Warning: This post will mention disturbing subject matter related to residential schools.
Today marks the beginning of National Indigenous History Month, an annual occurrence in Canada every June since 2009.
This month and others like Black History Month, Pride (also every June), and Asian-American Pacific Islander Heritage Month (which is every May), are important benchmarks to honour, respect, and learn from the breadth of art and knowledge from historically and currently socially persecuted groups.
You may have seen the news this past week of the uncovering of an unfathomable number of children found in a mass grave at one of the biggest former residential schools in Canada in Kamloops, B.C. The collective and multi-layered trauma of this, and the ongoing nature of how Indigenous peoples have been and continue to be harmed by this country’s systems and institutions is beyond devastating.
These children, like all children, deserved safety, health, happiness, to live with and learn from their families, and the ability to simply grow up, and that was taken from them. It was and is horrific to face these realities, but non-Indigenous Canadians cannot turn away and ignore this.
So, what can one person do in the face of such atrocities? Anything you can. Libraries like WPL are sources of so much knowledge, resources, and ability to connect with one another even when we’re distanced like we have been for the past year.
We read to escape, to be entertained, and to learn, and I think including Indigenous authors in your homes, classrooms, book clubs, or wherever you are can have a massive impact on all of our lives. Thomas King has a fantastic Massey Lecture on this, The Truth About Stories : a Native narrative, which was incredibly eye-opening for me.
Reading, watching, and engaging with characters or people’s real experiences much different than our own is essential to foster empathy and understanding. More importantly, it’s imperative for children and adults to see themselves represented in stories because it is so influential in how we fit into and understand the world around us.
WPL also has multiple copies of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s six volumes of reports, as well as a book that summarizes the report and includes all 94 recommendations the commission created as calls for action towards meaningful reconciliation after the still present impacts of residential schools.
In my library technician studies, one of my professors shared in a lecture that “libraries serve as memory institutions”. And how wonderful and essential that is. WPL has so many incredible books and materials by Indigenous authors for all ages, and while it is crucial to learn and face the horrors and continued oppression Indigenous people face, it is equally important for non-Indigenous Canadians to read and watch Indigenous work of all subject matters.
Looking to read more Indigenous authors? Here’s a few of my favourites, for all tastes and ages. Check them out! You can also still order Book Bundles for kids and adults for curbside pickup at all of our locations and request Indigenous authors for any taste or subject!
— Jackie M.
We Sang You Home by Richard Van Camp (0-3 year olds)
Sweetest Kulu by Celina Kalluk (0-3 year olds)
On the Trapline by David A. Roberston (4-8 year olds)
When We Were Alone by David A. Roberston (4-8 year olds)
Nibi’s Water Song by Sunshine Tenasco (4-8 year olds)
Sometimes I Feel Like A Fox by Danielle Daniel (4-8 year olds)
Stolen Words by Melanie Florence (4-8 year olds)
Magical Beings of the Haida Gwaii by Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson (4-8 year olds)
Speaking Our Truth : a journey of reconciliation by Monique Gray Smith (ages 9-12)
The Case of Windy Lake by Michael Hutchinson (ages 9-12)
The Barren Grounds by David A. Robertson (ages 9-12)
The Ghost Collector by Allison Mills (ages 9-12)
Fatty legs : a true story by Christy Jordan-Fenton & Margaret Pokiak-Fenton (ages 9-12)
Coyote Tales by Thomas King (ages 9-12)
What the Eagle Sees : Indigenous stories of rebellion and renewal by Eldon Yellowhorn & Kathy Lowinger (12 years and up)
This Place : 150 years foretold by Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm and many others (12 years and up)
Surviving the City by Tasha Spillet (12 years and up)
Fire Song by Adam Garnet Jones (12 years and up)
Braiding Sweetgrass : Indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge, and the teachings of plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer
There’s Something in the Water : environmental racism in Indigenous and Black communities by Ingrid R.G. Waldron (NOTE: there is an amazing documentary adaptation of this book on Netflix)
A History of My Brief Body by Billy-Ray Belcourt
A Mind Spread Out On the Ground by Alicia Elliot
Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot
Seven Fallen Feathers by Tanya Talaga
Indigenous Writes edited by Chelsea Vowel
Unikkaaqtuat : an introduction to traditional Inuit myths and legends edited by Neil Christopher, Noel McDermott, Louise Flaherty
Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson
Kiss of the Fur Queen by Tomson Highway
Nobody Cries at Bingo by Dawn Dumont
This Accident of Being Lost by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson
Jonny Appleseed by Joshua Whitehead
There, There by Tommy Orange
Split Tooth by by Tanya Tagaq
Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubeshig Rice
Sanaaq : an Inuit novel by Mitiarjuk Nappaaluk (eBook)
When My Brother Was An Aztec by Natalie Diaz
When the Light of the World was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through : a Norton anthology of Native nations poetry edited by Joy Harjo and many others
Nature Poem by Tommy Pico (eBook)
NDN Coping Mechanisms by Billy-Ray Belcourt
Disintegrate/Dissociate by Arielle Twist
Adult Graphic Novels
The 500 Years of Resistance Comic Book by Gord Hill
Wendy, Master of Art by Walter Scott
Red: A Haida Manga by Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas
Movies & Documentaries
(Photo: Six Nations of the Grand River Territory and the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation)