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Reviewed by:
  • Racism, Colonialism, and Indigeneity in Canada: A Reader ed. by Martin J. Cannon and Lina Sunseri
  • John W. Friesen
Martin J. Cannon and Lina Sunseri, eds. Racism, Colonialism, and Indigeneity in Canada: A Reader. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 2011. 352 pp. Glossary. Bibliography. $83.95 sc.

Anyone who authors a book knows the amount of work that such an undertaking requires, particularly one that contains 27 chapters, written by nearly as many contributors. While the publication of edited textbooks usually occurs in the emerging stages of a discipline, a book of this kind is justified since it targets a very specific topic within the realm of Aboriginal studies in Canada; hence the title, Racism, Colonialism, and Indigeneity in Canada. [End Page 152]

First Nations in Canada have long been victims of a multiplicity of unfair practices involving all sectors of society—education, justice, and socioeconomic concerns—to say nothing about everyday sufferings from racism, discrimination, and prejudice. The editors have arranged the documentation of these unfortunate happenings in nine major parts of the book, each containing three essays by different writers. The nine parts are: theoretical foundations; nation-building and the deeply racialized other; race, space, and territoriality; racialization, sexism, and Indigenous identities; family, belonging, and displacement; Indigenous rights, citizenship, and nationalism; decolonizing Indigenous education; poverty, economic marginality, and community development; and violence and the construction of criminality. According to the introduction, the objective of the book is “to explore the way colonial injustices have worked together to shape our experiences as Indigenous peoples and in the making of settler colonial relations” (xiii). This sets the stage for readers to expect a menu of criticisms, regret, and even antagonism. They will not be disappointed. The book’s stance of counterattack may be illustrated by such statements as this, made by Taiaiake Alfred and Jeff Corntassel: “As Indigenous peoples, the way to recover freedom and power and happiness is clear: it is time for each one of us to make the commitment to transcend colonialism as people, and for us to work together as peoples to become forces of Indigenous truth against the lie of colonialism” (144).

As an educator, I was naturally drawn to part seven on decolonization, which contains three essays on Micmac literacy and assimilation (Marie Battiste), four centuries of church-run schooling (Suzanne Fournier and Ernie Crey), and examining culture theory (Verna St. Denis). All three of these articles adopt an antithetical stance, correctly identifying the ills that Canada’s Eurocentric educational systems have wrought against the children of Canada’s First Nations. These writers seem to place hope for a better future in placing responsibility for maintenance of the Micmac language in the hands of local communities, relying on other than antiracist techniques for improving public education, and dismantling the conclusions of traditional educational anthropological theorists. As is the case with other essays in the book, these articles comprise informed factual documentation, delivered in forthright academic language.

Like all books of readings, this book suffers from an uneasy flow, a lack of continuity, and diversity in writing style. It should therefore properly be viewed as a library-like resource to be consulted when one is looking for a specific opinion piece related to injustices affecting the Indigenous community.

There is always hope that the various writers will soon plan a second volume that will elucidate effective procedures (even solutions) by which to eliminate the ills they have identified in this book. [End Page 153]

John W. Friesen
Faculty of Education, University of Calgary


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