National Indigenous Peoples Day Booklist 2024

Written by Mohammad Alnatour

National Indigenous Peoples Day, celebrated on June 21st each year, stands as a tribute to the rich cultures, histories, and contributions of Canada’s First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples. Originally established as National Aboriginal Day in 1996, this commemoration holds deep significance, aligning with the summer solstice—a time revered by many Indigenous communities. Over the years, the day’s name evolved to National Indigenous Peoples Day, symbolizing a broader recognition and respect for Indigenous heritage. Though not a statutory holiday nationwide, it holds official status in the Northwest Territories since 2001 and Yukon since 2017, with widespread recognition and celebration across the country. As part of National Indigenous History Month, June serves as an opportunity for all Canadians to honor the enduring legacies and resilience of Indigenous Peoples, fostering understanding and solidarity on the journey toward reconciliation.

Below, you will find a selection of recommended reads to know more about the struggle and the resilience of Indigenous Peoples.

Taken from their families when they are very small and sent to a remote, church-run residential school, Kenny, Lucy, Clara, Howie and Maisie are barely out of childhood when they are finally released after years of detention. Alone and without any skills, support or families, the teens find their way to the seedy and foreign world of Downtown Eastside Vancouver, where they cling together, striving to find a place of safety and belonging in a world that doesn’t want them. The paths of the five friends cross and crisscross over the decades as they struggle to overcome, or at least forget, the trauma they endured during their years at the Mission. Fuelled by rage and furious with God, Clara finds her way into the dangerous, highly charged world of the American Indian Movement. Maisie internalizes her pain and continually places herself in dangerous situations. Famous for his daring escapes from the school, Kenny can’t stop running and moves restlessly from job to job – through fishing grounds, orchards and logging camps – trying to outrun his memories and his addiction. Lucy finds peace in motherhood and nurtures a secret compulsive disorder as she waits for Kenny to return to the life they once hoped to share together. After almost beating one of his tormentors to death, Howie serves time in prison, then tries once again to re-enter society and begin life anew. With compassion and insight, Five Little Indians chronicles the desperate quest of these residential school survivors to come to terms with their past and, ultimately, find a way forward.

This new edition of Clearing the Plains has a forward by Pulitzer Prize winning author, Elizabeth Fenn, and explanations of the book’s influence by leading Canadian historians. Called “one of the most important books of the twenty-first century” by the Literary Review of Canada, it was named a “Book of the Year” by The Globe and Mail, Quill & Quire, the Writers’ Trust, and won the Sir John A. Macdonald Prize, among many others.

  • Seeing Red by Mark Cronlund Anderson & Carmen L. Robertson

The authors (professors of history and art history at the U. of Regina, Canada) conduct a discourse analysis of how Canada’s Indigenous peoples have been portrayed in Canadian newspapers from the sale of Hudson’s Bay Company lands to Canada in 1869 through to 2009, arguing that the newspapers have been and continue to be steered by the colonial imagery with respect to Canada’s Indigenous. They support this argument through examinations of how Indigenous Canadians were represented in newspaper accounts of colonial land sales, the resistance struggles of Metis leader Louis Riel, the 1913 death of Canadian Native poet Pauline Johnson, native contributions to World War II, a 1974 Aboriginal protest occupation of a park in the Ontario town of Kenora, and Bill C-31 of 1985 (which amended the Indian Act by barring certain discriminatory practices).

Distorted Descent examines a social phenomenon that has taken off in the twenty-first century: otherwise white, French descendant settlers in Canada shifting into a self-defined “Indigenous” identity. This study is not about individuals who have been dispossessed by colonial policies, or the multi-generational efforts to reconnect that occur in response. Rather, it is about white, French-descendant people discovering an Indigenous ancestor born 300 to 375 years ago through genealogy and using that ancestor as the sole basis for an eventual shift into an “Indigenous” identity today. After setting out the most common genealogical practices that facilitate race shifting, Leroux examines two of the most prominent self-identified “Indigenous” organizations currently operating in Quebec. Both organizations have their origins in committed opposition to Indigenous land and territorial negotiations, and both encourage the use of suspect genealogical practices. Distorted Descent brings to light to how these claims to an “Indigenous” identity are then used politically to oppose actual, living Indigenous peoples, exposing along the way the shifting politics of whiteness, white settler colonialism, and white supremacy.

Between 1849 and 1930, schooling in what is now British Columbia supported the development of a capitalist settler society. Lessons in Legitimacy examines government-assisted schooling for Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples – public schools, Indian Day Schools, and Indian Residential Schools – in one analytical frame. Sean Carleton demonstrates how church and state officials administered different school systems that trained Indigenous and settler children and youth to take up and accept unequal roles in the emerging social order. This important study reveals how an understanding of the historical uses of schooling can inform contemporary discussions about the role of education in reconciliation and improving Indigenous-settler relations.

Prison of Grass graphically and convincingly demonstrates the truth of Canada’s colonization as seen by its native people. Born a Metis (descendant of both white and native parents), Howard Adams describes with deep emotion his personal feelings as he grew to understand what our society has done to his people, his family, himself. This book will shock you because it will destroy many of the myths with which Canadians have been nurtured. But it will convince you with the power of truth and give both natives and whites some hope for redress.

As a Gitxsan teenager navigating life on the streets, Angela Sterritt wrote in her journal to help her survive and find her place in the world. Now an acclaimed journalist, she writes for major news outlets to push for justice and to light a path for Indigenous women, girls, and survivors. In her brilliant debut, Sterritt shares her memoir alongside investigative reporting into cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada, showing how colonialism and racism led to a society where Sterritt struggled to survive as a young person, and where the lives of Indigenous women and girls are ignored and devalued. ‘She could have been me,’ Sterritt acknowledges today, and her empathy for victims, survivors, and families drives her present-day investigations into the lives of missing and murdered Indigenous women. In the end, Sterritt steps into a place of power, demanding accountability from the media and the public, exposing racism, and showing that there is much work to do on the path towards understanding the truth. But most importantly, she proves that the strength and brilliance of Indigenous women is unbroken, and that together, they can build lives of joy and abundance.

