Okanagan

5 books to decolonize your mind this Thanksgiving

Books written by Indigenous authors that you should read.

As Autumn begins to inundate us, we enter the long weekend that is recognized nationally as Thanksgiving in Canada. 

While for many Thanksgiving is a time to come together with family (though that will be limited this year due to COVID-19), for some Thanksgiving evokes a darker history — it’s a reminder of Canada’s history of colonization and genocide that continues to impact Indigenous communities today.

That’s why this long weekend we want to share with you five books written by Indigenous authors.

These books cover everything from intergenerational trauma, to residential schools, Indigenous resistance, resurgence, medicinal plants, and healing. We welcome you to celebrate these authors who offer nuanced and multidimensional stories to open your mind to their raw, real, and important perspectives.

1. Warrior Life: Indigenous Resistance and Resurgence
By Pamela Palmater, Fernwood Publishing

Pamela Palmater is a Mi’kmaw lawyer and member of Eel River Bar First Nation. She is also an Associate professor and Chair in Indigenous Governance at Ryerson University, as well as a social justice activist and public speaker. She specializes in Indigenous law, politics, and governance. Her new book, Warrior Life: Indigenous Resistance and Resurgence, Palmater continues her anti-colonial and anti-racist work. She focuses on various topics such as the illegal arrest of land defenders, false promises, speaking up for Indigenous rights and the ongoing fight for decolonization. Her book will be released on October 15, 2020. You can preorder it here.

David Suzuki has reviewed Palmaters new book, he says: “In this moment of multiple existential crises from climate change to species extinction, ocean degradation, toxic pollution and so on, the Indigenous struggle to regain authority over land provides an opportunity to see our place in the world differently. To me, that is what Palmater’s fiery rhetoric is calling for, a chance to see the world through the lenses of different values.”

2. Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants: Hardcover Special Edition
By Robin Wall Kimmerer, Milkweed Editions

Author and botanist Robin Wall Kimmerer is a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation and is a New York Times Bestseller. Her book was originally published in 2013 and is being reissued this month as a new hardcover special edition with an updated introduction and new illustrations. In this book, she beautifully intertwines her knowledge as an Indigenous woman, with her life as an Indigenous scientist. According to her bio, “she embraces the notion that plants and animals are our oldest teachers.” This edition will be out on Oct. 13, 2020.

Author Elizabeth Gilbert has celebrated her book through her blog where she says, “Her book is beautiful, hopeful, generous and wise — filled with the science that she loves and the indigenous teachings of her Native American heritage…and deeply intimate as a mother’s story, as well.”

3. Land-Water-Sky / Ndè-Tı-Yat’a
By Katłįà, Fernwood Publishing

Dene author, and our fellow IndigiNews reporter, Katłįà is publishing her second book Land-Water-Sky / Ndè-Tı-Yat’a, a fiction novel that is set in Canada’s far north. Spirits, shapeshifters, and shadowy beasts she explores how the world would look if these Indigenous spiritual beings walked among us. She touches on spirituality, teachings, and traditional knowledge. She is also the author of her memoir Northern Wildflower. You can preorder her book here. Her book will be released on Oct. 15, 2020.

Author Monique Gray Smith says the book is a masterpiece: “Katłįà has created a masterpiece that brilliantly weaves intriguing characters, history, culture, love for the land, water and sky into a riveting and magnificent read.”

4. A Mind Spread Out on the Ground
By Alicia Elliott, Anchor Canada 

In this book, Haudenosaunee author Alicia Elliott takes us through the chapters of her life, interweaving the impacts of intergenerational trauma, colonization, and navigating her mother’s mental illness in her childhood. In the opening of the book, she explains through her teachings the meaning of the word, ‘depression,’ in Mohawk, which translates into, a mind spread out on the ground. Her book is a national bestseller and was named one of the best books in 2019 by The Globe and Mail, CBC, Chatelaine, Quill & Quire, The Hill Times, and Pop Matters. It was also shortlisted for the 2019 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for nonfiction. You can find her book here

“Elliott delivers that commentary in exceptional essays as arresting as her title…She tackles the vexed question of identity, both personal and political, powerfully linking larger questions of Indigenous life—from the residential school legacy to the loss of languages—to the unfolding of her own life,” reporter Brian Bethune wrote in Maclean’s magazine.

5. Heart Berries: A Memoir
By Terese Marie Mailhot, Doubleday Canada

Terese Marie Mailhot is from the Seabird Island Band in B.C. Her memoir Heart Berries was released in 2018 and became a New York Times bestseller. In the book, she shares about her experience growing with intergenerational trauma, which severely impacted her family, mental illness, and reconciliation. Her mother, an activist, and her father, a talented artist, struggled with alcohol which led to abuse. 

Her book has been recognized by numerous prestigious awards and accolades, including being a national bestseller, a New York Times bestseller, making the Canada Reads 2019 longlist, and being a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award for English-language nonfiction. Mailhot graduated with an MFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts and currently teaches at Purdue University.

“There are so many sentences I had to read again because they were so true and beautiful. It’s a memoir of pure poetry and courage and invention. Whenever I think about it, my heart clenches with love,” author Cheryl Strayed says about the book,

Christian Allaire, writer for Vogue says it’s, “one of my favorite books in recent times is Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot. It’s just one of those books that demands a second read, and a third, and a fourth . . . There are so many great Indigenous writers on the come-up and she’s for sure one to watch.”