Recommended readings for the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation 2023

To mark this year’s National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, the AGYU has compiled a list of books and readings that bring critical awareness of Canada’s colonial history, celebrate Indigenous ways of being, and inspire action. This list brings together recommendations from AGYU Staff and titles submitted by our followers through a Q&A post on the AGYU’s Instagram and Facebook accounts. This list is by no means comprehensive and we’d love to continue building it. If you’d like to submit a book/article recommendation, please feel free to contact the AGYU.

The AGYU would like to recognize the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s 94 Calls to Action — a critical list of actions that seek to “redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of Canadian reconciliation.” (Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, 2015).

 

 

~ Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action (TRC commission of Canada, 2015)

“In order to redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of Canadian reconciliation, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission makes 94 calls to action.”

https://nctr.ca/records/reports/ (available for download)

 

~ Elements of Indigenous Style: A Guide for Writing By and About Indigenous Peoples (Brush Education, 2018)

Dr. Gregory Younging

Elements of Indigenous Style offers Indigenous writers and editors—and everyone creating works about Indigenous Peoples—the first published guide to common questions and issues of style and process. Everyone working in words or other media needs to read this important new reference, and to keep it nearby while they’re working.”

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34483699-elements-of-indigenous-style

 

~ A Culture of Exploitation: “Reconciliation” and the Institutions of Canadian Art (Yellowhead Institute, 2020)

Jas Morgan (prev. Lindsay Nixon)

“This Special Report by Jas Morgan (prev. Lindsay Nixon), considers themes in the historic relationship between Indigenous people in the Institutions of Canadian art and culture to contextual a series of interviews conducted with cultural workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, and which reveal a renewed exploitation of their labour and their works. Finally, the Report offers 15 Standards of Achievement that can serve as a guide for institutions and governments to begin reversing this exploitation and renewing the relationship.

https://yellowheadinstitute.org/a-culture-of-exploitation-reconciliation-and-the-institutions-of-canadian-art/ (available for download)

 

~ Calls to Action Accountability: A 2022 Status Update on Reconciliation (Yellowhead Institute, 2022)

Eva Jewell and Ian Mosby

“At the end of  a year that saw a flurry of reconciliatory gestures: a papal apology, the second-ever National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, and legislative activity toward a new National Council for Reconciliation, we find that reconciliation in this country is still only just beginning.”

https://yellowheadinstitute.org/trc/ (available for download)

 

~ Bobbi Lee: Indian Rebel (Women’s Press, 1990)

Lee Maracle

“Lee Maracle’s Bobbi Lee Indian Rebel tells the narrative of an Indigenous woman raised in North America who finds her strength despite the forces that challenge and oppress her. Grippingly honest, Lee’s autobiographical exploration of post-colonial tensions in Toronto circa 1960-1980 sheds light on the existing racist and sexist sentiments affecting Indigenous women. Reflective of the struggles Indigenous communities face today, this book continues to hold a place within contemporary Indigenous and women’s studies classrooms.”

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/505645.Bobbi_Lee 

 

~ Towards Braiding  (Musagetes, 2013)

Elwood Jimmy and Vanessa Andreotti with Sharon Stein

“This collaboration involves several modes of relational engagement with Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists, scholars, and communities, including visits, gatherings and consultations…”

https://decolonialfutures.net/towardsbraiding/ (available for download) 

 

~ Noopiming: The Cure for White Ladies (House of Anansi Press, 2020)

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson 

“Award-winning Nishnaabeg storyteller and writer Leanne Betasamosake Simpson returns with a bold reimagination of the novel, one that combines narrative and poetic fragments through a careful and fierce reclamation of Anishinaabe aesthetics.”

https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/51236405

 

~ A Treaty Guide For Torontonians (Art Metropole, 2022)

Talking Treaties Collective

A Treaty Guide for Torontonians is an artful examination of the complex intercultural roots of treaty relationships in the place we now call Toronto. From the Two Row Wampum and Dish with One Spoon to the Treaty of Niagara and the Toronto Purchase, we trace the history of treaty making between Indigenous nations, and between Indigenous nations and the Crown. Part of Jumblies Theatre + Arts’ multiyear Talking Treaties project, A Treaty Guide inspires an active approach to treaty awareness through embodied learning tools. Land-based activities, theatrical exercises, and drawing and writing prompts help readers find their own relationship to this history, and to take up their treaty responsibilities in the present.”

https://talkingtreaties.ca/ (available for download) 

