- The Homing Place: Indigenous and Settler Legacies of the Atlantic by Rachel Bryant
Rachel Bryant's The Homing Place: Indigenous and Settler Legacies of the Atlantic (engages with a wide selection of texts from the Atlantic region to highlight the way in which settler colonialism has created barriers between Western and Indigenous knowledge systems, allowing "non-Indigenous Maritime writers and readers [to] effectively and continuously [claim] and [imagine] this region, to which they are relative newcomers, as their own intellectual property." The Homing Place moves between early settler accounts of North America, Wabanaki wampum belts, the poetry of Rita Joe, and Douglas Glover's Elle, providing a close analysis of texts that have not previously received a great deal of critical attention and are not often considered alongside one another. In advocating for a different method of reading these texts and acknowledging the way in which concepts such as "Canadian exceptionalism" deny legitimacy and authority to Indigenous ways of knowing, this book provides a fresh perspective on the literary history of the Atlantic region. Bryant takes great pains to explore her position as a settler scholar and reader and spends much of the book dwelling on the implications of analyzing and writing this material from such a standpoint. Consider, for example, the following passage: "As a Settler Canadian, I don't have to truly listen to a voice if that voice is somehow mine, and once I have claimed a voice as mine, I have effectively steeled myself against the power of that voice to challenge, affect, or change me." For Bryant, the act of "selectively assimilating other Indigenous authors – poets, playwrights, and novelists, for example – into a proud narrative of Canadian multiculturalism" amounts to what Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang call "a settler move to innocence." In addition to exploring her own subject position, Bryant points out that this book appears in a context in which government officials in Canada have done a lot of talking about improving relations with Indigenous communities while, at the same time, managing to avoid making meaningful structural changes: "We make small gestures and cosmetic changes in the spirit of 'reconciliation' or of 'indigenizing the academy,' but these gestures themselves cannot transform Canadian power relations or the structures by which they are upheld." Scholars of Atlantic Canadian literature will appreciate Bryant calling attention to a powerful way of reimagining the geography of the region and situating Gwendolyn Davies's [End Page 115] iconic critical concept of "the home place" and stereotypes about the pull of "home" for Maritimers in a broader project of settler authentication. While the focus of the study is the region's cultural history, Bryant traces the impact of the Western knowledge system from early captivity narratives to the public discourse that portrayed land defenders at Elsipogtog in 2013 as "domestic terrorists." In contextualizing careful readings of these texts in the current political and ideological moment, The Homing Place is a valuable and timely contribution to the study of the literature of northeastern North America.
School of Indigenous and Canadian Studies, Carleton University