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Henderson's #Indigenous Reads

September 30, 2021

Henderson's #Indigenous Reads

In June 2021, we shared a list of Indigenous literature presented by the #IndigenousReads campaign. Today, we want to share a more personal list of recommendations - a list of #IndigenousReads that our Henderson family have recently read - books that we enjoyed, learned from and/or were moved by.  

 

We must not only celebrate and learn from Indigenous culture, but also listen and reflect on this history, the impacts, and what needs to change. 

We recognize that the land we brew on is the traditional territory of many nations, including the Mississauga's of the Credit, the Anishnabek, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat Peoples.  

While Henderson Brewing has chosen to recognize Truth and Reconciliation Day as if it were a Statutory Holiday, we encourage everyone to bring these issues to light and reflect not just today, but everyday. 

 

Please see our list of recommendations below: 

 

1.  Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death, and Hard Truths in a Northern City

By Tanya Talaga 

"Over the span of eleven years, seven Indigenous high school students died in Thunder Bay, Ontario. They were hundreds of kilometres away from their families, forced to leave home because there was no adequate high school on their reserves. Five were found dead in the rivers surrounding Lake Superior, below a sacred Indigenous site. Using a sweeping narrative focusing on the lives of the students, award-winning author Tanya Talaga delves into the history of this northern city that has come to manifest Canada’s long struggle with human rights violations against Indigenous communities." 

Where to get it: 

 

2.  The Back of the Turtle 

By Thomas King

"When Gabriel Quinn, a brilliant scientist, abandons his laboratory and returns to Smoke River Reserve, where his mother and sister lived, he finds that almost everyone in the community has disappeared. Even the sea turtles are gone, poisoned by an environmental disaster known as The Ruin.

The fact is, Gabriel was the chief architect of the disaster and he has come to Smoke River to witness the destruction he created and to drown himself in the sea. But as he prepares to let the water take him, he sees a young girl in the waves. Plunging in, he saves her and is soon saving others. Who are these people, with their long black hair and almond eyes, who seem to have fallen from the sky?" 

Where to get it: 

 

3.  The Break

By. Katherena Vermette 

"When Stella, a young Métis mother, looks out her window one evening and spots someone in trouble on the Break — a barren field on an isolated strip of land outside her house — she calls the police to alert them to a possible crime.

In a series of shifting narratives, people who are connected, both directly and indirectly, with the victim — police, family, and friends — tell their personal stories leading up to that fateful night. Lou, a social worker, grapples with the departure of her live-in boyfriend. Cheryl, an artist, mourns the premature death of her sister Rain. Paulina, a single mother, struggles to trust her new partner. Phoenix, a homeless teenager, is released from a youth detention centre. Officer Scott, a Métis policeman, feels caught between two worlds as he patrols the city. Through their various perspectives a larger, more comprehensive story about lives of the residents in Winnipeg’s North End is exposed."

Where to get it: 

 

4.  There There

By Tommy Orange

"Here is a story of several people, each of whom has private reasons for travelling to the Big Oakland Powwow. Jacquie Red Feather is newly sober and trying to make it back to the family she left behind in shame. Dene Oxendene is pulling his life together after his uncle's death and has come to work at the powwow to honour his uncle's memory. Opal Viola Victoria Bear Shield has come to watch her nephew Orvil Red Feather, who has taught himself traditional Indian dance through YouTube videos and has come to the powwow to dance in public for the very first time. There will be glorious communion, and a spectacle of sacred tradition and pageantry. And there will be sacrifice, and heroism, and unspeakable loss."

Where to get it: 

 

5. The Reason You Walk

By Wab Kinew 

"When his father was given a diagnosis of terminal cancer, Winnipeg broadcaster and musician Wab Kinew decided to spend a year reconnecting with the accomplished but distant aboriginal man who''d raised him. The Reason You Walk spans the year 2012, chronicling painful moments in the past and celebrating renewed hopes and dreams for the future. As Kinew revisits his own childhood in Winnipeg and on a reserve in Northern Ontario, he learns more about his father''s traumatic childhood at residential school. An intriguing doubleness marks The Reason You Walk, a reference to an Anishinaabe ceremonial song. Born to an Anishinaabe father and a non-native mother, he has a foot in both cultures. He is a Sundancer, an academic, a former rapper, a hereditary chief, and an urban activist. His father, Tobasonakwut, was both a beloved traditional chief and a respected elected leader who engaged directly with Ottawa. Internally divided, his father embraced both traditional native religion and Catholicism, the religion that was inculcated into him at the residential school where he was physically and sexually abused. In a grand gesture of reconciliation, Kinew''s father invited the Roman Catholic bishop of Winnipeg to a Sundance ceremony in which he adopted him as his brother. Kinew writes affectingly of his own struggles in his twenties to find the right path, eventually giving up a self-destructive lifestyle to passionately pursue music and martial arts. From his unique vantage point, he offers an inside view of what it means to be an educated aboriginal living in a country that is just beginning to wake up to its aboriginal history and living presence." 

Where to get it: 

 

6.  Five Little Indians 

By: Michelle Good 

"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. "

Where to get it: 

 

7.  Stolen Words

By: Melanie Florence 

"The story of the beautiful relationship between a little girl and her grandfather. When she asks her grandfather how to say something in his language – Cree – he admits that his language was stolen from him when he was a boy. The little girl then sets out to help her grandfather find his language again. This sensitive and warmly illustrated picture book explores the intergenerational impact of the residential school system that separated young Indigenous children from their families. The story recognizes the pain of those whose culture and language were taken from them, how that pain is passed down, and how healing can also be shared." 