 

~ Postcolonial Love Poem (Graywolf Press, 2020)

Natalie Diaz

Postcolonial Love Poem is an anthem of desire against erasure. Natalie Diaz’s brilliant second collection demands that every body carried in its pages—bodies of language, land, rivers, suffering brothers, enemies, and lovers—be touched and held as beloveds. Through these poems, the wounds inflicted by America onto an indigenous people are allowed to bloom pleasure and tenderness: “Let me call my anxiety, desire, then. / Let me call it, a garden.” In this new lyrical landscape, the bodies of indigenous, Latinx, black, and brown women are simultaneously the body politic and the body ecstatic. In claiming this autonomy of desire, language is pushed to its dark edges, the astonishing dunefields and forests where pleasure and love are both grief and joy, violence and sensuality.”

https://www.goodreads.com/es/book/show/44094069 

 

~ Arts of Engagement: Taking Aesthetic Action In and Beyond the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (Wilfred Laurier University Press, 2016)

Dylan Robinson and Keavy Martin, editors

Arts of Engagement focuses on the role that music, film, visual art, and Indigenous cultural practices play in and beyond Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Indian Residential Schools. Contributors here examine the impact of aesthetic and sensory experience in residential school history, at TRC national and community events, and in artwork and exhibitions not affiliated with the TRC. Using the framework of “aesthetic action,” the essays expand the frame of aesthetics to include visual, aural, and kinetic sensory experience, and question the ways in which key components of reconciliation such as apology and witnessing have social and political effects for residential school survivors, intergenerational survivors, and settler publics.”

https://www.wlupress.wlu.ca/Books/A/Arts-of-Engagement 

 

~ Split Tooth (Viking Press, 2018)

Tanya Tagaq 

“From the internationally acclaimed Inuit throat singer who has dazzled and enthralled the world with music it had never heard before, a fierce, tender, heartbreaking story unlike anything you’ve ever read.”

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40044460-split-tooth 

 

~ Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses (Oregon State University Press, 2003)

Robin Wall Kimmerer

“Living at the limits of our ordinary perception, mosses are a common but largely unnoticed element of the natural world. Gathering Moss is a beautifully written mix of science and personal reflection that invites readers to explore and learn from the elegantly simple lives of mosses. Robin Wall Kimmerer’s book is not an identification guide, nor is it a scientific treatise. Rather, it is a series of linked personal essays that will lead general readers and scientists alike to an understanding of how mosses live and how their lives are intertwined with the lives of countless other beings, from salmon and hummingbirds to redwoods and rednecks. Kimmerer clearly and artfully explains the biology of mosses, while at the same time reflecting on what these fascinating organisms have to teach us.”

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/87040.Gathering_Moss 

 

~ Braiding Sweetgrass (Milkweed Editions, 2013)

Robin Wall Kimmerer

”As a botanist, Robin Wall Kimmerer has been trained to ask questions of nature with the tools of science. As a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, she embraces the notion that plants and animals are our oldest teachers. In Braiding Sweetgrass, Kimmerer brings these lenses of knowledge together to show that the awakening of a wider ecological consciousness requires the acknowledgment and celebration of our reciprocal relationship with the rest of the living world. For only when we can hear the languages of other beings are we capable of understanding the generosity of the earth, and learning to give our own gifts in return.”

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/87040.Gathering_Moss 

 

~ Islands of Decolonial Love: Stories & Songs (Arbeiter Ring Publishing, 2013)

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson 

“In her debut collection of short stories, Islands of Decolonial Love, renowned writer and activist Leanne Simpson vividly explores the lives of contemporary Indigenous Peoples and communities, especially those of her own Nishnaabeg nation.”

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18267582-islands-of-decolonial-love 

 

~ This Wound Is a World (Frontenac House Poetry, 2017)

Billy-Ray Belcourt

“Part manifesto, part memoir, This Wound is a World is an invitation to ‘cut a hole in the sky to world inside.’ Billy-Ray Belcourt issues a call to turn to love and sex to understand how Indigenous peoples shoulder sadness and pain like theirs without giving up on the future. His poems upset genre and play with form, scavenging for a decolonial kind of heaven where ‘everyone is at least a little gay.’”

