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Social Science Native American Studies

Magic Weapons

Aboriginal Writers Remaking Community after Residential School

by (author) Sam McKegney

foreword by Basil Johnston

University of Manitoba Press
Initial publish date
Sep 2019
Native American Studies, Canadian, Native American
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2019
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Nov 2007
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Nov 2007
    List Price

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The legacy of the residential school system ripples throughout Native Canada, its fingerprints on the domestic violence, poverty, alcoholism, drug abuse, and suicide rates that continue to cripple many Native communities. Magic Weapons is the first major survey of Indigenous writings on the residential school system, and provides groundbreaking readings of life writings by Rita Joe (Mi’kmaq) and Anthony Apakark Thrasher (Inuit) as well as in-depth critical studies of better known life writings by Basil Johnston (Ojibway) and Tomson Highway (Cree). Magic Weapons examines the ways in which Indigenous survivors of residential school mobilize narrative in their struggles for personal and communal empowerment in the shadow of attempted cultural genocide. By treating Indigenous life-writings as carefully crafted aesthetic creations and interrogating their relationship to more overtly politicized historical discourses, Sam McKegney argues that Indigenous life-writings are culturally generative in ways that go beyond disclosure and recompense, re-envisioning what it means to live and write as Indigenous individuals in post-residential school Canada.

About the authors

Sam McKegney is a settler scholar of Indigenous literatures and is Professor and Head of the Department of English at Queen’s University in the territory of the Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe Peoples. He has published two books—Masculindians: Conversations about Indigenous Manhood and Magic Weapons: Aboriginal Writers Remaking Community after Residential School—and articles on such topics as masculinity, environmental kinship, prison writing, and mythologies of hockey.

Sam McKegney's profile page

Basil Johnston has written 15 books in English and 5 in Ojibway to show that there is much more to North American Indigenous life than social organization, hunting and fishing, food preparation, clothing, dwellings and transportation. Among the books that Basil has written are Ojibway Heritage, Indian School Days, Crazy Dave, and Honour Earth Mother (Kegedonce Press). Basil believes the key to understanding culture is language and to this end he has developed audio programs on cassette and CD. For his work Johnston has received numerous awards including the Order of Ontario and Honourary Doctorates from the University of Toronto and Laurentian University.

Basil Johnston's profile page


  • Winner, Choice Magazine Outstanding Academic Title

Editorial Reviews

“Sam McKegney’s Magic Weapons is a thought-provoking introduction to the political and academic debates over the residential school system that scarred generations of Aboriginal, Metis and Inuit people in Canada. His holistic, interdisciplinary approach represents a new direction in Aboriginal Studies in Canada.”

Topia 20, p 238-240

“Magic Weapons is an invaluable political as well as literary commentary, persuasively arguing that indigenous life writings are culturally formative in ways beyond simple disclosure. A highly recommended addition to Native American studies shelves.”

Midwest Book Review

Other titles by Sam McKegney

Other titles by Basil Johnston