Alexie, Robert Arthur (Gwich’in). The Pale Indian. Penguin Canada, 2005. Novel.

19. The Pale Indian (Alexie)

Publisher’s description: A heartbreaking love story set against the beauty of the north. In 1972, John Daniel, an eleven-year-old Blue Indian from Aberdeen in Canada’s Northwest Territories, and his six-year-old sister, Eva, were brought to live with a white couple in Alberta, having been removed from their parents by the Powers that Be. John promised he’d never go back. But in October 1984, at twenty-two, he broke that promise. A job with a drilling company brought him back to the land of his people, and Tina Joseph, to whom he was deeply attracted, encouraged him to confront the sad truths of his parents’ lives. In a compelling combination of storytelling and truth-telling, The Pale Indian recalls the power and passion of its predecessor, Porcupines and China Dolls. It is a novel of secrets, lies, and madness written with power and eloquence.

Armstrong, Jeannette (Syilx). Slash. Theytus Books, 2007 (1985). Novel/young adult fiction.

Slash front cv

Publisher’s description: Slash is Jeannette Armstrong’s first novel. It poignantly traces the struggles, pain and alienation of a young Okanagan man who searches for truth and meaning in his life. Recognized as an important work of literature, Slash is used in high schools, colleges and universities.

Benaway, Gwen (Anishinaabe). Passage. Kegedonce Press, 2016. Poetry.

12. Passage (Benaway)

Publisher’s description: In her second collection of poetry, Passage, Gwen Benaway examines what it means to experience violence and speaks to the burden of survival. Traveling to Northern Ontario and across the Great Lakes, Passage is a poetic voyage through divorce, family violence, legacy of colonization, and the affirmation of a new sexuality and gender. Previously published as a man, Passage is the poet’s first collection written as a transwoman. Striking and raw in sparse lines, the collection showcases a vital Two Spirited identity that transects borders of race, gender, and experience. In Passage, the poet seeks to reconcile herself to the land, the history of her ancestors, and her separation from her partner and family by invoking the beauty and power of her ancestral waterways. Building on the legacy of other ground-breaking Indigenous poets like Gregory Scofield and Queer poets like Tim Dlugos, Benaway’s work is deeply personal and devastating in sharp, clear lines.

Bird-Wilson, Lisa (Métis). Just Pretending. Coteau Books, 2013. Short stories.

48. Just Pretending (Bird-Wilson)

Publisher’s description: From one of Canada’s most exciting new Métis voices comes a book whose recurring themes include the complexities of identity, belonging/not belonging, Aboriginal adoption, loss and abandonment, regret and insecurity. A deadbeat dad tries to reconnect with his daughter after 22 years away. A selfish poet has been scarred by an upbringing that leaves him emotionally distant from his children and spouse. A pot-smoking middle-aged man undertakes a modest quest for meaning following a brush with mortality. A fourteen-year-old girl struggles to come to terms with her feelings of abandonment. At the centre of the stories are notions of identity and belonging, and the complex relationships between children and parents, both those who are real and those who are just pretending.

Campbell, Maria (Métis). Half-breed. Goodread Biographies, 1983 (1973). Autobiography.

6. Halfbreed (Campbell)

Publisher’s description: Maria Campbell’s [auto]biography is a classic, vital account of a young Métis woman’s struggle to come to terms with the joys, sorrows, loves and tragedies of her northern Saskatchewan childhood. Maria was a strong and sensitive child who lived in a community robbed of its pride and dignity by the dominant culture. At 15 she tried in vain to escape by marrying a white man, only to find herself trapped in the slums of Vancouver—addicted to drugs, tempted by suicide, close to death. But the inspiration of her Cree great-grandmother, Cheechum, gives her confidence in herself and in her people, confidence she needs to survive and to thrive. Half-Breed offers an unparalleled understanding of the Métis people and of the racism and hatred they face. Maria Campbell’s story cannot be denied and it cannot be forgotten: it stands as a challenge to all Canadians who believe in human rights and human dignity.

Cariou, Warren (Métis). Lake of the Prairies: A Story of Belonging. Anchor Canada, 2003. Memoir.

