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Lorri Neilsen Glenn: Following the River
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Lorri Neilsen Glenn: Following the River

By 49thShelf
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In Following the River: Traces of Red River Women, I gather fragments of stories of my Indigenous grandmothers and their contemporaries. Women are often the marginalia of history, the widows and orphans or the blank pages—unless, of course, we’ve murdered someone, been uppity, are born into wealth and privilege or are the centre of a sex scandal. It’s an exercise in painting negative space—I’ve scoured centuries-old newspapers, out-of-print books, community histories, and provincial and national archives hoping to read around the edges of their lives to imagine them whole, real. Several sources mention not a single female—settler or Indigenous—in their 300-page manuscript. Who did these men think brought them into the world? By the twentieth century, my family web scattered across the Prairies, most of their stories lost. Peguis lands were surrendered illegally and most of the Peguis Nation driven north from their original location on the Red River. My Red River ancestors took scrip, and my immediate family moved into the 20th Century as settlers. I cannot—and do not—claim to be Métis. But those women are part of my own story, and as a way to honour their past, I search for snippets, anecdotes, census notes, anything. I long for the smell of Northern Manitoba air, the bite of river water, the textures of small celebrations and tragedies, and whispers of women’s voices in my ear from seven generations away. And as you’d expect, I begin feel a chill: women’s stories are saturated with the same attitudes and assumptions Indigenous women face today. Whether the woman is nehiyawak (Plains Cree) or ininiwak (Swampy Cree) or Métis (‘halfbreed,’ on the records of some of my grandmothers), whether she is a church-going married woman, a leader or an innovator – it doesn’t matter. History leaves her unnamed, erased, dismissed and often destroyed. Yet these women are among us. Their pasts are present. Behind the words on decades-old paper, I sense women’s strength, generosity, resolve and an inexhaustible resilience, a burden so huge no one should be expected to bear it. As a reader, I long for the felt sense of everyday lives. An embodied sense of a life invites understanding, and understanding calls me to responsibility (response-ability), and to action. If you, too, crave details of Indigenous women’s lives, I offer the following non-fiction works as a start. First is a book not listed on this site, but found in libraries: Jock Carpenter’s Fifty Dollar Bride: Marie Rose Smith – A Chronicle of Métis Life in the 19th Century. Sidney, BC: Gray’s Publishing Ltd., 1971. Marie’s granddaughter Jock weaves Marie’s extensive letters and accounts into a compelling account of Marie’s life from Red River to Alberta.
Following the River
Why it's on the list ...
It’s an exercise in painting negative space—I’ve scoured centuries-old newspapers, out-of-print books, community histories, and provincial and national archives hoping to read around the edges of their lives to imagine them whole, real. Several sources mention not a single female—settler or Indigenous—in their 300-page manuscript. Who did these men think brought them into the world?
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Our Grandmothers' Lives
Why it's on the list ...
A wealth of minute detail and hard-earned wisdom, this collection began with interviews with seven unforgettable Cree women in their native tongue. Vivid, explicit accounts.
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Half-Breed
Why it's on the list ...
If there is one book Canadians should read, it’s Métis Elder Maria Campbell’s memoir. Maria Campbell was born in 1940 in northern Saskatchewan and her singular description of her difficult life is a testament against erasure.
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MANY TENDER TIES

Women in Fur-Trade Society, 1670-1870
edition:Paperback
tagged :
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Why it's on the list ...
Van Kirk’s exhaustive history of Indigenous women’s role in the fur trade is rich in detail and insight. Not Indigenous herself, Van Kirk swam against the tide of “male-stream” history to draw attention to women’s critical role well before Canadian confederation.
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Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, Volume One: Summary
Why it's on the list ...
If you haven’t already read the TRC, start now. Then move to its detailed account of survivors’ residential school experience (available online).
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Indigenous Writes

Indigenous Writes

A Guide to First Nations, Métis & Inuit Issues in Canada
edition:eBook
also available: Paperback
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Why it's on the list ...
Finally, a suggestion for those who’d like a bracing, realistic and sound contemporary resource on everything from language, pervasive myths, naming, the state, and women and treaty rights. Chelsea Vowel’s (âpihtawikosisân’s) Indigenous Writes. Winnipeg: Portage and Main Press, 2016 is instructive and indispensable; âpihtawikosisân shows us the ways the past is present.
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A Really Good Brown Girl

A Really Good Brown Girl

Brick Books Classics 4
by Marilyn Dumont
introduction by Lee Maracle
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
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Why it's on the list ...
Too-short a list—I could name a dozen more. And while you’re at it, check your library and this site for the work of contemporary Indigenous women poets such as Marilyn Dumont, Louise Bernice Halfe, Rosanna Deerchild, Katherena Vermette, and more. Poetry, too, can be nonfiction, distilled: you’ll find yourself engrossed in the complicated realities of women’s lives today.
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Burning in this Midnight Dream

Burning in this Midnight Dream

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
tagged : canadian

Burning in the Midnight Dream is the latest collection of poems by Louise Bernice Halfe. Many were written in response to the grim tide of emotions, memories, dreams and nightmares that arose in her as the Truth and Reconciliation process unfolded.

In heart-wrenching detail, Halfe recalls the damage done to her parents, her family, herself. With fearlessly wrought verse, Halfe describes how the experience of the residential schools continues to haunt those who survive, and how the effects pass li …

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