RAVEN’s 10 Recommended Indigenous Reads

Despite the stay-at-home orders and canceled holiday gatherings, this winter can be the perfect time to retreat inward, curl up by the fire with a hot cup of tea and a good book. Let the words, stories and visions of these incredible writers be a balm during these cold nights and challenging times. Special thanks to the CBC’s list of 35 Indigenous-authored books that inspired this curated list.

  1. In My Own Moccasins by Helen Knott

Helen Knott is an amazing human. As part of her advocacy to protect the Peace River from Site C, she spearheaded the Justice for the Peace caravan that travelled across the country to raise awareness and funds for Indigenous legal challenges to halt that mega-dam. 

Hear Helen read from this memoir, and share other spoken word work, on RAVEN’s “Outspoken” webinar.

From the University of Regina website: “Helen is a poet and writer of Dane Zaa, Nehiyaw and European descent. Her memoir, In My Own Moccasins, is an unflinching account of addiction, intergenerational trauma, and the wounds brought on by sexual violence. It is also the story of sisterhood, the power of ceremony, the love of family, and the possibility of redemption.

With gripping moments of withdrawal, times of spiritual awareness, and historical insights going back to the signing of Treaty 8 by her great-great grandfather, Chief Bigfoot, her journey exposes the legacy of colonialism, while reclaiming her spirit.  In My Own Moccasins is on the 2020 RBC Taylor Prize longlist.” 

  1. Raven Reads

Residential schools operated throughout Canada for over a century, with the last one closing its doors in 1996. Over 150,000 Indigenous children were impacted by these schools. A fundamental premise and focus of RAVEN is to support a pathway forward for meaningful reconciliation. One tenet of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee report was to foster dialogue on the harms of residential school and create space for truth and learning. Raven Reads is a unique subscription book delivery service; the concept was born from a desire to educate others about the devastating impact residential schools had on Indigenous people in Canada. 

From Raven Reads: “In 2015, shortly after the TRC released its final report, Raven Reads founder Nicole McLaren started a book club. The book club was a gathering place to not only share incredible books but to open a dialogue as well. To bring this experience to a wider audience, Raven Reads was born. It has been designed as a safe space for you to learn about other cultures, about history and to discover beautifully crafted products made by Indigenous entrepreneurs from around the globe.” 

Support this incredible initiative and enjoy their curated collection of informative reads.

  1. As We Have Always Done by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, award winning author, uplifts Indigenous ways of knowing in this powerful book. Simpson inspires ways to revitalize Indigenous epistemology, sovereignty and relations in the everyday; a powerful framework to further expand our collective understanding of what Indigenous rights and sovereignty 

From University of Minnesota Press: “Leanne Betasamosake Simpson locates Indigenous political resurgence as a practice rooted in uniquely Indigenous theorizing, writing, organizing, and thinking. She makes clear that the goal of Indigenous resistance can no longer be cultural resurgence as a mechanism for inclusion in a multicultural mosaic, calling for unapologetic, place-based Indigenous alternatives to the destructive logics of the settler colonial state.”

  1. Bone Black by Carol Rose GoldenEagle

GoldenEagle’s novel portrays the resilience and tenacity of Indigenous women seeking justice for missing and murdered Indigenous womxn. It is a powerful literary parallel to the legal fight led by the Wet’suwet’en,  supported by RAVEN, which seeks a Judicial Review of a project extension for Coastal Gas Link’s pipeline. The case links the recent findings of the Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls to harms caused by extractive industries, and “man camps”leading to increased violence against Indigenous women. 

From CBC Books: “The Cree/Dene writer and journalist Carol Rose GoldenEagle on her thriller Bone Black, about an Indigenous woman who takes justice into her own hands when the system fails her. There are too many stories about Indigenous women who go missing or are murdered, and it doesn’t seem as though official sources such as the government, police or the courts respond in a way that works toward finding justice or even solutions. At least that is the way Wren StrongEagle sees it.”

  1. Otter’s Journey by Lindsay Borrows: 

Lindsay Borrows, member of the Chippewas of Nawash First Nation, is currently a lawyer at West Coast Environmental Law where she works on the RELAW (Revitalizing Indigenous Laws for Land, Air and Water) Project. Borrows launched her incredible book Otter’s Journey as a RAVEN fundraiser in 2018. 