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36255892-this-wound-is-a-world 

 

~ Indigenous Toronto: Stories That Carry This Place (Coach House Books, 2021)

Denise Bolduc, Mnawaate Gordon-Corbiere, Brian Wright-McLeod, Rebeka Tabobondung, and John Lorinc, editors

“With contributions by Indigenous Elders, scholars, journalists, artists, and historians, this unique anthology explores the poles of cultural continuity and settler colonialism that have come to define Toronto as a significant cultural hub and intersection that was also known as a Meeting Place long before European settlers arrived.”

https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/52022921 

 

~ A Mind Spread Out on the Ground (Doubleday Canada, 2019)

Alicia Elliott

“In an urgent and visceral work that asks essential questions about the treatment of Native people in North America while drawing on intimate details of her own life and experience with intergenerational trauma, Alicia Elliott offers indispensable insight into the ongoing legacy of colonialism. She engages with such wide-ranging topics as race, parenthood, love, mental illness, poverty, sexual assault, gentrifcation, writing and representation, and in the process makes connections both large and small between the past and present, the personal and political–from overcoming a years-long battle with head lice to the way Native writers are treated within the Canadian literary industry; her unplanned teenage pregnancy to the history of dark matter and how it relates to racism in the court system; her childhood diet of Kraft Dinner to how systemic oppression is directly linked to health problems in Native communities.”

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40749239-a-mind-spread-out-on-the-ground 

 

~ Research is Ceremony (Fernwood Publishing, 2008)

Shawn Wilson

“Indigenous researchers are knowledge seekers who work to progress Indigenous ways of being, knowing and doing in a modern and constantly evolving context. This book describes a research paradigm shared by Indigenous scholars in Canada and Australia, and demonstrates how this paradigm can be put into practice. Relationships don’t just shape Indigenous reality, they are our reality. Indigenous researchers develop relationships with ideas in order to achieve enlightenment in the ceremony that is Indigenous research. Indigenous research is the ceremony of maintaining accountability to these relationships. For researchers to be accountable to all our relations, we must make careful choices in our selection of topics, methods of data collection, forms of analysis and finally in the way we present information.”

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/61618620-research-is-ceremony 

 

~ 7: Professional Native Indian Artist Inc. (MacKenzie Art Gallery, 2014)

Shawn Wilson

“One of Canada’s most important artist alliances, the Professional Native Indian Artists Inc. (PNIAI) made history by demanding recognition for its members as professional, contemporary artists at a time when they were routinely excluded from the mainstream art world. In the words of Alex Janvier, they set out to “change the world, the art world, for Natives of Canada.” This “Group of Seven,” included: Jackson Beardy, Eddy Cobiness, Alex Janvier, Norval Morrisseau, Daphne Odjig, Carl Ray, and Joseph Sanchez.”

https://mackenzie.art/product/7-professional-native-indian-artists-inc/

 

~ Arctic/Amazon: Networks of Global Indigeneity (Goose Lane Editions, 2023)

Gerald McMaster & Nina Vincent

Arctic/Amazon: Networks of Global Indigeneity offers a conversation between Indigenous Peoples of two regions in this time of political and environmental upheaval. Both regions are environmentally sensitive areas that have become hot spots in the debates circling around climate change and have long been contact zones between Indigenous Peoples and outsiders — zones of meeting and clashing, of contradictions and entanglement.”

https://gooselane.com/products/arctic-amazon

 

~ For Zitkála-Šá (Art Metropole and New Documents, 2022)

Raven Chacon

“Paying tribute to Yankton Dakota writer, musician, and activist Zitkála-Šá (b.1876), this publication is structured through a series of scores for thirteen contemporary female Indigenous performing artists: Laura Ortman, Cheryl L’Hirondelle, Suzanne Kite, Barbara Croall, Jacqueline Wilson, Autumn Chacon, Heidi Senungetuk, Ange Loft, Joy Harjo, Carmina Escobar, Olivia Shortt, Candice Hopkins, and Buffy Sainte-Marie. The book is supplemented by texts by each artist and a contextualizing essay by Chacon.”

https://artmetropole.com/shop/15021

 

~ Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples (Zed Books, 1999)

Linda Tuhiwai Smith

“From the vantage point of the colonized, the term ‘research’ is inextricably linked with European colonialism; the ways in which scientific research has been implicated in the worst excesses of imperialism remains a powerful remembered history for many of the world’s colonized peoples. Here, an indigenous researcher issues a clarion call for the decolonization of research methods.”

https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/225063

 

~ Hungry Listening: Resonant Theory for Indigenous Sound Studies (University of Minnesota Press, 2020)

