Truth, restitution and complicity

Up Ghost RiverUp Ghost River: A Chief’s Journey through the Turbulent Waters of Native History was a 2014 shortlist nominee for the Governor General’s Literary Awards. This non-fiction book is the powerful and moving memoir from Cree residential school survivor, activist, educator, and writer Edmund Metatawabin.

Former Chief of Fort Albany First Nation, Ed Metatawabin presents his compelling account of the experiences endured at the notorious St. Anne residential school, his efforts to expose the wrong doings of St. Anne’s, culminating in a recent court case demanding that the school records be released to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

After seeking traditional Cree healing, Metatawabin works to help the next generation of residential school survivors. His story is part of the Indigenous resurgence that is happening across this country and worldwide: after years of oppression, he and others are healing themselves by rediscovering their cultures and sharing their knowledge.

This narrative bears witness to the devastation brought by colonization and the subsequent healing power of our Elders and our land to revitalize the human spirit. This book is a must-read for all Canadians. Highly recommended.

Back of the TurtleThe 2014 Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction is The Back of the Turtle by Thomas King. This title is Thomas King’s first literary novel in 15 years and follows on the success of the award-winning and bestselling novels (Medicine River and Green Grass, Running Water) and non-fiction (The Inconvenient Indian, and The Truth about Stories).

In The Back of the Turtle, Gabriel returns to Smoke River, the reserve where his mother grew up and to which she returned with Gabriel’s sister. The reserve is deserted after an environmental disaster killed the population, including Gabriel’s family, and all wildlife.

Gabriel, a brilliant scientist working for DowSanto, created GreenSweep, and indirectly contributed to the crisis. Now he has come to see the damage and to kill himself in the sea. But as he prepares to let the water take him, he sees a young girl in the waves. Plunging in, he saves her, and soon is saving others.

Who are these people with their long black hair and almond eyes who have fallen from the sky? Filled with brilliant characters, trademark wit, wordplay and a thorough knowledge of Indigenous storytelling, this novel is a masterpiece by an important writer.

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