- Paperback: 240 pages
- Publisher: HighWater Press (Sept. 9 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1553796802
- ISBN-13: 978-1553796800
- Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 2.5 x 22.9 cm
- Shipping Weight: 522 g
- Average Customer Review: 40 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,708 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Indigenous Writes: A Guide to First Nations, Métis, and Inuit issues in Canada Paperback – Sep 9 2016
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Chelsea Vowel presents a counternarrative to the foundational, historical, and living myths most Canadians grew up believing. She punctures the bloated tropes that have frozen Indigenous peoples in time, often to the vanishing point. Reading Indigenous Writes, you feel that you are having a conversation over coffee with a super-smart friend, someone who refuses to simplify, who chooses to amplify, who is unafraid to kick against the darkness. Branding Indigenous Writes as required reading would make it sound like literary All-Bran. It is not, and far from it. What this book really is, is medicine.
Shelagh Rogers, O.C., Broadcast Journalist, TRC Honorary Witness"
About the Author
Chelsea Vowel is Métis from manitow-sâkahikan (Lac Ste. Anne) Alberta where she and her family currently reside. She has a BEd and LLB and is mother to three girls, step-mother of two more.
Chelsea is a public intellectual, writer and educator whose work intersects language, gender, Métis self-determination and resurgence. She has worked directly with First Nations researching self-government, participating in constitutional drafting and engaging in specific land claim negotiation settlements and valuation of claims over a 200 year period. She is passionate about creating programs and materials that enable Indigenous languages to thrive, not merely survive.
Most recently an educator in Québec, she developed and delivered programs to Inuit youth in a restorative justice program. She is a heavily cited and internationally respected commentator on Indigenous-State relations and dedicates much of her time to mentoring other young activists.
Chelsea blogs at apihtawikosisan.com and makes legendary bannock.
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Indigenous Writes is exceptional in its construction and tone. Vowel has written a book that is accessible for beginners to Indigenous issues, but still manages to deepen the understanding of those more familiar with the field. Vowel accomplishes the expansive reach of her book through a conversational tone, thoughtful book layout, and lovingly curated lists of resources at the end of every chapter. Vowel is earnestly trying to communicate with her reader. She is not speaking to some imaginary and uninterested audience, she is talking to me, to you; intimately and patiently, despite the difficulty of the topics. The tone of her writing allows Vowel to direct the reader in ways that are impossible when writers play pretend at invisibility. Throughout Indigenous Writes Vowel anticipates diversion tactics and refuses to waste time on them, and in so doing creates space for her readers to engage more thoughtfully with what she offers. Indeed, in my own teaching practice, I aspire to the generosity, focus, and rigor, that Vowel demonstrates in Indigenous Writes. Vowel is inescapably present in her work, and Indigenous Writes is the better for it.
Indigenous Writes is divided into five sections: terminology, Indigenous cultures and identities, myth busting, state violence including residential schools, and land, treaties, and law. Each section is broken up into a few focussed chapters. In each chapter, Vowel interrupts contemporary settler colonial discourses on the subject at hand and redirects readers to a nuanced and historical analysis of issues like the Sixties Scoop, Indigenous Rights, Treaties, and multiculturalism. An exciting detail about the book’s construction is that Vowel has intentionally written each chapter so that it is able to stand alone, as well as part of the book. Stand-alone chapters are a thoughtful feature of Indigenous Writes, especially when complimented by a the list of carefully selected resources at the end of each chapter that Vowel provides.
The value and symbolism of the inclusion of resources at the end of each chapter of Indigenous Writes cannot be understated. Practically, by including lists of resources, Vowel is doing a lot of work to prepare lessons for the educators who use her book, for which I am grateful. But, of there is a deeper meaning and value to this intellectual labour. Vowel explicitly states that Indigenous Writes is a place to begin, not to end, a discussion on Indigenous issues. In offering a lovingly curated list of resources Vowel is gesturing towards the complex and unfinished nature of the issues she introduces, as well as honouring the significant labour that has already been done in the field. Vowel is also guiding a conversation that extends beyond her book. With the pervasiveness of settler narratives, her guidance is necessary.
As I have already alluded to, I am an educator, and Indigenous Writes is an educators book. Vowel’s text is eminently scalable; it is useful for both formal and informal educational contexts, as well as a wide range of ages. I would love to see Indigenous Writes integrated into initial teacher education programs across Canada. Beyond providing an excellent introduction to Indigenous issues in Canada for a predominantly white settler teaching body, there is much to be learned from Vowel pedagogically. Vowel deftly, and accessibly, guides the reader through the narratives of nation and multiculturalism that are pervasive in educational discourse without simplifying or settling matters. Vowel’s ability to embrace complexity, and navigate through difficult issues with care and grace, is something all educators can learn from, especially amidst the increasing attention on reconciliation, and integrating Indigenous perspectives into the curriculum.
Indigenous Writes is a timely book. Much is being made of reconciliation between Indigenous peoples and the Canadian state right now. Within educational circles resources for teaching Indigenous issues, and integrating Indigenous perspectives into schooling are proliferating, and some are better than others. Vowel’s book offers a sharp critique of feel-good reconciliation discourse, which, she argues, fundamentally misunderstands the premises of Indigenous-Settler relationships, and at the same time generously engages her readers in conversations that lead to a better understanding of those relationships – her generosity is undeserved.
Indigenous Writes by Chelsea Vowel is, in conclusion, an unflinching and expansive text that expertly tackles the myths Canada uses to erase its indebtedness to Indigenous peoples. While Indigenous Writes is an excellent text for educators, with her thoughtful composition and accessible tone Vowel has written a book that everyone should read - We have so much to learn from her.
Addressed to a non-Indigenous audience, this book offers a practical approach to a huge range of issues and questions, including terminologies, cultural appropriation, blood quantum laws, myths about taxes, housing and authenticity, treaties and residential schools. Funny and teasing at times and very serious at others, Vowel’s voice pulsates so energetically through this text, it is as though the reader is in conversation with her in her living room. Her approach makes one feel they are with a patient teacher who is aware they are totally new to the subject matter. Thus, those who are new to these topics feel welcomed, and those who are not become equipped with tools they may use in future conversations. In this way, the book exudes generosity. Vowel brilliantly begins with a subject that has undoubtedly stopped many conversations from even starting: what to call Indigenous peoples? Vowel literally walks readers through ideas around the differences between people inside a group calling themselves something versus those outside a group doing so. These ideas- presented within six pages- open the way to infinite possibilities for discussions about respect, the importance of language, the hurtfulness when language is misused, and significantly- the vital need for us to be able to know what to call Indigenous peoples, and to know it’s OK to ask if we don’t know. Vowel expertly handles any insecurities people may have about this topic, all while providing the information needed to feel well informed.
Indigenous Writes should be mandatory reading for every non-Indigenous person residing in the nation-state currently called Canada; indeed, an important characteristic of this text is that there’s no excuse for not reading it, because it is so easy to read. Combining a thoughtful and approachable writing voice, familiar stories and vivid examples, and an easy-to-explore format that the reader may flip through to find brief but comprehensive chapters on topics they may be curious about, Vowel has accomplished a one-of-a-kind resource that is nothing short of pedagogical masterpiece. As an educator and first generation Canadian, who like many endured an education that barely scratched the surface of Indigenous life here, I ended this book feeling elated that this guide currently exists. If Canadians are to follow the promises of truth and reconciliation, this book must be distributed and read in High Schools, places of employment, and homes across the country.
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