Abel, Jordan (Nisga’a). Injun. Talonbooks, 2016. Poetry.

49. Injun (Abel)

Publisher’s description: Award-winning Nisga’a poet Jordan Abel’s third collection, Injun, is a long poem about racism and the representation of Indigenous peoples. Composed of text found in western novels published between 1840 and 1950 – the heyday of pulp publishing and a period of unfettered colonialism in North America – Injun then uses erasure, pastiche, and a focused poetics to create a visually striking response to the western genre. Though it has been phased out of use in our “post-racial” society, the word “injun” is peppered throughout pulp western novels. Injun retraces, defaces, and effaces the use of this word as a colonial and racial marker. While the subject matter of the source text is clearly problematic, the textual explorations in Injun help to destabilize the colonial image of the “Indian” in the source novels, the western genre as a whole, and the western canon.

Baker, Marie Annharte (Anishinaabe). Indigena Awry. New Star Books, 2012.

25. Indigena Awry (Baker)

Publisher’s description: NDN word warrior Marie Annharte Baker’s fourth book of poems, Indigena Awry, is her largest and wildest yet. It collects a decade’s worth of verse — fifty–nine poems. Set noticeably in Winnipeg and Vancouver, but in many other places on either side of the Medicine Line as well, the poems are a laser–eyed meander through contested streets filled with racism, classism, and sexism. Shot through with sex and violence and struggle and sadness and trauma, her work is always set to detect and confront the delusions of colonialism and its discontents. These poems are informed by a sceptical spirituality. They call for justice for NDNs through the Permanent Resistance that goes around in cities. This is bruising and exacting stuff, but Annharte is also one of poetry’s best jokers.

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.

Moses, Daniel David (Delaware). Almighty Voice and His Wife. Playwrights Canada Press, 2009 (1990). Drama.

36. Almighty Voice and His Wife (Moses)

Description (from Canadian Theatre Encyclopedia): Almighty Voice and His Wife tells the story of a Native hero/victim from two very different perspectives. Almighty Voice was a 19th century Saskatchewan Cree, whose poaching of a settler’s cow resulted in his incarceration and escape from jail, and his shooting of a Mountie. He was finally tracked down by a large group of police and civilians, and shot. The first act provides a naturalistic portrait of Almighty Voice and his wife, White Girl. The second act shows how the story has been appropriated by a non-Native society in an attempt to locate an “almighty Native voice.” Almighty Voice is now a Ghost and his wife White Girl is the Interlocutor or Master of Ceremonies, dressed as a Mountie. Both wear whiteface, and engage in a parodic vaudeville routine which mocks the expectations and assumptions of a White audience.

Mosionier, Beatrice (Métis). In Search of April Raintree. 25th Anniversary Edition. Portage & Main Press, 2008 (1983). Novel.

27. In Search of April Raintree (Mosionier)

Publisher’s description: Two young sisters are taken from their home and family. Powerless to change their fortunes, they are separated, and each put into different foster homes. Yet over the years, the bond between them grows. As they each make their way in a society that is, at times, indifferent, hostile, and violent, one embraces her Métis identity, while the other tries to leave it behind. In the end, out of tragedy, comes an unexpected legacy of triumph and reclamation.

Scofield, Gregory (Métis). I Knew Two Métis Women. Gabriel Dumont Institute, 1999. Poetry/music.

3. I-Knew-Two-Metis-Women (Scofield)

Publisher’s description: Gregory Scofield’s I Knew Two Métis Women recreates the world of his childhood and celebrates his Métis family. The unforgettable voices of his mother Dorothy Scofield and aunt Georgina Houle Young wind through the book, telling tall tales, soothing hurts, offering love and sly humour as an antidote to hardship, poverty, violence, and prejudice. When words alone no longer suffice, the women turn to the music of country and western legends whose songs reflect and refract their lives. The poems reveal that integrity and beauty exist alongside hardship and oppression. The two companion CDs include Scofield’s dynamic reading accompanied by the voices and music of an impressive group of performing artists including John Arcand, Maria Campbell, Tantoo Cardinal, Andrea Menard, and Donny Parenteau.