Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
- Age: 16
- Grade: 11
Maria Campbell's biography is a classic, vital account of a young Métis woman's struggle to come to terms with the joys, sorrows, loves and tragedies of her northern Saskatchewan childhood.
Maria was a strong and sensitive child who lived in a community robbed of its pride and dignity by the dominant culture. At 15 she tried in vain to escape by marrying a white man, only to find herself trapped in the slums of Vancouver -- addicted to drugs, tempted by suicide, close to death. But the inspiration of her Cree great-grandmother, Cheechum, gives her confidence in herself and in her people, confidence she needs to survive and to thrive.
Half-Breed offers an unparalleled understanding of the Métis people and of the racism and hatred they face. Maria Campbell's story cannot be denied and it cannot be forgotten: it stands as a challenge to all Canadians who believe in human rights and human dignity
About the author
Maria Campbell (born 6 of 26 Apr 1940 near Athlone, Edmonton) is a Métis author, playwright, broadcaster, filmmaker, and Elder. Campbell is a fluent speaker of four languages: Cree, Michif, Saulteaux, and English. Park Valley is located 80 miles northwest of Prince Albert. Her first book was the memoir Halfbreed (1973), which continues to be taught in schools across Canada, and which continues to inspire generations of indigenous women and men. Four of her published works have been published in eight countries and translated into four other languages (German, Chinese, French, Italian).
"You can almost feel this book vibrating in your hands, it is so compelling. You read it with a kind of agonized, heart-in-the-mouth sensation, halfway between laughter and tears.... Truth is stronger than fiction."
"When her powerful personal story, Halfbreed, was published in 1973, it had been credited with the rebirth of Indigenous literature ... Reading Halfbreed opened my eyes to racism as a social determinant of health — the racism we're still fighting today in all our institutions. It's this racism that explains missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and the overrepresentation of Indigenous people and people of colour in our prisons."
Globe and Mail
"The daring account of a strong-willed woman who defeated poverty, racism, alcohol and drug addiction by the age of thirty-three."
Half-BreedMaria Campbell’s autobiography about her marginalization as a Métis woman has become a classic of Canadian aboriginal literature. By speaking to the larger issues of discrimination, poverty and violence, she has given voice to the Métis, illustrating their importance to Canadian history. She was born near Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, where her ancestors fought during the Riel Rebellion. After the death of her parents, she married an abusive white alcoholic at 15. She then drifted into drugs and prostitution. Campbell regained her sense of self by drawing strength from the love of her cheechum (great-grandmother), through AA, and through the growing Native Rights movement. Through the writing process, she transformed experiences of shame and suffering into a story of personal redemption.
Campbell is now a respected elder. She has several honorary degrees.
Caution: References to drinking, drugs and sex.
Source: The Association of Book Publishers of BC. Canadian Aboriginal Books for Schools. 2011-2012.
Other titles by Maria Campbell
Keetsahnak / Our Missing and Murdered Indigenous Sisters
Our Struggle to Reclaim Treaty Rights for First Nations Women and their Descendants
Life Stages and Native Women
Memory, Teachings, and Story Medicine
People of the Buffalo
How the Plains Indians Lived
Stories of the Road Allowance People
The Revised Edition
Three Plays by Metis Authors
The Book of Jessica
A Theatrical Transformation