Looking at Indigenous works individuals can reflect on 24/7, 365
National Day for Truth and Reconciliation should not be the only time Canadians reflect on our history and learn about and support Indigenous culture or people. Supporting Indigenous communities should not be a once-a-year phenomenon, nor be brought up solely in times of tragedy. This article is going to focus on taking truth and reconciliation with you year-round, and we will examine diverse types of media output from Indigenous creators. It should be noted that beyond this information, there are countless Indigenous artists out there that can and should be supported.
There are numerous works by Indigenous authors, one being the graphic novel This Place: 150 Retold, which is a collaboration by various Indigenous authors and artists retelling what is described as a “post-apocalyptic world since contact.” Not only is the graphic novel beautifully illustrated, but it tells harrowing and unsung stories. One of the reviews states, “This is the graphic novel I’ve been waiting for my whole life and the graphic novel Canada has needed for 150 years”.
Another interesting read is Our Story: Aboriginal Voices on Canada’s Past which is a collection of works from many Indigenous authors across Canada. These works are inspired by and discuss various moments throughout Canada’s history. While the tales in this series are fictional, the history behind them is not. They celebrate unique perspectives across different Indigenous cultures including Cree, Cherokee, Inuk, Ojibwe, and many others. This book also highlights experiences of colonization and the resulting trauma in various Indigenous communities.
Residential schools are one of the most horrific of these experiences. Five Little Indians, a novel by Michelle Good, examines the toll these schools have taken on children and their families in this fictional work. Protagonists Kenny, Lucy, Clara, Howie, and Maisie are released from a residential school after being stolen from their families at an early age. Without any skills or support, the five teenagers must learn to navigate their way through life, all while dealing with the trauma of their upbringing and learning to live in a society that does not look kindly on Indigenous peoples. This book is truly incredible, and a fantastic read, having received much praise as well as countless awards. Michelle Good is also a lawyer from the Red Pheasant Cree Nation and advocates for survivors of residential schools. You can find any of these books on Amazon, Indigo, or by supporting Indigenous booksellers such as goodminds.com.
When thinking of music, one particularly interesting artist is Jeremy Dutcher. Dutcher is a member of the Tobique First Nation in New Brunswick. While working in the archives of the Canadian Museum of History, Dutcher transcribed Wolastoq songs from 1907 wax cylinders, an impressive feat to say the least, especially when learning a language only about 100 people today can speak fluently. Dutcher is an incredibly talented and wholesome musician with the voice of an angel and is an excellent choice to listen to for leisure or while studying. His Polaris prize-winning music album Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa is absolutely worth the listen.
Leela Gilday is another talented musician from the Dene Nation. Her music features traditional Dene drumming, which compliments her music like peanut butter does jam. Her voice is strong, powerful, beautiful and captivating. She combines English with the native Dene language to create truly unique works. Gilday has been recognized for her talents through various awards, including the IJUNO Indigenous Artist of the Year Award in 2021.
However, if you prefer to binge shows, I also have an excellent suggestion for you. If you are a fan of drama, fantasy, and Canadian-made television, then Trickster is the perfect combination. Based on the best-selling book trilogy by Eden Robinson (also a fantastic and engaging book series), Trickster follows the story of an Indigenous teen named Jared as he struggles to keep his and his family’s heads above water. Juggling supporting his mom with an undiagnosed mental health condition, his dad with a painkiller addiction, and a girlfriend, life surely could not be any more difficult…unless you are Jared. Jared begins seeing unexplainable sights, ravens begin to talk, and he believes he is surely losing his mind, right? Unless everything is real. He unravels the secrets from the place where he has grown up and is confronted with the possibility that he may be the son of a trickster.
There are also many local Indigenous artists that can be supported. Rowan White, a fourth-year, drama and music student creates beaded jewelry as an online business. They initially started beading during the pandemic as a method for self-care as well as self-expression. According to White, beading dates back to during contact, when beads would often be used as a form of currency. In fact, there is beading on Mi’kmaq jackets older than Canada. When asked what drew them to the art form, they expressed that it “fell into their lap” and as they got deeper into the craft they came to understand the rich history behind it. White enjoys the craft because it is a method of self-expression and they enjoy being able to create their own art as well as share it with others, which according to White is the most rewarding part.
White described the art of beading as having a low skill entry but an incredibly high skill ceiling. “You can take one set of tools and apply it in a bunch of different ways,” White said when asked about the process of making their jewelry. White uses every tool in their arsenal to create stunning pieces of work. The most common piece of jewelry they make is a tri-coloured fringe earring, which on average, takes one hour and consists of 400 beads. While White states there is a lot of trial and error into getting each piece to sit where they want it, there is also an immense amount of skill in creating these elaborate works.
When asked about the process of making jewelry, White explained that many of the pieces are done on commission and start with an idea. It is a collaborative process that allows an artist like White the freedom to create as well as give the buyer a stunning piece of handcrafted jewelry. A reflection of who they are. I implore you to look at the work White has done, order some if it suits you, or even look into the rich well of information that underlies this beautiful skill.
These are just some of the thousands of artists that you can read, listen to, watch, or shop from to celebrate Indigenous culture. Keep in mind that truth and reconciliation should be every day, not just September 30, and supporting creators that I have listed, or that you have sought out, is one of many ways we can support Indigenous communities.