Privileging Indigenous voices and experiences, Intimate Integration documents the rise and fall of North American transracial adoption projects, including the Adopt Indian and Métis Project and the Indian Adoption Project. The author argues that the integration of adopted Indian and Métis children mirrored the new direction in post-war Indian policy and welfare services. She illustrates how the removal of Indigenous children from Indigenous families and communities took on increasing political and social urgency, contributing to what we now call the “Sixties Scoop.” Intimate Integration utilizes an Indigenous gender analysis to identify the gendered operation of the federal Indian Act and its contribution to Indigenous child removal, over-representation in provincial child welfare systems, and transracial adoption. Specifically, women and children’s involuntary enfranchisement through marriage, as laid out in the Indian Act, undermined Indigenous gender and kinship relationships. Making profound contributions to the history of settler-colonialism in Canada, Intimate Integration sheds light on the complex reasons behind persistent social inequalities in child welfare.

An explosive examination of the missing and murdered Indigenous women of Highway 16, and a searing indictment of the society that failed them. For decades, women–overwhelmingly from Indigenous backgrounds–have gone missing or been found murdered along an isolated stretch of highway in northwestern B.C. The highway is called the Highway of Tears by locals, and it has come to symbolize a national crisis. In Highway of Tears, Jessica McDiarmid meticulously explores the effect these tragedies have had on communities in the region, and how systemic racism and indifference towards Indigenous lives have created a culture of “over-policing and under-protection,” simultaneously hampering justice while endangering young Indigenous women. Highway of Tears will offer an intimate, first-hand look at the communities along Highway 16 and the families of the victims, as well as examine the historically fraught social and cultural tensions between settler and Indigenous peoples that underlie life in the region. Finally, it will link these cases with others found across Canada–estimated to number over 1,200–contextualizing them within a broader examination of the undervaluing of Indigenous lives in the country and of our ongoing failure to provide justice for the missing and murdered.

For four hundred years – from the first Spanish assaults against the Arawak people of Hispaniola in the 1490s to the U.S. Army’s massacre of Sioux Indians at Wounded Knee in the 1890s – the Indigenous inhabitants of North and South America endured an unending firestorm of violence. During that time the native population of the Western Hemisphere declined by as many as one hundred million people. Indeed, as historian David E. Stannard argues in this stunning new book, the European and white American destruction of the native peoples of the Americas was the most massive act of genocide in the history of the world. Stannard begins with a portrait of the enormous richness and diversity of life in the Americas prior to Columbus’s fateful voyage in 1492. He then follows the path of genocide from the Indies to Mexico and Central and South America, then north to Florida, Virginia, and New England, and finally out across the Great Plains and Southwest to California and the North Pacific Coast. Stannard reveals that wherever Europeans or white Americans went, the native people were caught between imported plagues and barbarous atrocities, typically resulting in the annihilation of 95 percent of their populations. What kind of people, he asks, do such horrendous things to others? His highly provocative answer: Christians. Digging deeply into ancient European and Christian attitudes toward sex, race, and war, he finds the cultural ground well prepared by the end of the Middle Ages for the centuries-long genocide campaign that Europeans and their descendants launched – and in places continue to wage – against the New World’s original inhabitants. Advancing a thesis that is sure to create much controversy, Stannard contends that the perpetrators of the American Holocaust drew on the same ideological wellspring as did the later architects of the Nazi Holocaust. It is an ideology that remains dangerously alive today, he adds, and one that in recent years has surfaced in American justifications for large-scale military intervention in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. At once sweeping in scope and meticulously detailed, American Holocaust is a work of impassioned scholarship that is certain to ignite intense historical and moral debate.

Surviving Canada: Indigenous Peoples Celebrate 150 Years of Betrayal is a collection of elegant, thoughtful, and powerful reflections about Indigenous Peoples’ complicated, and often frustrating, relationship with Canada, and how-even 150 years after Confederation-the fight for recognition of their treaty and Aboriginal rights continues. Through essays, art, and literature, Surviving Canada examines the struggle for Indigenous Peoples to celebrate their cultures and exercise their right to control their own economic development, lands, water, and lives. The Indian Act, Idle No More, and the legacy of residential schools are just a few of the topics covered by a wide range of elders, scholars, artists, and activists. Contributors include Mary Eberts, Buffy Sainte-Marie, and Leroy Little Bear.

Welcome Congress to the Humanities and Social Sciences Library!

Written by Mohammad Alnatour

We are delighted to welcome the participants of Congress 2024 to the Humanities and Social Sciences Library at McGill University. This year’s Congress, running from June 12 to June 21, 2024, marks a special occasion as it returns to Montreal and McGill University, a leading research institution renowned for its academic excellence and vibrant scholarly community.

Congress is Canada’s largest gathering of academics, and perhaps one of the largest in the world. It fosters a hub that offers space for critical conversations, diverse set of voices, up-to-date findings, refined ideas, and partnerships for a better future.

The theme for this year’s Congress, “Sustaining Shared Futures,” resonates deeply with the mission of our library, which strives to support interdisciplinary research and foster an inclusive environment for knowledge exchange. As you explore critical issues around sustainability, equity, diversity, inclusion, and reconciliation, we hope our library will serve as a hub for your activities.

Welcome to McGill University! We look forward to being a part of your Congress 2024 experience.

For more information about our library services and resources, please visit our website.

Fore more information about the event and the programming schedule, please visit the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences website.