Indigenous Studies

Published by: Wilfrid Laurier University Press

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Indigenous Studies

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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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Literary Land Claims

The “Indian Land Question” from Pontiac’s War to Attawapiskat

Literature not only represents Canada as “our home and native land” but has been used as evidence of the civilization needed to claim and rule that land. Indigenous people have long been represented as roaming “savages” without land title and without literature. Literary Land Claims: From Pontiac’s War to Attawapiskat analyzes works produced between 1832 and the late 1970s by writers who resisted these dominant notions.

Margery Fee examines John Richardson’s novels about Pontiac’s War and the War of 1812 that document the breaking of British promises to Indigenous nations. She provides a close reading of Louis Riel’s addresses to the court at the end of his trial in 1885, showing that his vision for sharing the land derives from the Indigenous value of respect. Fee argues that both Grey Owl and E. Pauline Johnson’s visions are obscured by challenges to their authenticity. Finally, she shows how storyteller Harry Robinson uses a contemporary Okanagan framework to explain how white refusal to share the land meant that Coyote himself had to make a deal with the King of England.

Fee concludes that despite support in social media for Theresa Spence’s hunger strike, Idle No More, and the Indian Residential School Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the story about “savage Indians” and “civilized Canadians” and the latter group’s superior claim to “develop” the lands and resources of Canada still circulates widely. If the land is to be respected and shared as it should be, literary studies needs a new critical narrative, one that engages with the ideas of Indigenous writers and intellectuals.

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The Nature of Empires and the Empires of Nature

Indigenous Peoples and the Great Lakes Environment

Drawing on themes from John MacKenzie’s Empires of Nature and the Nature of Empires (1997), this book explores, from Indigenous or Indigenous-influenced perspectives, the power of nature and the attempts by empires (United States, Canada, and Britain) to control it. It also examines contemporary threats to First Nations communities from ongoing political, environmental, and social issues, and the efforts to confront and eliminate these threats to peoples and the environment. It becomes apparent that empire, despite its manifestations of power, cannot control or discipline humans and nature. Essays suggest new ways of looking at the Great Lakes watershed and the peoples and empires contained within it.

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Read, Listen, Tell

Indigenous Stories from Turtle Island

Sophie McCall

“Don’t say in the years to come that you would have lived your life differently if only you had heard this story. You’ve heard it now.” —Thomas King, in this volume

Read, Listen, Tell brings together an extraordinary range of Indigenous stories from across Turtle Island (North America). From short fiction to as-told-to narratives, from illustrated stories to personal essays, these stories celebrate the strength of heritage and the liveliness of innovation. Ranging in tone from humorous to defiant to triumphant, the stories explore core concepts in Indigenous literary expression, such as the relations between land, language, and community, the variety of narrative forms, and the continuities between oral and written forms of expression. Rich in insight and bold in execution, the stories proclaim the diversity, vitality, and depth of Indigenous writing.

Building on two decades of scholarly work to centre Indigenous knowledges and perspectives, the book transforms literary method while respecting and honouring Indigenous histories and peoples of these lands. It includes stories by acclaimed writers like Thomas King, Sherman Alexie, Paula Gunn Allen, and Eden Robinson, a new generation of emergent writers, and writers and storytellers who have often been excluded from the canon, such as French- and Spanish-language Indigenous authors, Indigenous authors from Mexico, Chicana/o authors, Indigenous-language authors, works in translation, and “lost“ or underappreciated texts.

In a place and time when Indigenous people often have to contend with representations that marginalize or devalue their intellectual and cultural heritage, this collection is a testament to Indigenous resilience and creativity. It shows that the ways in which we read, listen, and tell play key roles in how we establish relationships with one another, and how we might share knowledges across cultures, languages, and social spaces.

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Troubling Tricksters

Revisioning Critical Conversations

Troubling Tricksters is a collection of theoretical essays, creative pieces, and critical ruminations that provides a re-visioning of trickster criticism in light of recent backlash against it. The complaints of some Indigenous writers, the critique from Indigenous nationalist critics, and the changing of academic fashion have resulted in few new studies on the trickster. For example, The Cambridge Companion to Native American Literature (2005), includes only a brief mention of the trickster, with skeptical commentary. And, in 2007, Anishinaabe scholar Niigonwedom Sinclair (a contributor to this volume) called for a moratorium on studies of the trickster irrelevant to the specific experiences and interests of Indigenous nations.

One of the objectives of this anthology is, then, to encourage scholarship that is mindful of the critic’s responsibility to communities, and to focus discussions on incarnations of tricksters in their particular national contexts. The contribution of Troubling Tricksters, therefore, is twofold: to offer a timely counterbalance to this growing critical lacuna, and to propose new approaches to trickster studies, approaches that have been clearly influenced by the nationalists’ call for cultural and historical specificity.

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Violence Against Indigenous Women

Literature, Activism, Resistance

Allison Hargreaves

Violence against Indigenous women in Canada is an ongoing crisis, with roots deep in the nation’s colonial history. Despite numerous policies and programs developed to address the issue, Indigenous women continue to be targeted for violence at disproportionate rates. What insights can literature contribute where dominant anti-violence initiatives have failed? Centring the voices of contemporary Indigenous women writers, this book argues for the important role that literature and storytelling can play in response to gendered colonial violence.

Indigenous communities have been organizing against violence since newcomers first arrived, but the cases of missing and murdered women have only recently garnered broad public attention. Violence Against Indigenous Women joins the conversation by analyzing the socially interventionist work of Indigenous women poets, playwrights, filmmakers, and fiction-writers. Organized as a series of case studies that pair literary interventions with recent sites of activism and policy-critique, the book puts literature in dialogue with anti-violence debate to illuminate new pathways toward action.

With the advent of provincial and national inquiries into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, a larger public conversation is now underway. Indigenous women’s literature is a critical site of knowledge-making and critique. Violence Against Indigenous Women provides a foundation for reading this literature in the context of Indigenous feminist scholarship and activism and the ongoing intellectual history of Indigenous women’s resistance.

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Words of the Huron

Words of the Huron is an investigation into seventeenth-century Huron culture through a kind of linguistic archaeology of a language that died midway through the twentieth century.

John L. Steckley explores a range of topics, including: the construction of longhouses and wooden armour; the use of words for trees in village names; the social anthropological standards of kinship terms and clans; Huron conceptualizing of European-borne disease; the spirit realm of orenda; Huron nations and kinship groups; relationship to the environment; material culture; and the relationship between the French missionaries and settlers and the Huron people.

Steckley’s source material includes the first dictionary of any Aboriginal language, Recollect Brother Gabriel Sagard’s Huron phrasebook, published in 1632, and the sophisticated Jesuit missionary study of the language from the 1620s to the 1740s, beginning with the work of Father Jean de Brébeuf. The only book of its kind, Words of the Huron will spark discussion among scholars, students, and anyone interested in North American archaeology, Native studies, cultural anthropology, and seventeenth-century North American history.

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