Where to get it: 

 

8. From the Ashes

By Jesse Thistle

"Abandoned by his parents as a toddler, Jesse Thistle briefly found himself in the foster-care system with his two brothers, cut off from all they had known. Eventually the children landed in the home of their paternal grandparents, whose tough-love attitudes quickly resulted in conflicts. Throughout it all, the ghost of Jesse’s drug-addicted father haunted the halls of the house and the memories of every family member. Struggling with all that had happened, Jesse succumbed to a self-destructive cycle of drug and alcohol addiction and petty crime, spending more than a decade on and off the streets, often homeless. Finally, he realized he would die unless he turned his life around.


In this heartwarming and heart-wrenching memoir, Jesse Thistle writes honestly and fearlessly about his painful past, the abuse he endured, and how he uncovered the truth about his parents. Through sheer perseverance and education—and newfound love—he found his way back into the circle of his Indigenous culture and family."

Where to get it:

 

9. If I Go Missing

By: Brianna Jonnie

"Combining graphic fiction and non-fiction, this young adult graphic novel serves as a window into one of the unique dangers of being an Indigenous teen in Canada today. 

The text of the book is derived from excerpts of a letter written to the Winnipeg Chief of Police by fourteen-year-old Brianna Jonnie ― a letter that went viral and was also the basis of a documentary film. In her letter, Jonnie calls out the authorities for neglecting to immediately investigate missing Indigenous people and urges them to "not treat me as the Indigenous person I am proud to be," if she were to be reported missing.

Indigenous artist Neal Shannacappo provides the artwork for the book. Through his illustrations he imagines a situation in which a young Indigenous woman does disappear, portraying the reaction of her community, her friends, the police and media."

Where to get it: 

 

10. Monkey Beach 

By Eden Robinson

"Tragedy strikes a Native community when the Hill family’s handsome seventeen-year-old son, Jimmy, mysteriously vanishes at sea. Left behind to cope during the search-and-rescue effort is his sister, Lisamarie, a wayward teenager with a dark secret. She sets off alone in search of Jimmy through the Douglas Channel and heads for Monkey Beach—a shore famed for its sasquatch sightings. Infused by turns with darkness and humour, Monkey Beach is a spellbinding voyage into the long, cool shadows of B.C.’s Coast Mountains, blending teen culture, Haisla lore, nature spirits and human tenderness into a multi-layered story of loss and redemption."

Where to get it: 

 

11. Kiss of the Fur Queen

By: Tomson Highway

"Born into a magical Cree world in snowy northern Manitoba, Champion and Ooneemeetoo Okimasis are all too soon torn from their family and thrust into the hostile world of a Catholic residential school. Their language is forbidden, their names are changed to Jeremiah and Gabriel, and both boys are abused by priests.


As young men, estranged from their own people and alienated from the culture imposed upon them, the Okimasis brothers fight to survive. Wherever they go, the Fur Queen--a wily, shape-shifting trickster--watches over them with a protective eye. For Jeremiah and Gabriel are destined to be artists. Through music and dance they soar."

Where to get it: 

 

12.  Braiding Sweetgrass 

By Robin Wall Kimmerer

"Drawing on her life as an indigenous scientist, and as a woman, Kimmerer shows how other living beings—asters and goldenrod, strawberries and squash, salamanders, algae, and sweetgrass—offer us gifts and lessons, even if we've forgotten how to hear their voices. In reflections that range from the creation of Turtle Island to the forces that threaten its flourishing today, she circles toward a central argument: that the awakening of ecological consciousness requires the acknowledgmentand celebration of our reciprocal relationship with the rest of the living world. For only when we can hear the languages of other beings will we be capable of understanding the generosity of the earth, and learn to give our own gifts in return."

Where to get it: 

 

13. The Gift is in the Making: Anishinaabeg Stories 

Retold by Leanne Simpson

"The Gift Is in the Making retells previously published Anishinaabeg stories, bringing to life Anishinaabeg values and teachings to a new generation. Readers are immersed in a world where all genders are respected, the tiniest being has influence in the world, and unconditional love binds families and communities to each other and to their homeland. Sprinkled with gentle humour and the Anishinaabe language, this collection of stories speaks to children and adults alike, and reminds us of the timelessness of stories that touch the heart." 

Where to get it: 

 

14.  One Good Story, That One

By Thomas King

"There is much more than one good story in this bestselling (over 10,000 copies sold) collection of short fiction. In fact, there are more than a few of the best examples of native storytelling ever published. 

One Good Story, That One is steeped in native oral tradition, led off by a sly creation tale, introducing the traditional native trickster coyote. Weaving the realities of native history and contemporary life through the story, King recounts a parodic version of the Garden of Eden story, slyly pulling our leg and our funnybone." 

Where to get it: 

 

15. Inconvenient Indian 

By Thomas King 

"Rich with dark and light, pain and magic, The Inconvenient Indian distills the insights gleaned from Thomas King's critical and personal meditation on what it means to be "Indian" in North America, weaving the curiously circular tale of the relationship between non-Natives and Natives in the centuries since the two first encountered each other. In the process, King refashions old stories about historical events and figures, takes a sideways look at film and pop culture, relates his own complex experiences with activism, and articulates a deep and revolutionary understanding of the cumulative effects of ever-shifting laws and treaties on Native peoples and lands."

Where to get it: 

 

Have some recommendations for us?  Let us know what you've been reading in the comments! 


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