Beyond Literary Landscapes—Indigenous and Métis Literature

Beyond Literary Landscapes—Indigenous and Métis Literature

From my early beginnings as a young introvert, the public library has always been a bit of a refuge.  Years later, not much has changed, albeit with an additional affinity for endless hours spent scouring second-hand bookstores to add to my ever-growing “to-read” pile.

From one bookworm to another, this column will be underscoring and outlining various literary genres, authors, and recent reads and can serve as an introduction for those unfamiliar with these works, as a refresher for long-time aficionados, and maybe as an inspiration for readers to share their own suggested topics.  Do you have a topic that you would like covered in this column?  Feel free to contact me for an interview and a feature in an upcoming column.

Who

This column serves as an introduction to the works of Indigenous and Métis authors, a reminder of some of the authors’ classics, and as an inspiration for further reading.

Some examples of well-known authors include Eden Robinson, a “Haisla and Heiltsuk novelist and short story writer,” Waubgeshig Rice, an Anishinaabe author and journalist from Wasauksing First Nation, and Lee Maracle, a “writer and academic of the Sto꞉lo [N]ation.” Other popular authors include Joshua Whitehead, 2020-21 AU Writer-in-Residence, author, scholar, and “Oji-nêhiyaw member of Peguis First Nation,” Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, a “Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg scholar, writer and artist,” and Richard Wagamese, an Ojibwe “author and journalist from the Wabaseemoong Independent Nations.”

Other well-known authors and playwrights to consider are Tomson Highway, a Cree playwright, author, and musician of the Barren Lands First Nation, Katherena Vermette, a “Red River Métis (Michif) writer,”  Thomas King, a Cherokee and Greek “novelist, short-story writer, essayist, screenwriter, [and] photographer, and Jeannette Armstrong, a Syilx Okanagan author, educator, and artist.

Students interested in poetry may consider the works of Cree/Métis poet and scholar Marilyn Dumont, Mohawk poet and artist E.  Pauline Johnson, and “Mohawk writer, essayist, and poet of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte First Nation,” Beth Brant.

What

Some well-known works include Robinson’s Monkey Beach and Son of a Trickster, Rice’s Moon of the Crusted Snow, Maracle’s Celia’s Song, Whitehead’s Joshua Appleseed, Simpson’s Islands of Decolonial Love: Stories & Songs, and Wagamese’s Medicine Walk.

Where

Many of these works are set throughout Indigenous territories, in what is now called Canada.

When

These works often take place during the late 20-century.

Why

Readers who would like to learn more about Indigenous and Métis history, culture, and worldviews, as well as historical and contemporary issues, may consider the works of these authors.

How

AU’s wide range of diverse courses make it easy to study this topic in depth.  Courses related to Indigenous and Métis Literature are available in a variety of disciplines, including one’s that may fit into your Degree Works.  (Always check with an AU counsellor to see if these particular courses fulfill your personal graduation requirements!)

AU students interested in learning more about this topic may enroll in enroll in ENGL 308: Indigenous Literature in Canada, a senior-level, three-credit course, which “begins with the origins of Indigenous literature in the oral tradition and leads to contemporary Indigenous writing in English.  The course also examines related areas such as findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).”  The current revision includes works by Robinson, Highway, and Vermette.

In addition, students may also consider INST 420: Indigenous Resistance, a senior-level, three-credit course, which “give[s] students a broad survey of the diverse forms of Indigenous resistance to colonialism by highlighting the perspectives of Indigenous Peoples themselves.”  Happy reading!

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