Indigenous Studies

Published by: Wilfrid Laurier University Press

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Indigenous Studies

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Aboriginal Peoples in Canadian Cities

Transformations and Continuities

Since the 1970s, Aboriginal people have been more likely to live in Canadian cities than on reserves or in rural areas. Aboriginal rural-to-urban migration and the development of urban Aboriginal communities represent one of the most significant shifts in the histories and cultures of Aboriginal peoples in Canada. The essays in Aboriginal Peoples in Canadian Cities: Transformations and Continuities are from contributors directly engaged in urban Aboriginal communities; they draw on extensive ethnographic research on and by Aboriginal people and their own lived experiences.

The interdisciplinary studies of urban Aboriginal community and identity collected in this volume offer narratives of unique experiences and aspects of urban Aboriginal life. They provide innovative perspectives on cultural transformation and continuity and demonstrate how comparative examinations of the diversity within and across urban Aboriginal experiences contribute to broader understandings of the relationship between Aboriginal peoples and the Canadian state and to theoretical debates about power dynamics in the production of community and in processes of identity formation.

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Arts of Engagement

Taking Aesthetic Action In and Beyond the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada

Dylan Robinson

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.

This volume makes an important contribution to the discourse on reconciliation in Canada by examining how aesthetic and sensory interventions offer alternative forms of political action and healing. These forms of aesthetic action encompass both sensory appeals to empathize and invitations to join together in alliance and new relationships as well as refusals to follow the normative scripts of reconciliation. Such refusals are important in their assertion of new terms for conciliation, terms that resist the imperatives of reconciliation as a form of resolution.

This collection charts new ground by detailing the aesthetic grammars of reconciliation and conciliation. The authors document the efficacies of the TRC for the various Indigenous and settler publics it has addressed, and consider the future aesthetic actions that must be taken in order to move beyond what many have identified as the TRC’s political limitations.

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Bridging Two Peoples

Chief Peter E. Jones, 1843–1909

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The Eighteenth-Century Wyandot

A Clan-Based Study

The Wyandot were born of two Wendat peoples encountered by the French in the first half of the seventeenth century—the otherwise named Petun and Huron—and their history is fragmented by their dispersal between Quebec, Michigan, Kansas, and Oklahoma. This book weaves these fragmented histories together, with a focus on the mid-eighteenth century.

Author John Steckley claims that the key to consolidating the stories of the scattered Wyandot lies in their clan structure. Beginning with the half century of their initial diaspora, as interpreted through the political strategies of five clan leaders, and continuing through the eighteenth century and their shared residency with Jesuit missionaries—notably, the distinct relationships different clans established with them—Steckley reveals the resilience of the Wyandot clan structure. He draws upon rich but previously ignored sources—including baptismal, marriage, and mortuary records, and a detailed house-to-house census compiled in 1747, featuring a list of male and female elders—to illustrate the social structure of the people, including a study of both male and female leadership patterns. A record of the 1747 census and translated copies of letters sent between the Wyandot and the French are included in appendices.

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Essential Song

Three Decades of Northern Cree Music

Includes audio CD with over 50 Cree hunting songs

Essential Song: Three Decades of Northern Cree Music, a study of subarctic Cree hunting songs, is the first detailed ethnomusicology of the northern Cree of Quebec and Manitoba. The result of more than two decades spent in the North learning from the Cree, Lynn Whidden’s account discusses the tradition of the hunting songs, their meanings and origins, and their importance to the hunt. She also examines women’s songs, and traces the impact of social change—including the introduction of hymns, Gospel tunes, and country music—on the song traditions of these communities.

The book also explores the introduction of powwow song into the subarctic and the Crees struggle to maintain their Aboriginal heritage—to find a kind of song that, like the hunting songs, can serve as a spiritual guide and force.

Including profiles of the hunters and their songs and accompanied by an original audio CD of more than fifty Cree hunting songs, Essential Song makes an important contribution to ethnomusicology, social history, and Aboriginal studies.

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From the Iron House

Imprisonment in First Nations Writing

In From the Iron House: Imprisonment in First Nations Writing, Deena Rymhs identifies continuities between the residential school and the prison, offering ways of reading “the carceral”—that is, the different ways that incarceration is constituted and articulated in contemporary Aboriginal literature. Addressing the work of writers like Tomson Highway and Basil Johnston along with that of lesser-known authors writing in prison serials and underground publications, this book emphasizes the literary and political strategies these authors use to resist the containment of their institutions.

The first part of the book considers a diverse sample of writing from prison serials, prisoners’ anthologies, and individual autobiographies, including Stolen Life by Rudy Wiebe and Yvonne Johnson, to show how these works serve as second hearings for their authors—an opportunity to respond to the law’s authority over their personal and public identities while making a plea to a wider audience. The second part looks at residential school narratives and shows how the authors construct identities for themselves in ways that defy the institution’s control. The interactions between these two bodies of writing—residential school accounts and prison narratives—invite recognition of the ways that guilt is colonially constructed and how these authors use their writing to distance themselves from that guilt.

