Honouring Indigenous History Month

June 22, 2020

7 books to gain perspective, insight and understanding

June is National Indigenous History Month – a month to honour the history, heritage and diversity of Indigenous peoples in Canada. To mark the occasion, we asked VIU’s Office of Indigenous Education and Engagement to provide a reading list that will help deepen people’s understanding of the true history of Indigenous peoples in what is now called Canada.

Every year, the office hosts a series of Indigenous Book Circles as part of the Na’tsa’ maht Shqwaluwun (One Heart, One Mind) professional development learning series. The book circles offer an opportunity to those interested in discussing the prominent and contemporary themes present in Indigenous literature of all genres. These circles are open to anyone in the VIU community and beyond who wants to attend.

This year, while the book circles will look a little different due to COVID-19, they will continue to be based around “the love of reading, discussing themes around decolonization, and amplifying and supporting Indigenous artists and their wonderful works of art,” says Heather Burke, a Learning Facilitator with the Office. “Discussions in past circles have been around the eye-opening nature of some of the themes present in the literature. For example, a number of instructors read Colonized Classrooms by Sheila Cote-Meek and felt it was a crucial read for their practice.”

Other circles centered on Indigenous poetry or fiction brought forward fruitful discussions about what each individual could do to decolonize their own spaces.

“This coming year we might also bring in some writers and artists to lead us through some activities as well as discussing books,” she adds.

Here is a reading list based on past Indigenous Book Circles:


kipocihkânPoems New and Selected by Gregory Scofield

The word “kipocihkân” is Cree slang for someone who is mute or unable to speak, and the book charts Scofield’s journey out of that silence to become one of the most powerful voices of our time.


The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline

Set in a dystopian future where most of humanity has lost the ability to dream, the Indigenous people of North America are being hunted and harvested for their bone marrow to create a serum to treat others.


Colonized Classrooms: Racism, Trauma and Resistance in Post-Secondary Education by Sheila Cote-Meek

In Colonized Classrooms, Sheila Cote-Meek discusses how Aboriginal students confront narratives of colonial violence in the post-secondary classroom, while they are, at the same time, living and experiencing colonial violence on a daily basis.


Birdie by Tracy Lindberg

Birdie is a darkly comic and moving first novel about the universal experience of recovering from wounds of the past, informed by the lore and knowledge of Cree traditions. It follows Bernice Meetoos, a Cree woman, who leaves her home in Northern Alberta following tragedy and travels to Gibsons, BC.


Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese

Saul Indian Horse is dying. Tucked away in a hospice high above the clash and clang of a big city, he embarks on a marvellous journey of imagination back through the life he led as a northern Ojibway, with all its sorrows and joys. For Saul, taken forcibly from the land and his family when he’s sent to residential school, salvation comes for a while through his incredible gifts as a hockey player. But in the harsh realities of 1960s Canada, he battles obdurate racism and the spirit-destroying effects of cultural alienation and displacement.


From Where I Stand: Rebuilding Indigenous Nations for a Stronger Canada by Jody Wilson-Raybould

What needs to be done to move beyond our colonial legacy and achieve true reconciliation in Canada? Author Jody Wilson-Raybould writes that now is the time to act and build a shared post-colonial future based on the foundations of trust, cooperation, recognition and good governance.


Structures of Indifference: An Indigenous Life and Death in a Canadian City by Mary Jane Logan McCallum and Adele Perry

In September 2008, Brian Sinclair, a middle-aged, non-Status Anishinaabeg, arrived in an emergency room in Winnipeg, Manitoba, was left untreated and unattended to, and ultimately died from an easily treatable infection over the course of a day and a half. McCallum and Perry present the ways in which Sinclair, once erased and ignored, came to represent diffuse, yet singular and largely dehumanized ideas about Indigenous people, modernity and decline in cities.

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