Keetsahnak/Our Missing and Murdered Indigenous Sisters ed. by Kim Anderson, Maria Campbell, and Christi Belcourt
Edited by Kim Anderson, Maria Campbell, and Christi Belcourt. Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 2018. xi + 338 pp. Contributors, index. $29.95, paper.
Keetsahnak is a thoughtful and compelling collection of individually written essays dealing with missing and murdered Indigenous women, particularly centered around efforts by the Canadian Walking With Our Sisters community action group. Beginning with the beautiful feminine beadwork example on a circular piece of leather depicted on the cover, the book is thoughtfully full of symbolism, emotion, and a determined resilience and strength. The book is put together by three editors who also contributed pieces to the collection. The book contains a useful prologue [End Page 107] and an introduction that provides background for the book, the community movement, and the phenomenon. There are also four sections in the body, and a forward-looking epilogue wraps up the collection. Each of the thirty-five contributors has a short biography at the end of the book, which shows the broad range of contributors from academicians, to activists, to artists, and more. The efforts at embracing diversity and inclusion—since everyone's story is important—is mirrored in the wide range of different tribal backgrounds and other affiliations. Each of the essays is united around the purpose of acknowledging and drawing attention to the problem of missing and murdered Indigenous (women) sisters.
The purpose of the collection of essays defies easy categorization as it is in part commemoration, honoring, ceremony, community, taking action, and a demonstration of caring. If one wishes to examine this international issue of concern on a personal level, wherein the subject is deeply internalized by many Indigenous women and then shared thoughtfully with the reader, this is a good book with which to do so. More than just creating an emotional understanding of this troubling issue, pointed critiques of genocide, racism, sexism, patriarchy, homophobia, colonialism, and violence are discussed as well. Stories of early prairie life and the challenges of interracial marriages and relationships might be of particular interest to readers familiar with the contemporary culture of the Great Plains.
Some readers may have difficulty with the essays not flowing smoothly from one to the next nor being neatly categorized by subtopic; for example, the immense harm of boarding schools or the critique of inadequate investigation when crime reports are filed. Instead the stories are presented on their own merit, flowing back and forth so the reader can identify oft-repeated familiar threads and not overlook the resilience, grace, and beauty among Indigenous women and their communities.
University of North Dakota