is a tract of land set aside under the Indian Act and treaty agreements for the exclusive use of an Indian band. At least that’s how a reserve is described on paper. In reality, reserves were created as a means of containing and controlling Indians while providing European settlers full access to the fish and game, water, timber, and mineral resources that had formerly sustained Indian life and culture.
In This Together: Fifteen Stories of Truth and Reconciliation, Danielle Metcalfe-Chenaile, ed. (2016)
This book ‘does what it says on the box’. It presents fifteen stories from both Indigenous and settler Canadians from coast to coast to coast about what ‘truth and reconciliation’ has come to mean for them and their communities. There are epiphany stories, stories about overcoming internalized anti-Indigenous racism, stories of Indigenous thriving, and stories of learning to overcome the paralyzing effects of ‘White shame’ and doing something to move the conversation forward. It’s a humble book and does not claim to be anything other than ‘fifteen stories’, but it’s certainly a good beginning. And if you are wondering where to start in your own life or community, hopefully at least one of these stories will resonate with you.
Canada is the site of over 300 years of relationships between colonizers and the colonized. When we throw in language, religion, class, greed and power — all the noble and base faces of humanity — what we think will be a melting pot of cultures and ethnicities turns out to be an emulsion, a fragile mixture easy to separate under pressure or heat. – Lorri Nielson Glenn, “Marking the Page”
Indigenomics, Hilton, Carol Anne (2021)
There are few books that have made me think more than this one. While certainly containing a lot of important historical context, its focus is on the present and the future: Specifically, how in a context where Canada has not only made promises in adopting of the report of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission (2015), but also where Indigenous groups are on an unparalleled winning streak in the courts, Indigenous communities and worldviews will be of critical importance for any future economic, geographical, and resource development in Canada. Of particular interest to me were the chapters on:
- Indigenous worldview
- Economics as Ceremony
- Principles of Indigenous Economy
- The ‘Dependency Illusion’
An Indigenous worldview focuses on the experience of holism — an embedded understanding of the concept of the connection of the ‘whole’ that has supported the continuity of Indigenous existence, culture, success, and survival across time. It is this continuity of thousands of years that reaffirms and upholds our modern existence, resilience, and relevance.
Indigenous Relations, Bob Joseph and Cynthia F. Joseph (2019)
This follow up to 21 Things You May Not Know about the Indian Act (see above), attempts to take the next step and offer “insights, tips, and suggestions” for making reconciliation a reality, particularly in the realm of businesses wanting to engage respectfully with Indigenous communities.
Incorporating reconciliation daily in your life and work is the best way to undo the legacy of the Indian Act. The term “reconciliation” carries a great deal of responsibility for a better future, but it also points to the need to recognize the shameful history of Canada’s past relationship with Indigenous Peoples as well as the ongoing outcomes of those policies.
One Story, One Song, Richard Wagamese (2011)
This book appeared on an earlier post on Indigenous memoir, but I couldn’t help but include it today too. This is a collection of short reflections from the late, great Ojibwe (Anishinaabe) writer Richard Wagemese. The stories are grouped according to four Ojibwe storytelling principles: balance, harmony, knowledge, and intuition, and cover such topics as the Sixties Scoop, learning to walk in the woods, substance abuse, and the ties that bind us together as Canadians.
The problems of the world are not political in nature — they are spiritual. The difficulty comes when we try to solve those problems with our minds alone. Our heads can’t lead us home, though; spiritual matters must be resolved with the heart. The head has no answers, and the heart has no questions.
Resurgence and Reconciliation, Michael Asch, John Borrows, and James Tully, eds. (2018)
This is an excellent set of academic essays on different perspectives circling around a cluster of related ideas, including:
- Treaties as a framework for Reconciliation
- Competing visions of resurgence and reconciliation, and possible alternative framings
- Ecological Reconciliation
- Barriers to Reconciliation
[A]s long as our unsustainable relationship to the living earth is not challenged, it will constantly undermine and subvert even the most well-meaning, free-standing efforts to reconcile the unstustainable relationship between indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples through modern treaties and consultations, as we have seen over the last thirty years.
Unsettling Truths, Mark Charles and Soong-Chan Rah (2019)
This is an excellent introduction to the Doctrine of Discovery, the Myth of Christendom, and Christian Election, and their disturbing consequences for the world. While the book is intended for, and assumes, a Christian audience, it would be well worth the read for anything trying to understand how we got to where we are today, particularly as secular versions of these ideas also took root in Western society.
For centuries we have kept hidden the stories of the oppressed people in our society. We have embraced the stories of success and exceptionalism rather than engaging the narrative of suffering and oppression. This obsession with the self-elevation of the American [sic, could more aptly read ‘Western’] church and American society reflects an absence of truth telling. The American church has yielded the prophetic voice because it has not spoken a historical and theological truth.
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