Offering new ways of reading Native writing, From the Iron House is a pioneering study of prison literature in Canada and situates its readings within international criticism of prison writing. Contributing to genre studies and theoretical understandings of life writing, and covering a variety of social topics, this work will be relevant to readers interested in indigenous studies, Canadian cultural studies, postcolonial studies, auto/biography studies, law, and public policy.

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Indian Country

Essays on Contemporary Native Culture

Since first contact, Natives and newcomers have been involved in an increasingly complex struggle over power and identity. Modern “Indian wars” are fought over land and treaty rights, artistic appropriation, and academic analysis, while Native communities struggle among themselves over membership, money, and cultural meaning. In cultural and political arenas across North America, Natives enact and newcomers protest issues of traditionalism, sovereignty, and self-determination. In these struggles over domination and resistance, over different ideologies and Indian identities, neither Natives nor other North Americans recognize the significance of being rooted together in history and culture, or how representations of “Indianness” set them in opposition to each other.

In Indian Country: Essays on Contemporary Native Culture, Gail Guthrie Valaskakis uses a cultural studies approach to offer a unique perspective on Native political struggle and cultural conflict in both Canada and the United States. She reflects on treaty rights and traditionalism, media warriors, Indian princesses, powwow, museums, art, and nationhood. According to Valaskakis, Native and non-Native people construct both who they are and their relations with each other in narratives that circulate through art, anthropological method, cultural appropriation, and Native reappropriation. For Native peoples and Others, untangling the past—personal, political, and cultural—can help to make sense of current struggles over power and identity that define the Native experience today.

Grounded in theory and threaded with Native voices and evocative descriptions of “Indian” experience (including the author’s), the essays interweave historical and political process, personal narrative, and cultural critique. This book is an important contribution to Native studies that will appeal to anyone interested in First Nations’ experience and popular culture.

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Indigenous Poetics in Canada

Indigenous Poetics in Canada broadens the way in which Indigenous poetry is examined, studied, and discussed in Canada. Breaking from the parameters of traditional English literature studies, this volume embraces a wider sense of poetics, including Indigenous oralities, languages, and understandings of place.

Featuring work by academics and poets, the book examines four elements of Indigenous poetics. First, it explores the poetics of memory: collective memory, the persistence of Indigenous poetic consciousness, and the relationships that enable the Indigenous storytelling process. The book then explores the poetics of performance: Indigenous poetics exist both in written form and in relation to an audience. Third, in an examination of the poetics of place and space, the book considers contemporary Indigenous poetry and classical Indigenous narratives. Finally, in a section on the poetics of medicine, contributors articulate the healing and restorative power of Indigenous poetry and narratives.

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Learn, Teach, Challenge

Approaching Indigenous Literatures

Deanna Reder

This is a collection of classic and newly commissioned essays about the study of Indigenous literatures in North America. The contributing scholars include some of the most venerable Indigenous theorists, among them Gerald Vizenor (Anishinaabe), Jeannette Armstrong (Okanagan), Craig Womack (Creek), Kimberley Blaeser (Anishinaabe), Emma LaRocque (Métis), Daniel Heath Justice (Cherokee), Janice Acoose (Saulteaux), and Jo-Ann Episkenew (Métis). Also included are settler scholars foundational to the field, including Helen Hoy, Margery Fee, and Renate Eigenbrod. Among the newer voices are both settler and Indigenous theorists such as Sam McKegney, Keavy Martin, and Niigaanwewidam Sinclair.

The volume is organized into five subject areas: Position, the necessity of considering where you come from and who you are; Imagining Beyond Images and Myths, a history and critique of circulating images of Indigenousness; Debating Indigenous Literary Approaches; Contemporary Concerns, a consideration of relevant issues; and finally Classroom Considerations, pedagogical concerns particular to the field. Each section is introduced by an essay that orients the reader and provides ideological context. While anthologies of literary criticism have focused on specific issues related to this burgeoning field, this volume is the first to offer comprehensive perspectives on the subject.

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Lines Drawn upon the Water

First Nations and the Great Lakes Borders and Borderlands

The First Nations who have lived in the Great Lakes watershed have been strongly influenced by the imposition of colonial and national boundaries there. The essays in Lines Drawn upon the Water examine the impact of the Canadian—American border on communities, with reference to national efforts to enforce the boundary and the determination of local groups to pursue their interests and define themselves. Although both governments regard the border as clearly defined, local communities continue to contest the artificial divisions imposed by the international boundary and define spatial and human relationships in the borderlands in their own terms.

The debate is often cast in terms of Canada’s failure to recognize the 1794 Jay Treaty’s confirmation of Native rights to transport goods into Canada, but ultimately the issue concerns the larger struggle of First Nations to force recognition of their people’s rights to move freely across the border in search of economic and social independence.

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