Dylan Robinson

Hungry Listening is the first book to consider listening from both Indigenous and settler colonial perspectives. A critical response to what has been called the “whiteness of sound studies,” Dylan Robinson evaluates how decolonial practices of listening emerge from increasing awareness of our listening positionality. This, he argues, involves identifying habits of settler colonial perception and contending with settler colonialism’s “tin ear” that renders silent the epistemic foundations of Indigenous song as history, law, and medicine.”

https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/53130252

 

~ The Break (House of Anansi Press, 2018)

Katherena Vermette

“When Stella, a young Métis mother, looks out her window one evening and spots someone in trouble on the Break — a barren field on an isolated strip of land outside her house — she calls the police to alert them to a possible crime.”

https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/29220494

 

~ Five Little Indians (Harper Perennial, 2020)

Michelle Good

“Taken from their families when they are very small and sent to a remote, church-run residential school, Kenny, Lucy, Clara, Howie and Maisie are barely out of childhood when they are finally released after years of detention.”

https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/52214103

 

For younger readers:

~ Little You (Orca Book Publishers, 2013)

Richard Van Camp, illustrated by Julie Flett

“Richard Van Camp, internationally renowned storyteller and bestselling author of the hugely successful Welcome Song for Baby: A Lullaby for Newborns, has partnered with talented illustrator Julie Flett to create a tender board book for babies and toddlers that honors the child in everyone. With its delightful contemporary illustrations, Little You is perfect to be shared, read or sung to all the little people in your life–and the new little ones on the way!”

https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/17074068

 

~ We All Play / kimêtawânaw (Greystone Kids, 2021)

Written and illustrated by Julie Flett

“Animals and kids love to play! This book celebrates diversity and the interconnectedness of nature through an Indigenous perspective, complete with a glossary of Cree words for wild animals at the back of the book, and children repeating a Cree phrase throughout the book. Readers will encounter birds who chase and chirp, bears who wiggle and wobble, whales who swim and squirt, owls who peek and peep, and a diverse group of kids who love to do the same, shouting: We play too! / kimêtawânaw mîna”

https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/55701078

 

~ With Our Orange Hearts (Medicine Wheel Publishing, 2022)

Phyllis Webstad, illustrated by Emily Kewageshig

“As a young child, your little world can be full of big feelings. In this book, I, Phyllis Webstad, founder of Orange Shirt Day, show how sharing my story with the world helped me to process my feelings. My true story encourages young children to open their hearts when others share their feelings and be more comfortable sharing their own feelings, too.”

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/63037513-with-our-orange-hearts

 

~ Still This Love Goes On (Greystone Kids, 2022)

Buffy Sainte-Marie, illustrated by Julie Flett

“A love letter to Indigenous communities everywhere, this picture book gorgeously illustrated by Julie Flett celebrates seasons, nature, and community.”

https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/60916087

 

~ We Are Water Protectors (Roaring Brook Press, 2020)

Carole Lindstrom, illustrated by Michaela Goade

“Inspired by the many Indigenous-led movements across North America, We Are Water Protectors issues an urgent rallying cry to safeguard the Earth’s water from harm and corruption—a bold and lyrical picture book written by Carole Lindstrom and vibrantly illustrated by Michaela Goade.”

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/56931238-we-are-water-protectors-by-carole-lindstrom-we-are-water-protector

 

For middle grade readers:

~ The Misewa Saga (Penguin Random House Canada, 2021+)

David A. Robertson

“Morgan and Eli are Indigenous children who discover a portal at their foster home to another world, Askī; there they discover talking animal beings who connect them to traditional ways, as well as help them deal with the challenges in the real world. A fantasy for readers aged ten and up, the Misewa Saga (“misewa” is Cree for “all that is”) series reflects stories of the sky and the constellations held within its great canvas.”

https://www.penguinrandomhouse.ca/series/EWS/the-misewa-saga

 

~ The Marrow Thieves (Dancing Cat books, 2017) & Hunting by Stars (Penguin Random House, 2021)

Cherie Dimaline

“In a futuristic world ravaged by global warming, people have lost the ability to dream, and the dreamlessness has led to widespread madness. The only people still able to dream are North America’s Indigenous people, and it is their marrow that holds the cure for the rest of the world. But getting the marrow, and dreams, means death for the unwilling donors. Driven to flight, a fifteen-year-old and his companions struggle for survival, attempt to reunite with loved ones and take refuge from the “recruiters” who seek them out to bring them to the marrow-stealing ‘factories.'”
 

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