From UBC Press: “Her community of story-tellers raised her to embrace the Anishinaabe concept of mino-bimaadziwin, ‘the way of a good life’. Her love for the land, water and story-telling inspired her to explore law as a way to strengthen relationships between humans and non-humans in the spaces we call home. In Otter’s Journey, Borrows employs the Anishinaabe tradition of storytelling to explore how Indigenous language revitalization can inform the emerging field of Indigenous legal revitalization. She follows Otter, a dodem (clan) relation from the Chippewas of Nawash First Nation, on a journey across Anishinaabe, Inuit, Māori, Coast Salish, and Abenaki territories, through a narrative of Indigenous resurgence. In doing so she reveals that the processes, philosophies, and practices flowing from Indigenous languages and laws can emerge from under the layers of colonial laws, policies, and languages to become guiding principles in people’s contemporary lives.”

  1. One Drum by Richard Wagamese

The Seven Grandfather Teachings in this beautiful book by Richard Wagamese draw powerful parallels to the values, insights and community teachings. That wisdom not only guides this committed RAVEN community to continue showing up as allies for Indigenous rights, but also underlie the foundational principles of the Indigenous communities we partner with inpursuit of justice.  

From CBC Books: “One Drum is a collection of stories and ceremonies inspired by the foundational teachings of Ojibway tradition. The Seven Grandfather Teachings are humility, courage, honesty, wisdom, truth, respect and love. One Drum will focus on the lessons of humility, respect and courage and will feature four ceremonies that anyone can do.”

  1. Carpe Fin by Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas

On October 13, 2016, the tug Nathan E. Stewart ran aground in Seaforth Channel in Heiltsuk territory, spilling over 110,000 litres of diesel oil at the mouth of Gale Creek. The spill contaminated  the waters adjacent to an ancient Heiltsuk village site and Heiltsuk marine harvesting area. Now, with assistance from RAVEN, the Heiltsuk are taking legal action. Their case seeks to challenge the constitutionality of Canada’s oil spill response and would set a powerful precedent in establishing Heiltsuk Aboriginal title to surrounding lands and waters. This book offers a fictionalized version of a similar disaster and gives insight into the struggles that come in the wake of marine spills. 

From CBC Books: “Set in the near future, Carpe Fin begins as a community grapples with a fuel spill that destroys the marine foods they planned to harvest. With food supplies diminishing, a group of hunters embark on a late season sea lion expedition. An unexpected storm forces the group to abandon a hunter named Carpe on a rock, where he faces an angry Lord of the Rock.”

  1. Peace and Good Order by Harold R. Johnson

Johnson’s book provides a critical analysis of Canada’s justice system,  its role to support Indigenous rights, and the ways in which the system is failing. It provides  important context for understanding the multitude of systemic challenges Indigenous communities are up against when they make the courageous decision to pursue legal action to defend their rights, protect their lands and way of life for future generations. 

From CBC Books: “Harold R. Johnson is a former prosecutor and the author of several books. His nonfiction work Firewater: How Alcohol Is Killing My People (and Yours) was a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award for nonfiction. In his latest, Peace and Good Order, Johnson makes the case that Canada is failing to fulfil its legal duty to deliver justice to Indigenous people. In fact, he argues, Canada is making the situation worse and creating even more long-term damage to Indigenous communities.”

  1. 77 Fragments of a Familiar Ruin by Thomas King

With captivating poetry, Thomas King conducts a eulogy for the ideology of individualism and colonialism that has impacted lands, waters and Indigenous Peoples. RAVEN’s incredible community of supporters have creatively sought to dismantle these destructive forces through the power of joy, the arts and community. King’s latest book articulates the ideological forces we all navigate together, while setting forth reflections on how to continue this journey for justice and repair in a good way.

From CBC Books: “Thomas King, the award-winning writer of fiction and non-fiction, turns his hand to poetry in his latest book, 77 Fragments of a Familiar Ruin. Seventy-seven poems intended as a eulogy for what we have squandered, a reprimand for all we have allowed, a suggestion for what might still be salvaged, a poetic quarrel with our intolerant and greedy selves, a reflection on mortality and longing, as well as a long-running conversation with the mythological currents that flow throughout North America.”

  1.  Law’s Indigenous Ethics by Dr. John Borrows 

Dr. John Borrows, RAVEN legal advisory panel member, is Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Law at the University of Victoria Law School. Borrows is Anishinaabe/Ojibway and a member of the Chippewa of the Nawash First Nation in Ontario, Canada.​​​ 

He recently joined RAVEN Executive Director, Susan Smitten, for a webinar on his promising work in revitalizing Indigenous legal traditions through the Joint Law Degree program at the University of Victoria. 

From University of Toronto Press: “Law’s Indigenous Ethics examines the revitalization of Indigenous peoples’ relationship to their own laws and, in so doing, attempts to enrich Canadian constitutional law more generally. Organized around the seven Anishinaabe grandmother and grandfather teachings of love, truth, bravery, humility, wisdom, honesty, and respect, this book explores ethics in relation to Aboriginal issues including title, treaties, legal education, and residential schools.”

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