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5 Must-Reads for 2021 National Indigenous History Month

For most Canadians, the month of June signifies the beginning of warm weather and long summer days that we’ve all been dreaming of since the end of snowfall. But seldom discussed (at least until recently, in my own experience) is that June represents a crucial month for many Canadian families. June here in Canada is National Indigenous History Month, a time for us to collectively reflect and educate ourselves about the past and present issues, stories and events occurring in the lives of our Indigenous community.

As soon as I learned about this, I set out to find some resources about Indigenous communities. As an avid reader, I stumbled upon some fantastic books that I had never heard of and was inspired to read. So, here is my recommendation of five diverse books that you (and I) should read over National Indigenous History Month!

The Break By Katherena Vermette

Personally, this book was what launched me into compiling this list. The Break is a realistic fiction novel that tells the story of a northern Winnipeg Métis community named “The Break” explored through the lives of multiple different characters. The story discusses prejudice, sexism, and violence within and against Indigenous communities of Northern Winnipeg. A heart-wrenching but nonetheless essential read to start off this list.

Peace and Good Order: The Case for Indigenous Justice in Canada By Harold R. Johnson

In searching for a non-fiction book choice, I came across Peace and Good Order: The Case for Indigenous Justice in Canada. Johnson, a former Indigenous Crown prosecutor, explores the injustices and shortcomings of the Canadian legal system, particularly towards Indigenous people. This partly autobiographical, partly non-fiction book is perfect for anyone interested in the inner workings of the Indigenous relationship with our legal system.  

If I Go Missing by Brianna Jonnie

If I Go Missing is a graphic novel is based on a young teenage girl named Brianna Jonnie’s letter to the Winnipeg Chief of Police. Jonnie’s letter was a call to action to end the mistreatment and ignorance towards cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in the Winnipeg region. She proceeds to ask the Winnipeg police force how they would act if she went missing as a young Indigenous teen herself. With beautiful and shocking artwork provided by Neal Shannacappo, this graphic novel presents an imagined situation of missing young Indigenous women in Jonnie’s community in an accessible read for young teen to adult readers.

#NOTYOURPRINCESS: Voices of Native American Women by Various Authors

This anthology of poems, essays, and more represents Indigenous women’s voices and experiences across North America. These women demand to make themselves heard as they recount stories of humiliation, abuse, and violence. While this anthology includes works for Indigenous communities across North America, it nonetheless sends a powerful message about undermining Indigenous women’s voices and that we must overcome it. 

Speaking Our Truth: A Journey of Reconciliation by Monique Gray Smith

The final book on this list recounts allows readers to learn about the historical and current impact that residential schools had on many Indigenous lives. It also touches on the disconnect between the Canadian education system and how it excuses the importance and awareness of past residential schools’ role in our current society. This guidebook is the perfect read if you hope to broaden your knowledge of Canadian residential schools and how Canada is currently responding to the issue.

These are only five different books representing some Indigenous stories; however, there are plenty of other resources to explore during this month of learning. For more recommendations and to check out these books, I’d recommend paying a visit to a local Indigenous-owned bookstore; you can find a list of these businesses here, or at this page if you’re in Ottawa! Whether it’s novels, poetry, movies, or artwork, I hope you take some time this June to explore and educate yourselves on our Indigenous community here in Canada!




Gen is a third year student majoring in Health Science and Minoring in Aging Studies. She loves yoga, travelling, and video games!
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