5. Lake of the Prairies (Cariou)

Publisher’s description: Powerful, funny, moving and personal, Lake of the Prairies is a richly layered exploration of the ubiquitous childhood question: where do I come from? Warren Cariou’s story of origin begins in the boreal Saskatchewan landscape of rock, water and muskeg that is Meadow Lake—ensconced in the ethos of the north, where there is magic in a story and fiction is worth much more than fact. Grounded in the fertile soil of Meadow Lake are two historical traditions—Native and settler. Though the tragic story of how these traditions came to share the same home would remain buried from Warren until much later, history’s painful legacy was much in view. In the schoolyard and on the street corners Warren witnessed the discrimination, anger and fear directed at the town’s Cree and Métis populations—prejudices he absorbed as his own. As an adult, Warren Cariou has been forced to confront the politics of race in Meadow Lake. He learned that a rambunctious Native schoolmate could be involved in a torture and murder that would shock the world. And then Warren discovered family secrets kept hidden for generations, secrets that would alter forever Warren’s sense of identity and belonging in Meadow Lake.

Dimaline, Cherie (Métis). The Girl Who Grew a Galaxy. Theytus Books, 2013. Novel.

33. The Girl Who Grew a Galaxy (Dimaline)

Publisher’s description: A galaxy of odd planets spins around Ruby Bloom’s head, slick and regulated as a game of snooker. The big purple one is Anxiety. It grew in the slipstream of Guilt, a smooth, loud planet with two moons: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Agoraphobia. The black one is Envy. It’s crusted with ice and solid as tungsten. The pink spotted one, a loud sparkly affair, is Fantasy and it careens wildly about like a ball after the break. There is a shiny amber globe that catches passing light; a small marble named Longing that is the brightest of all the orbs. The universe didn’t start with a big bang of cosmic proportions; instead it grew out of trauma that occurred in the middle of an otherwise quiet childhood. It began the day Ruby Bloom, age seven and a half, killed her grandfather.

Francis, Marvin (Cree). city treaty: a long poem. Turnstone Press, 2002. Poetry.

16. city treat (Francis)

Publisher’s description: Gritty and fresh, Marvin Francis’s long poem, city treaty, tackles the tough issues of cultural assimilation and the challenges faced by a traditional community trying to locate itself in the urban context. Marvin Francis’s poetry breaks linguistic conventions and leaps off the page.

Johnson, E. Pauline (Tekahionwake) (Mohawk). Collected Poems and Selected Prose. Ed. Carole Gerson & Veronica Strong-Boag. University of British Columbia, 2002. Poetry/Short Stories/Essays.

22. Collected Poems and Selected Prose (Johnson)

Publisher’s description: E. Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake) was a Native advocate of part-Mohawk ancestry, an independent woman during the period of first-wave feminism, a Canadian nationalist who also advocated strengthening the link to imperial England, a popular and versatile prose writer, and one of modern Canada’s best-selling poets. Johnson longed to see the publication of a complete collection of her verse, but that wish remained unfulfilled during her life. Nine decades after her death, the first complete collection of all of Johnson’s known poems, many painstakingly culled from newspapers, magazines, and archives, is now available. In response to the current recognition of Johnson’s historical position as an immensely popular and influential figure of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, this volume also presents a representative selection of her prose, including fiction about native-settler relations, journalism about women and recreation, and discussions of gender roles and racial stereotypes.

Lindberg, Tracey (Cree). Birdie. HarperCollinsCanada, 2016. Novel.

40. Birdie (Lindberg)

Publisher’s description: Bernice Meetoos will not be broken. A big, beautiful Cree woman with a dark secret in her past, Bernice (“Birdie”) has left her home in northern Alberta to travel to Gibsons, B.C. She is on something of a vision quest, looking for family, for home, for understanding. She is also driven by the leftover teenaged desire to meet Pat Johns–Jesse from The Beachcombers–because he is, as she says, a working, healthy Indian man. Birdie heads for Molly’s Reach to find answers, but they are not the ones she expected. With the arrival in Gibsons of her Auntie Val and her cousin Skinny Freda, Birdie begins to draw from her dreams the lessons she was never fully taught in life. Informed by the lore and knowledge of Cree traditions, Birdie is a darkly comic and moving first novel about the universal experience of recovering from tragedy. At heart, it is the story of an extraordinary woman who travels to the deepest part of herself to find the strength to face the past and to build a new life.