Pueblo author Leslie Marmon Silko begins her book Ceremony by saying “If you don’t have the stories, you don’t have anything.” Stories have the power to heal, to shape worldviews, to share information, pass on cultural teachings as well as to entertain. Silko’s book was cited as one of the most important books in contemporary literature by renowned Native American author Sherman Alexie. In the brand-new book Centering Anishinaabeg Studies, Anishinaabeg people’s stories are seen as having the answers to many issues experienced in communities and the world, they are “vessels of knowledge.”
June 21st is National Aboriginal Solidarity Day in Canada. People across the country will be attending festivals. Here in Winnipeg, there is a street festival on Selkirk Avenue (look for us!) in the vibrant North End and on Saturday – an all day festival at the Forks. Earlier this spring Winnipeg Public Library saw the opening of the new Aboriginal Resources Area at the Millennium branch and on June 18th we celebrated Indigenous literature with the Aboriginal Writers Collective in honour of National Aboriginal Solidarity Day. The celebration was a hit. In case you didn’t know – there are so many talented writers in our community!
Below, I have included a selection of some suggested literature by Aboriginal authors who hail from Manitoba.
In Search of April Raintree This list would be severely lacking if this book wasn’t suggested. Beatrice Mosionier’s beautifully written story of two sisters who are taken from their parents by social services is one of our most requested books when we do community outreach.
7 Generations, a Plains Cree Saga If you haven’t heard of this graphic novel get yourself to the library and pick it up! David Alexander Robertson and Scott Henderson have created graphic story of a young Aboriginal person who learns the story of his ancestors.
Kiss of the Fur Queen A few years ago I met a woman who traveled to Manitoba from California after finding this book in a used bookstore. She was seeking the author, Thomson Highway, and on her way to visit The Pas which is featured in the novel. This is the kind of impact this book can have. It is a powerful story of survival and the coming of age of two remarkable brothers who were forced to attend residential school.
Bone Memory In 2004 the Aboriginal Writers collective put out this chapbook highlighting the work of different members of the collective. We are looking forward to their next chapbook – being launched in the fall!
This is a Small Northern Town This book is a collection of poems by Cree writer Rosanna Deerchild centering on the experience of growing up as a girl in a small divided Northern Manitoba town.
Wolf and Shadows Duncan Mercredi is one of the founding members of the Aboriginal Writers Collective and a poet in his own right. This is one of his collections of poetry which confront the tensions between traditional knowledge and urban living.
Joe From Winnipeg: All My Best Ian Ross, creator of the popular radio personality Joe from Winnipeg, put some of his favourite commentaries in this book. It is a humourous take on some of those everyday issues we all wonder about including little dogs with nail polish.
Manitowapow This book, edited by Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair and Warren Cariou, was the On the Same Page winner this year. It is full of incredible gems by Indigenous leaders, authors, activists and academics from the province of Manitoba. Some of the stories were written a long time ago and some are more contemporary but they tell the (often untold) story of this place we call Manitoba.
Halfbreed Maria Campbell spent a year as a writer in residence at the University of Winnipeg which of course makes her a honourary Winnipegger! Her memoir is still taught in schools and details the racism and sexism she experienced as a Metis woman.
Brothers in Arms Among the various children’s books Jordan Wheeler has written (check them out in our Children’s section!) the three stories in this book are a recommended read for teens and adults. They are the stories of two brothers and their experiences, struggles and successes as First Nations men.
I Knew Two Metis Women Gregory Scofield looks at the life of his mother and his adopted aunty through this collection of poems – a poetic biography.
Winnipeg Public Library’s collection of literature by Indigenous writers is growing and this list really only taps the surface of a huge number of titles which cross all genres, formats and defy all expectations! Happy reading.